Muditā vs Schadenfreude
Many have heard of the latter, very few of the former.
Is that perhaps because it’s easier or more conducive to our outrage-culture to be happy when our foes experience pain or loss? Or do we forget the joy that we used to experience as kids when we would see someone else succeed?
Muditā: sympathetic or vicarious joy, particularly the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being.
Schadenfreude: the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of others.
Every summer when we run our kids’ basketball camp, we choose three kids each day to play Go-For-It! They have to make shots at varying levels of difficulty, and the more shots they make, the bigger the prize they get. If the kids hit the first shot, the entire camp of kids roars in celebration. If the kids get all the way to the last shot and make that — pandemonium. It’s awesome to witness and can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
Yet, as we get older, we forget that outright joy when others succeed unless it’s something that we think affects us and our desires. We cheer when our friend gets a promotion, but maybe not if we were going for a similar position. We find joy when our kids or siblings make a team or get straight A’s, but maybe we get jaded or judgmental when others get recognition and awards that should have gone to our family.
We love when we get minutes on the court and score in front of the fans, but do we celebrate our teammates as equally when they do it?
This idea comes up within our team a lot. Sports are tough just like life is. Everyone can’t get on the court or field at once just like every kid can’t receivee Summa Cum Laude. Still, we can control our perception and our reactions. If I’m not getting as much playing time as I want or think I should have, that’s my job to fix — not my parents’ and not my coaches.’ In the meantime, I help no one, including my own psyche, by pouting on the bench and hoping the player in front of me messes up so I can get a chance. Yet if I celebrate the team’s successes and fulfill my role, whatever that may be, to the best of my ability, that lifts everyones’ boats. If I want to change the outcome of something to better suit my desires, that’s up to me on my time.
I’m not saying that I don’t celebrate my preferred candidates winning and cheer when the other guys lose or get what’s coming to them (Lindsey Graham doesn’t affect me directly in many ways, but boy am I happy when he fails or gets called out). And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be internally disappointed when things don’t go the way we want. But life is generally more enjoyable and positive when we can smile and laugh WITH others rather than jeer and hiss behind them. Just something to think about as the country seemingly gets more and more divided — life seldom operates in the binary and we can always lean towards the side of the spectrum that helps us sleep better at night and worry about what’s within our locus of control.