The spiritual sin of schadenfreude

Ok I admit it, I like big words! Chambers defines schadenfreude as “malicious pleasure in the misfortune of others.” I guess I have to admit that this is a sin I can struggle with, but I fairly sure I’m not the only one!

I’ve been think a lot recently about the nature of love and the quality of love that God desires to form in us.

Perhaps the most profound of meditations on love that can be found in the pages of the New Testament comes from 1 Corinthians 13. They are words which many know so well. Verse six of that passage unmasks this often secret and malicious pleasure as unloving and sinful as it says of love “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” E.S.V.

I’ve pondered on the reasons for this inward smugness at the misfortune of another for a while. I suspect that the temptation to feel like this comes because the fall or failure of another makes me feel somehow better about myself.

Of course I do not say that as a means of self justification, I fully acknowledge this attitude as sinful. Indeed I want to understand how to overcome it. I am increasingly convinced that formation of a loving character in us is directly linked to our appreciation for and experience of God’s love for us.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 E.S.V.


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