Usually I don’t use big words, but Schadenfreude says something no other word expresses. I have seen the word in my readings, and its meaning is easy to grasp from the contexts, but I never heard it pronounced until recently. You can discover the meaning and pronunciation from Dictionary.com or from Lisa Simpson.
Essentially it means to take delight in someone’s misfortune. I think this is among the most dreadful violations of Jesus’ admonition to love others. Matthew chapter 5 reports Jesus as saying:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
How Osama bin Laden Changed My Life
On September 9, 2001 I turned 50. After some reflection I concluded that though I had turned 50 the world had not changed.
Two days later, planes flew into the Twin Towers. I was in a mall early that morning when someone called to tell me that a plane had flown into one of the towers. Shortly afterward came news about the second tower. The mall remained almost empty that day, but a number of us were in Sears for hours watching the bank of TVs in the electronics section. We watched the first tower collapse—and then the second one. And we watched them collapse over and over.
There was little talking—only watching. I felt a heavy, dead gloom inside. The mall closed early and we all went home, but the heavy gloom went home with me. All America felt that gloom.
I had become a bit tired of corporate life after 25 years, and as I dealt with my gloom over the next few days I decided to leave corporate and start a business in my home. I struggled for a few years and never reached the income I had made in corporate management. Perhaps I made a bad decision in my moment of deep gloom, and Osama bin Laden was a strong influence in precipitating that decision.
Bin Laden’s Demise
The hunt for bin Laden went on, it seemed, forever. And then one day the United States found him and killed him. Bin Laden could torment the world no longer. Along with many in America and around the world, I was relieved. But it became another day in which I was glued in horror to the television. People were celebrating, which I expected, but the tone was not one of relief—it was glee!
People filled the street outside the White House cheering the death of bin Laden. They were not celebrating just the end of the perpetrator of terrorism; they were celebrating retribution and revenge.
Again I felt a deep gloom; that evening I posted on Face Book:
Shall I cheer the death of bin Laden? He was cruel. He was dangerous to civilization. He promoted hatred and violence. It is fitting that he died the way he did. His death was appropriate and even necessary, and I am relieved that he is dead.
Yet I do not cheer. He was a person, and the death of any person is a sad occasion. We killed a man–sought him out and killed him. Did the United States do wrong to pursue him and kill him? No. But, though necessary, it was a solemn act, not a cheerful one.
When Saddam was hanged, perhaps it was appropriate. The wildly gleeful response of his hangmen, however, was not. Defense and justice are necessary, but vengefulness and hatred of the enemy will never make us better people. Osama bin Laden is gone. I am glad. But I do not cheer.
Surprisingly, I received a few positive responses to my post:
1. I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr. ~Dick
2. I agree, guys. I felt uncomfortable with the cheering in the same way I thought it was disgusting when there was video of cheering on 9/11. It had to be done but I don’t feel festive. ~Sandra
3. Tim…all day yesterday I struggled with those very thoughts. It felt so unpatriotic and I felt like it was only me. I mourn the continued violence. Am I glad one of the worst perpetrators has been brought to justice and stopped? Yeah…but like you I am not cheering. ~Amy
How Must I Respond to Evil People?
Does not the Father love all of us? Does not his love include the monsters as well? I must align my perspective with that of the Father, which is to bring healing to all of us broken and misguided people. I must not hate instead of love.
We all need healing of our alienation from the Father, ourselves, and each other. Some need a LOT of healing. Sometimes this comes in our lifetime, but perhaps healing and forgiveness comes after this lifetime. What is the limit to the Father’s forgiveness? Will he forgive Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot of their massive atrocities?
If he does, will you be angry? Will you cheer their reconciliation or will you demand revenge? Do you embrace Schadenfreude? I cannot.