Find Pleasure with The Failures of Others

Here is the thing – I talk about never having sustained a ‘lost time’ running injury … and I am willing to bet money that there is someone who will read this post that wishes I would get hurt, either out of spite or so that I would better understand those who are injured. Not any of my friends, but someone.


Schadenfreude is defined as “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” It comes from the German roots Schaden (meaning damage) + Freude (meaning joy).

What is Schadenfreude in Real Life?

I am pretty sure all of us have had at least one person in our lives who seemed to function best when others were at their worst. Sometimes this can be a good thing – the person who shines in bad situations, for example. But in general it is the person who seems to ‘be there’ for friends when things are down – but suddenly when you are happy they are either gone or finding fault with your happiness.

For us, there are a few things I could relate, but one in particular – the single person key to Lisa and I being together was not even present at our wedding, let alone a bridesmaid! Yeah, while I was fat and jobless and miserable, and Lisa was in Boston and contemplating moving to Albany for grad school and miserable … she fed off that misery and was ‘there for us’. But suddenly when Lisa and I became inseperable and happy and eventually romantically involved … she wasn’t happy for us – quite the opposite.

Why Would Someone Cheer for Others to Fail?

My first answer is ‘I have no idea’ … but the REAL answer is about self esteem. People can feel better about themselves because of the misfortunes of others. In the case of our friend, while Lisa and I were unhappy, the other woman was able to feel good about herself … but once we found happiness she was forced to confront her own misery – which she funneled into negative energy towards us!

Think about it – it seems easy enough to laugh at the poor woman who fell in this video:

But how would you react if you were there? Hopefully you would try to help and not laugh at her from the side of the road. That is also why I am not a big fan of ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ – because the focus is very often on people who have unfortunate things happen and perhaps get hurt as a result.

There are places on the internet that seem to thrive on celebrating the misfortune of others or simply laughing at and belittling others. As I have mentioned, I’ve done reviews for a variety of sites for nearly two decades now. I did a video game review a dozen or so years ago, and this one RPG site really picked up on a comment I made about the way the game represented women as being very positive, non-stereotypical and non-misogynist.

This site had linked my reviews in the past, but the place I was doing most reviews for at the time had strict post size policies (i.e. very short) so there wasn’t the depth that would interest an enthusiast site. But suddenly there were DOZENS of posts on the topic … and ALL of them were completely shredding me in every way possible – from my feminism, opinions and possible sexuality to pretty much everything else.

What Does This Have to Do With Running Blogs?

One good thing about a product review versus a blog is that a review is about something other than you. So while the commenters were rather direct and intentionally mean, their barbs left no mark because ultimately they were about a disagreement over gender representation in a computer game. Who. The. Fudge. Cares. (and, no, I did NOT say fudge 🙂 )

But imagine for a moment that while I was posting my Loves or Fears from my ’10 Days of You’ stuff – some deeply personal items in my life – and I got belittling comments on the site (I have never deleted a comment due to content), or on a different site, or perhaps on a forum somewhere.

And to answer the obvious question – YES there are blogs that seem to exist to hate on other blogs, and perhaps some here will realize there are web forums whose main purpose seems to be to shred blogs and bloggers. I will not provide any of them with links. Because they don’t need the help of traffic … and I have seen a couple of my blog friends on those sites (as targets). It is REALLY sad.

Along those same lines – did you know that some people ‘hate read’ blogs, the same way people ‘hate watch’ some TV shows (reality shows in particular)? Again, neither of those is something I ‘get’ – I don’t wish ill on anyone on TV, especially seeing how many marriages and families have been torn apart in the pursuit of money from those shows. It is sad.

It is sadder still to hear that people read blogs – and I mean even ones in our fun little limited audience community of running and healthy living blogs – with bad intent. HOPING they succumb to eating disorders; HOPING they get injured; SPECULATING on infidelity and marital problems … I mean, UGH! Really?!?

And … ?

Seeing enough of this going on really disheartened me – as did some of the dishonesty and misrepresentation I was also seeing (another topic). Life is hard enough, running and staying fit is hard enough, marriage is hard enough, parenting is hard enough … it is ALL hard enough wihout adding all of that negativity to the mix. That contributed to me stepping back, removing some blogs from my feed, and readjusting my expectations of myself and other bloggers. Since coming back I have focused on my friends and new acquaintences. And on providing as much support and positivity – while keeping it real – as I can. If you guys win – we ALL win!

So what do I ask? If you are hate reading a blog? Stop. If you think someone has problems – talk to them. Maybe the issue is no one is calling them on it and they are feeding the negative habits with all of the positive feedback. I don’t know. Be the change – we want everyone we care about to be happy and healthy. Help them – and for those who are looking for help, reach out. One thing I have learned is that the group that comments here and that I see all around the blogosphere are some amazingly awesome people who would step out for a friend – one they have never and might never meet. Who knows … take a chance, these guys (including me) have got your back. Together we can make this an even more positive experience.

So What Do YOU Think About All of This?