When we are guilty of Schadenfreude.
I never did really care for slapstick comedy. The Three Stooges? Ugh. I couldn’t wrap my head around their warped sense of humor; twisting Larry’s nose or slapping Curly across the face just didn’t seem to be funny to me. But, then again, others loved it.
Dick Van Dyke did a spoof years ago on the comedy of seeing others in pain; the typical chair breaking, smashing his fingers, getting his tie caught in a drawer, etc. And he stated that people can relate to that type of humor because we all love a little sarcasm. And, when that misfortune happens to someone else, well, that is even better.
Schadenfreude is taken from the German language; Schaden, which means harm and Freude, which mean joy. But, put them together, and Schadenfreude means malicious joy at the misfortune of others.
Someone falls down and you laugh? It’s Schadenfreude! (pronounced SHAH:dən:froy:də or my simple pronunciation, SHA-den-froi-duh. A recent study indicated that children as young as two years old experienced and expressed Schadenfreude! “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5 ESV.
As intrigued as I am by the word itself, and how much fun it is to say, it really isn’t so amusing, is it?
Before our granddaughter, Norah Jayne, was born, one of her uncles bought her a Onesie with the words “Silently Judging You” screen printed on the front. Little did we know that Norah, in her delightful personality, would also come with a furrowed brow at times that seriously does look like she is silently giving us the once over. (smile)
But I think we are all a little like that Onesie. We SAY we don’t judge, we SAY we wouldn’t laugh at another’s calamity or misfortune but inside we are likely guilty, at some point in our lives, of doing that very thing.
Jonah was one that came to mind in the Bible of someone who might have possessed a little Schadenfreude. He had a little trouble obeying God to begin with but he finally gave in, journeyed to Nineveh, delivered the message God told him to preach and then, basically, sat down and waited for the show. He knew they were going to be destroyed and he wasn’t really that unhappy about it. It was no secret that they deserved judgment. As a matter of fact, he was downright aggravated when they repented and God spared them! (You can read his story here.)
And aren’t we a little like Jonah, too? It’s so hard to admit that we could have any of these ugly attributes inside of us, but without prayer, without spending time in the Word and filling our hearts and minds on the good things of God, the ugly can creep in so unaware. Before we know it, we are standing back, silently judging and thinking things that we wish would go away.
It’s also hard to confess that we are human and prone to sin. Even as a child of God, we have to die out to that flesh every single day. Paul said we had to keep it under subjection, and the only way to do that is to make sure that we have relationship and connection with Jesus Christ.
Wile E Coyote would do his best to make a trap for the Road Runner, with the help of the ACME company supplying all of his tools necessary to carry out his diabolical plan, in the middle of the desert, no less. Of course we all realize that Wile E Coyote possessed Schadenfreude, he would so enjoy seeing the Road Runner get what was coming to him…even though every cartoon would end without that satisfaction. But I can’t help thinking that crazy Road Runner was really the one with the Schadenfreude problem. He would torment that poor coyote, watch him plunge off a cliff and with that silly grin on his face, holler the only two words we ever heard him say, “BEEP, BEEP!”
You see friend, the enemy knows how to work these things into our minds. He realizes it isn’t likely, as a Christian, that he can cause you to stumble with alcohol or drugs. You aren’t likely to go rob a bank or solicit on the street corner. He can’t entice us with things we think of as BIG SINS, because they would be obvious. But the sins of the heart, the not-so-obvious Road Runner sins, here is where he can start putting thoughts in our heads about others, sneak in the jealousy, envy and covetousness. Before long, we find ourselves feeling that malicious joy at the expense of another’s misfortune. We may even justify in our minds that it is okay to feel the way we do toward this particular person because of their actions. “I knew they wouldn’t make it anyway…” “It was bound to happen again, that’s just the way they are.”
“Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them.” Proverbs 24:17-18 NLT.
God, help us today to realize that it is YOUR mercy that keeps us from falling every day. It is also of the Lord’s grace and kindness that we are not consumed for our actions and thoughts! He extends such compassion and forgiveness to us on a day to day basis and we are, in turn, to offer that same hand of mercy to others. And since most Schadenfreude takes place in the mind, and heart, that is where we must begin; submitting our hearts, our human frailties, to God and allow Him to take out the ugly and replace any malicious joy with His spirit.