Schadenfreude is a German word usually defined as experiencing or taking pleasure in the misfortune of others and is derived from Schaden (“damage, misfortune”) and Freude (“joy”). Studies show that the more threatened (including threats to our ego’s or sense of self-worth) we feel by an individual or class of individuals, the more likely we are to feel schadenfreude. While related to self-esteem in that individuals with high self-esteem tend to experience less schadenfreude, self-esteem is most likely more of a chicken or egg issue i.e. the higher our sense of self-esteem, the less likely we are to feel threatened. 

There is a lot to be said for compassion and perhaps even a bit of humility; the phrase “There but for the Grace of God go I” (see footnote) reminds us that fate and fortune play a significant part in all our lives. Perhaps we have just not had the temptations or the trials and tribulations of others. Never judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Closing Quotes:

“Maybe you lead a more virtuous life. Maybe you just lead a smaller one. It is difficult to say without being tested.” – Kevin D. Williamson on misplaced schadenfreude re Tiger Woods’s DUI arrest

“Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.” –  Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize

“What others do is their karma, how you react is yours.” – Zen proverb


Usually attributed to John Bradford, 1510-1555, an English reformer imprisoned in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor and burned at the stake on 1 July 1555, and in turn perhaps a paraphrase from 1 Corinthians 15:10, “… by the grace of God I am what I am…” 

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier