I’ve been guilty of Schadenfreude on more than one occasion, I’m ashamed to say. Every human being has at one point or another – especially in junior high and high school. On the upside, once I became aware of how Schadenfreude occurs and how detrimental it can be, I trained my mind to detect and reject such thoughts as soon as they occurred. Wishing ill for our rivals or anyone else is a terrible place to be and delighting in the failures of others is just as bad.
Arthur Schopenhauer said it best, “…it is Schadenfreude, a mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others, which remains the worst trait in human nature.”
Schadenfreude is bad for everyone including the person enjoying the moment. What we focus on expands. What we wish for others, even our enemies, we unintentionally attract into our own lives. We must be very careful where we allow our thoughts and desires to carry us to avoid untoward results for others and ourselves.
Do not confuse Schadenfreude with healthy competition. There is nothing in the world wrong with trying to do better than others in athletics, academics, business or otherwise! The difference between the two is a matter of mindset. Schadenfreude is the culmination of lust, envy, greed, small mindedness and intellectual laziness but it is also terribly tempting and habit forming. Schadenfreude does well in the dark but it can also thrive in groups as we have all seen I’m sure. The key to avoiding Schadenfreude is to acknowledge our human tendency to indulge and train ourselves to abstain. It takes hard work and practice but the results are awesome. The only things better than freedom from such pettiness are the rewards we reap when we wish others well.