Enjoying the Suffering of Others

“Some people want the whole world to go hungry so that they can appreciate the value of food in their plate.” 
― Shon Mehta


As I have stated many times in the course of this blog, it is the combination of the need to understand moral and ethical issues, my legal training as well as the the continuance of my soul journey, that motivates me in the many things I think and write about. It is these things that take me down this rocky path I mention now.

The Motivators to Causing Pain

What makes people think, act and behave the way they do? What are the driving forces that make people act negatively, cruelly and immorally? Also, what motivates them to break the law?

I conclude that there is no simple, single motivator.

In this post, particularly, I want to talk about a really harmful, cruel habit we have as human beings. I want to talk about how we delight in the pain and suffering of others. Now, at this point you may look at me and say that you are certainly not one of those people.

Good, I say, then, you are a truly evolved person, spiritually. For the rest of us, the moral dilemma remains.

Pain and Suffering of Others

I am generally addressing any one of us who has been in this situation. It is where we have felt vindication, delight or even amusement over someone’s failure or when they have stumbled.

Apparently, there is a term for it. Schadenfreude is the “malicious enjoyment of the misfortunes of others”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/172271. It is also the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of, or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.

What is the Core of Schadenfreude?

It appears that “three different motivations can drive the feeling of schadenfreude; aggression, rivalry, and justice” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/ndpii/S0732118X18301430. So, while it is normal to experience schadenfreude once in a while, it is the frequency and intensity of experiencing this emotion or set of emotions which should set off alarm bells. You see, this malicious enjoyment comes from a place where we dehumanize the other person. Therefore, if someone is constantly mocking and ridiculing people for their suffering, the person is truly warped.

Research shows “that people with low self-esteem are more likely to feel schadenfreude when they see other people fail. This is because the success of others can be a threat to their sense of self and seeing the mighty fall can be a comfort.” https://bigthink.com/neuropsych/schadenfreude-and-psychopathy/.

The same article states that “people with the traits of Machiavellianism, narcissism, or psychopathy, together known as the ‘dark triad’, feel schadenfreude more often. This is also true for the sadistic and cruel.”

Trials Test Character

There was a lady I knew when I was a child, who delighted in the failures of others, even of children. It was probably because she was a person with low self-esteem. Even as a child, I wondered why she behaved that way. I felt she had a lot of comfort and support, material wealth and prosperity. She had no reason to be so mean. Now when I look back, I realize that the real question I should have asked is this. Why did she delight in the suffering of others, despite her lot in life? No matter what it was.

You see, we may go through a lot of suffering in our lives. But the question to ask ourselves is if these trials are going to make us better human beings. We cannot prevent hardship and testing from coming into our lives, but how we treat others, feel about our fellow human beings and behave as human beings, can determine whether we are compassionate.

So in my opinion, if the target is someone we just met, haven’t known for long or have no real history with, we should be less likely to experience this feeling of schadenfreude. If the other person has not directed harm, direct or indirect, in our direction, I feel we have no real cause to feel schadenfreude.


If at our core, we suffer from low self-esteem, we need to work on ourselves. This is so we do not deteriorate into people who can only feel good about ourselves if others suffer or experience pain. For in our respective soul journeys, there can be no room for this darker aspect of ourselves.

For this very same tendency, can ultimately pull us into the depths of cruelty and sadism. And we may not be able to crawl back out of these very same depths.

man in black tank top wearing black cap covering face
A man experiencing emotional pain
Photo by Mahdi Bafande on Pexels.com

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