If someone else's misfortune gives you a sense of satisfaction, then you are exhibiting Schadenfreude.
Schadenfreude comes from the words Schaden ("misfortune" / "damage") and Freude ("joy"). As these words imply, Schadenfreude is the pleasure you get from watching or hearing about someone else's pain, suffering or failure. Most of you would probably never admit to feeling Schadenfreude. But be honest: do feelings of Schadenfreude creep up on you when they're related to someone who wronged you in the past?
Here are a few examples of Schadenfreude:
1) Your ex's new relationship is failing, and you find joy in watching it crumble.
2) A coworker that you don't like gets reprimanded by your boss and you catch yourself smiling.
3) The person who fired you declares bankruptcy - and you find joy in their failure.
4) Someone you don't like walks around with his/her zipper open, and enjoy watching them embarrass themselves.
In these examples, someone experiences Schadenfreude in relation to someone who wronged them.
There are also cases where people experience Schadenfreude towards strangers:
1) You see someone running towards an elevator and you find amusement in watching the door close in front of their face.
2) You enjoy seeing the straight-A student get a B on her test.
3) You notice that wealthy neighbor of yours get a scratch on his BMW.
Sometimes people experience Schadenfreude towards someone simply out of jealousy. In other cases, people experience Schadenfreude towards someone else for no good reason - and that can be worrisome. In English, these people might be called sadistic.
Exhibiting a little bit of Schadenfreude is normal, especially if it's related to something harmless or in response to someone who hurt you. But Schadenfreude should not dictate someone's happiness. So next time you're with your German friends and they're gossipping about someone else's failure, tell them to cut out the Schadenfreude.
By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany
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