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A Case of Schadenfreude?

Have you ever waded through a period of your life when everything seems to be going wrong?

Or, have you watched friends or family members struggling through a painful, dark phase?

Have you ever witnessed somebody having a hard time and heard, or even said yourself, the phrase "Wow, it sucks to be you?"

If so, you may be suffering from the nasty affliction of "schadenfreude."

Today, as I studied the twelfth chapter of Job, I believe I stumbled upon an ancient case of schadenfreude. The following is an excerpt from my Bible study work-in-progress, "Job: Shlobberknockered by Suffering:"


“A Case of Schadenfreude?”

After reading Job 12:5, “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping,” I wondered if Job was accusing his three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar-of feeling a sense of schadenfreude.

“Schadenfreude” is a German word. Its original translation is loosely “malicious joy.” In English, we think of “schadenfreude” as “reveling in the suffering of another.”

Is it possible that in some perverse way those three friends of Job are reveling in Job’s awful suffering?

Oh yes, I’ve partied in moments of schadenfreude in darker moments of my life, too. Regrettable now, but nonetheless, yes, they did happen:

“I felt a warm, comforting sense of satisfaction when I learned that Ted, a usual straight-A student in my class, got a B in Calculus.”

“I chuckled to myself when my vegetarian friend just realized she ate some chicken in that casserole.”

“I always feel some perverse satisfaction when CEO’s get shackled and dragged off to jail for their hidden sins.”

“Why do I always smile when Oscar-winning actors and actresses are unable to finish their lengthy acceptance speeches because their allotted time ran out and the orchestra music played over them?”

It’s my sinful human nature that tempts me to say these ugly things and think those ugly thoughts. It’s just so easy to let them slip.

I found a little verse in the book of Obadiah about this tendency. No, I’ve never quoted a verse from Obadiah before, but this one nails the issue right on the head: “You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune … nor boast so much in the day of their trouble” (Obadiah 1:12).

Look it up; it’s there. Obadiah has only one chapter, only 21 verses, so you may have to hunt a while before you find it.

But wow—that schadenfreude—that’s some nasty business.

Holy Spirit, put your filters at my mouth and guard my mind. Let no unwholesome words and thoughts come from me towards my friends and acquaintances. Please, I don’t want to be anything like Job’s friends.

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