This is based off the Daily Post writing prompt, The Eighth Sin.
According to wikipedia, schadenfreude literally means “harm-joy”. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it means enjoying someone else’s misfortune. There are other english phrases similar like “Roman Holiday” or even gloating could make a poor substitute. For me, however, schadenfreude as always stuck in my mind since it is a word that is not completely translatable (so I’ve been told).
We all have dark parts in our soul. Sometimes they fleeting, like a bad day at work or a fight with someone close to you. In those short-lived moments of darkness, we say things we don’t mean or think things we would never think would dare entertain otherwise. Sometimes when we are temporarily twisted, we wish harm on other because we think it will make our darkness go away, but realize the irrationality in that when we come to. Those moments are forgivable, because part of the human condition to fail every once in a while.
I’m also not talking about the times when we laugh at someone’s temporary physical pain. There are a few times where I have laughed at myself for falling. There are entire genres of comedy based on the fact we tend to laugh when someone gets a pie in their face or trips on their own two feet. My guess is that most of it know what it’s like to be a klutz from time to time, and that laughter comes from a shared experience.
The schadenfreude I’m referring to is one hundred percent out of malice that is not temporary. I have been on both sides of this blade, and it is not easy being the victim or the murderer.
When my high school boyfriend and I parted ways, our relationship was in shambles. The breaking point for me was his interest in someone else, and I have a feeling that if I hadn’t ended it when I did, he would have. Shortly after our breakup, he started to date. It was the first serious relationship I had ever had, and I probably shouldn’t have taken it as serious as I did, but seventeen year olds tend to think their relationships are infallible. We tried to keep some sort of friendship, but it was in just as bad or if not worse condition than our romantic relationship.
I wished him harm, and not just for a couple weeks. I hoped every day that his current lady love would betray him, like he did to me, for months and months until it became years. I thought his pain would bring me so much joy that the pain he had so graciously bestowed on me would vanish. It would vanish and I would be free of him. I would have stabbed a voo-doo doll a million times if someone told me it would guarantee that he would “get what he deserved”. Except pain never cancels itself out, only gains in strength until you’re ready to face it.
Almost two years from our split, I got (almost) exactly what I had wished for. He had confided in me that his girlfriend (the woman he had left me for), had manipulated him into an open relationship of sorts. At first I rejoiced, because now he know how I felt, until the mirror started to reflect back at me. I saw my pain in his, going through the same lamentations. He didn’t understand, and wanted to punch this other guy right in the face. His pain didn’t make me feel any better. Not only did it remind me of the hurt I still had, but the new pain of regretting what I had wished all these years. All I could say to him was, “I’m so sorry.” I don’t know if he ever realized I was also apologized for all the “bad vibes” I had sent his way. However, most people would say what I thought was completely normal, and that he deserved that pain. I do not believe he did.
I learned the harsh lesson most of us learn, that schadenfreude on this scale is damnable. Some people do not, and I have found myself in their sights more than once. The kind of people who would purposely do things to upset me (like call me certain names or interact with me that is in no way appropriate), and laugh right in my face. That kind of sin, the kind where you have no care for the people around you, is the greatest sin you could ever commit in my opinion.
I know I’m a bit sensitive for this human beat human world, but our lack of compassion for each other will eventually drive us all into the ground. All it takes is for us to be indifferent at best, happy at worst, or for the bomb to drop because we forget to be kind to each other.