schadenfreude \SHOD-n-froy-duh\, noun: A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others
Feeling guilty already, aren’t you? Who doesn’t have moments (hours, days, months…) of schadenfreude when our enemies and competitors get their come-uppins? They deserved it, right? What goes around comes around. It’s even better when we didn’t do anything to cause their misfortune. There are no fingerprints at the scene, so to speak.
I’m not going to try to tackle the rightness or wrongness of this feeling when it is derived from our enemies and competitors. Lots of gray area there. But what particularly interests me is how commonly this feeling is directed at people who are on the same team as us. They have the same goals and objectives as us, but we want them to stumble. Why? The two most common reasons are competition and resentment.
While competition can be a positive and healthy thing for athletic teams, it’s not so great within the Body of Christ. We often measure our worth by comparing ourselves with those around us. This can lead to frustration, despair, envy, covetousness, bitterness and even sabotaging behaviors if we feel like we are on the losing end. It can lead to pride, complacency and disdain for others if we feel like we are on the winning end.
Holding a grudge about a perceived wrong done to us makes it difficult for us to see the “guilty” party succeed. We want justice. We want fairness restored. They slighted us, attacked us, overlooked us, punished us…, and we feel that we are righteously indignant. Failure, embarrassment or difficult obstacles in their path would make us feel like the scales had been returned to their proper positions.
Hopefully, it’s obvious that this isn’t healthy. It leads to all types of passive-aggressive and aggressive behaviors, ranging from negative thoughts to gossip to rumors to Tonya Harding-inspired pipes to the knee. Even at their most “innocuous” levels, these feelings lead us to withhold assistance and advice and prayer that might help the other person. Schadenfreude is the equivalent of cancer to the Body of Christ. It will destroy us from the inside out.
As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be diligent to spot the signs of schadenfreude when they surface, and we need to deal with them quickly and decisively. When we see them in ourselves, we should be quick to pray for God to give us the ability to forgive and to have His love for the other person. When we see them in others, we should lovingly point out the bitter root and help our friends forgive and love.
We’ve got enough enemies and competitors without adding them from inside the Body. Let’s stop doing the devil’s work for him.