Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Ok so we all think it or say it and it is a sin. Recently if came bubbling to the surface when President Trump got sick with Covid. Many people including many Christians responded gleefully on-line and verbally that he became ill.
Schadenfreude is a German word that means “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others,” or “harm joy”. It was a word among many of similar meaning that was widely searched on the internet as the Presidents sickness unfolded. Freudenschade is a feeling of sadness brought on by the good fortune of others.
The English counterpart of the word would be "epicaricacy", which means to "derive pleasure from the misfortune of another." The Japanese have a saying, “the misfortunes of others tastes like honey.”
Schadenfreude is fueled by feelings of envy or inadequacy. We get a thrill when those we deem our superiors; politicians, celebrities, religious leaders, or elites in general— are humiliated.
Then satanic pride rears its head as we declare we will not serve or empathize.
There’s a saying in Xhosa (Nguni Bantu language): “Inxeba lendoda alihlekwa”, which means, “You don’t rejoice over another man’s misfortunes”. Most African languages have similar sayings.
We as fallen/sinful humans find satisfaction in other people’s misfortune. It is true that people are careless and or foolish and may in our eyes get what they deserve. That is technically correct but morally wrong. Remember that same reasoning would then apply to us as well.
Today in our time this sinful attitude is rampant and magnified by social media where there is less accountability for what we say.
Nevertheless there is a sense of justice in these types of circumstances as we reason people are getting their comings up ins, or “Karma” is balancing out injustice. Perhaps they are horrible people, and we reason it’s about time.
Humility is the antidote to Schadenfreude and all other forms of Harm Joy. The word “humility” derives from the Latin humilitas—” lowliness”—which comes from humus, which means “earth”. Christ says the lowly will inherit the earth.
St Augustine said that it is impossible to be Christian without humility. Humility — lowliness — attracts divine attention which further opens our perception to the Ultimate Reality.
The book of Obadiah is about unforgiveness and pride over another’s calamity. The Edomites hated the Israelites and held a grudge due to past perceived wrongs. So when Babylon took Jerusalem into captivity, Edom rejoiced taking delight in their failure. Edom felt secure in their homes high up in the rocks. They felt untouchable so they tormented the Israelites. Their pride of heart stopped them from helping their brothers and instead they rejoiced in their calamity.
Obadiah 1:15: “For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.”
We fail to understand that God cares about our enemies especially when they hurt us and do wrong to us. Why? Because vengeance is not ours but God’s as we see in Romans 12:19-21 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
God does not want any to perish, even evil vile people. His love is beyond our ability to understand. He still loves them and wants to see them change. If we have a prideful heart and find joy over someone’s misfortune, what we have done will be done to us. God will only exalt us if we become humble. Humbleness is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of a right heart with God.
“But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother in the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly in the day of distress.”(Obadiah 1:12)