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Schadenfreude and Mudita and Internet Forums

January 4th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Schadenfreude is a German word that means delighting in the misfortune of others. Here in southeastern Virginia, we call this “The Crab Theory.”

Put a lone crab in a five-gallon bucket and Mr. Crab will do everything in his power to scale its smooth wall and crawl out of that bucket. Put two or more crabs in a bucket and when one starts to climb up, the others will grab him and pull him down. Unfortunately, sometimes humans exhibit the same negative tendencies as crabs.

In my own life, I’ve struggled mightily with envy.  And then one day, I read a story in the Christian Science Sentinel about a woman who’d spent a lifetime cultivating the habit of gratitude. She said that her mother had taught her to feel sincerely joyous and grateful for the good things that happened in other people’s lives, and to take it as a personal promise from God that, if it happened for them, it could happen for her, too.

The Buddhist have a word for this: Mudita. It’s the practice of finding joy in other people’s success and happiness.

For years, I enjoyed participating at a handful of internet forums, but recently, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, as more and more people seem to engage in a myriad of negative behaviors, such as might be exhibited by a pair of angry crabs in a five-gallon bucket. Sometimes, I’ve gotten caught up in a heated debate and posted things that were better left unsaid.

I’m starting to wonder if the anonymity of the internet is making us all a little too callous and way too careless with our words. There are those who seem to delight in “pulling others down,” rather than lifting them up.

And I surely don’t want to be one of them.

Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) is credited with saying that the kindest thing we can do for our heavenly Father is to be kind to His children.

I don’t think Saint Teresa would be a fan of the “pulling down” that often occurs today on the internet.

Who among us hasn’t lost our temper and said something we deeply regret? Who among us hasn’t wished that we’d waited just a few minutes more (or hours) before hitting that “submit button”?

Maybe we need to abandon the crabby habit of schadenfreude and work on cultivating the saintly habit of  mudita.

Even on the internet.

To read about Aunt Addie, click here.

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Teddy the Dog knows a lot about love.

To learn about Sears Homes (a very happy topic), click here.

To see more pictures of my cute dog, click here.

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