What’s the opposite of schadenfreude?

You can always trust the Germans to have a word for complex, and negative, emotional feelings.  Today’s word is schadenfreude: “satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.”  I can’t say that I’m immune to it, of course.  If the person suffering misfortune is an evil person, I certainly won’t weep for him.  However, I can flatter myself that I am not one of those who wishes friends and acquaintances ill, simply so that I can feel some sense of superiority about myself and my life when compared to them.

I make this little philosophical and self-serving rumination because I’ve become aware this past year that many of the people I grew up and went to school with have gone on to have very distinguished careers.  As someone who is remarkably undistinguished (suburban Mom is a good life, but doesn’t have much resume value), I think it’s awesome that people I know have done more interesting things.  At a selfish level, I love the name dropping.  “My friend the Colonel.”  “My friend the U.S. Attorney.”  “My friend the Admiral.”  You know, if you can’t be important, you may as well have important friends, right?

But at a somewhat more mature level, I’m enormously pleased that people I always liked have found fulfilling and rewarding careers.  I think it’s awesome that the young boys I knew, with skinny legs and squeaky voices, or the bewildered young law students I met, proved to be, not just nice people, but dedicated, committed, and self-disciplined people.  It’s like seeing a little sapling grow into a magnificent tree.  Although I have absolutely nothing to do with the tree’s development, I feel a sort of vicarious pride that I was in on its growth.

Our childhood friends’ distinctions are also one of the benefits of aging.  If you hang around enough people for enough years, the good ones are going to rise to the top.  Just for having stuck it out through life, you end up with friends who give you boasting rights.

These friends, incidentally, are part of why I haven’t been blogging, because I’ve been spending time with some of them.  And since it is a rare pleasure to visit with people I’ve known for decades but see infrequently, that trumps blogging.  And after all, I just didn’t feel today like writing about Obama and The View.  I’m not even that surprised.  Our last Democratic president, as you may recall, advertised to the world the kind of underwear he wore.  We don’t expect dignity from that crowd.

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  • http://ritestuff.blogspot.com/ Karl

    Maybe you’re kvelling?
    (Yiddish also has a rich emotional  vocabulary)

  • Danny Lemieux

    One of the great pleasures that I have been able to enjoy as I grow older and more mature is the ability to revel in the accomplishments of others while remaining aware and grateful for all the wonderful gifts that I myself have been given in life. Thanks be to God.

  • Charles Martel

    “We don’t expect dignity from that crowd.”

    You just made me remember the unsettled feeling I would get whenever I saw Bill Clinton on TV, especially if it were at a ceremonial function. It took me a couple of years to put my finger on it, but I finally figured out that the man lacked dignity. (Maybe gravitas was the better word.)

    It would really hit whenever Clinton stepped off Marine One on the White House lawn, freshly returned from some mission or vacation, as would pass by his military honor guard. He would give a half-assed salute (NOT called for when you are the civilian commander in chief) and lift his chin, Mussolini style, in what I have since learned is how feminized Democratic men model manliness. The palpable air of unease, and probably unconscious shame at being in the presence of real men, just stripped poor ol’ Bill of whatever little dignity he had. Like Obama, he hadn’t a clue how to act in public with the demeanor of somebody older than 20.

    Also, what Danny said. Amen.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    To feel good about other’s success, first you must be secure enough in your person to not see other people’s power as a threat to yourself.
    If you are weak and not where you should be, and you know, then when you look at how much better somebody else is, you feel negative emotions because it’s a mirror reflecting on your own inadequacy. It also presents to you a threat, the fear of not being able to deal with people, resulting in your lack of success and personal difficulties. So you are directed to view those with more power and influence as being a likely block to jump over.
    The more you like challenges and the more you understand yourself and your security in the world, the less you will feel fear simply from the prospect or the idea of someone being better or stronger or more competitive. Instead of negative emotions like displacement, projection, or envy, you feel positive emotions like excitement, curiosity, or respect for those more powerful and more successful.
    The Left are a bunch of insecure allies of evil. They’re not strong enough to be considered useful additions to the Cause of Good.

  • Indigo Red

    Keeping with the German theme of Schadenfreude which literally means ‘harming joy’ then the opposite might be Segenfreude meaning ‘blessing joy’. An alternate could be Glücksegen meaning ‘luck joy’. But, it can also mean ‘luck gene’ which sounds too envious. Plus, there’s that whole umlaut thing going on. I like Segenfreude because it has the same basic sound as Schadenfreude and ‘segen’ sounds like Sagan as in Carl Sagan implying in Amer-English billions and billions of joyfull blessings. I’d llike to claim the word coinage, but Segenfreude is the name of a German greeting card company. I, too, am immensely happy with the good fortune (result of hard work) of my school time mates, even those I don’t particularly like. One friend has completely changed the way the world uses computers while another has done ground-breaking work in speech pathology treatment. I’ve enough Segenfreude to bring me to tears to think that I actually know these people.

  • Gringo

    It depends. As I have previously mentioned on this blog, a high school classmate of mine is working in the Oilbama White House. He was the brightest in our class,so I cannot say I am surprised he has risen in the world-  much time in DC after the Ivy League. Moreover, because he wore his brilliance lightly, and did not have the smartass, arrogant attitude that a lot of brilliant and not-so-brilliant people have, while never playing dumb , we lesser mortals enjoyed his company.
    At the same time, I am sad that he is working for what I consider to be an Administration that oscillates between the inept and the malevolent.

  • Charles Martel

    “. . .an Administration that oscillates between the inept and the malevolent.”

    Thank you for putting into words a perception that I have never been quite able to articulate.

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~nooriginalthought/ Charles

    Honestly, I have never felt schadenfraude about anyone I personally know.  Except I do often feel it when a politician stumbles.  And boy, have I been feeling it a lot with the Obama White House.

    P.S.  Yes, I, too, love that phrase Gringo:

    “an Administration that oscillates between the inept and the malevolent.”

    That is so well put.

    I think Obama, being the narcissist that he is (as Book has so correctly pointed out in many posts), is feeling so less loved these days with all the responsibility that is actually expected of the President that he is seeking adoration anywhere he can get it.  Hence, the reason that he will go on The View.

    There are so many people I know who generally do NOT express political thoughts (I don’t think they really have them); but, lately, they all seem to be bitching up a storm about Obama this and Obama that.  So, I am really feeling that schadenfraude.

  • Gringo

    Charles, that was derivative, not original, on my part. It was just a rephrasing of the “knave or fool” question  a lot of blogs have had about Oilbama.
    Inept: taking the EPA a month or two to approve proposed actions about the oil spill, such as sand barriers which the Louisiana state government had requested nearly from the getgo,  or using  foreign ships that sucked up the oil, in spite of the Jones Act specifying domestic ships.
    Malevolent: Interior Secretary Salazar lying about what the experts had said about a drilling ban in the Gu’f.
    Is Oilbama’s misrepresenting the Arizona immigration law inept or malevolent? I lean towards the latter.

  • Mike Devx

    Gringo #6:
    > At the same time, I am sad that he is working for what I consider to be an Administration that oscillates between the inept and the malevolent.

    “what I consider to be an Administration that oscillates between the inept and the malevolent”
    Ah…. I LOVE it when someone here coins a perfect phrase! Wonderful!   (And part of perfection is not only the near-poetic beauty of the phrasing, but also the ringing clarity of its truth.)