The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


If the word Joy is included as a generic term for Good Fortune, Happiness and Pleasure, and the word Sorrow to include Misfortune, Unhappiness and Loss, then the emotional interaction between two persons is a four-fold classification:

1. A experiences Joy. In consequence B is Joyful.

2. A experiences Sorrow. In consequence B is Sorrowful.

3. A experiences Sorrow. In consequence B is Joyful.

4. A experiences Joy. In consequence B is Sorrowful.

In the case of No. 1 there is mutual happiness. It is a condition to be sought and encouraged. All the parties feel good. The first part of the Parable of The Prodigal Son illustrates this:

The father said to his servants - “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let us have a feast and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found”. So they begin to celebrate.

In the case of No. 2 there is empathy and compassion. There is a current trend to engage and receive training in counselling for this purpose. Support is given of others who have had misfortunes such as bereavement or other deep distress. This sharing is of great social worth.

With regard to No. 3, here we have Schadenfreude. This response is destructive. It eats like a canker into the personality.

With regard to No 4, this is Envy and its cousin Jealousy. A mediaeval deadly sin. It is well illustrated in the response of the elder brother in the Prodigal Son Parable.

“The older brother became angry and refused to go inside. His father went out and pleaded with him. He answered ‘Look, all these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never give me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But for this son of yours who has squandered your property and engaged in riotous living, you kill the fatted calf for him.”

Bertrand Russell, the philosopher, said that envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness in the world. This being so, it is a wonder that it is so pervasive. Here again, the media must share much of the blame.

The Lebanese Poet Kahil Gibran says, “When you are joyous look deep into your heart and you will find that it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Assuredly we will all experience both in our lives.

Be joyful. Share it with others, it makes the world go round. Have compassion and give help to the fallen and the unfortunate. Avoid the demon Schadenfreude and the green eyed acolyte Envy.

Rod Dawson

Autumn Edition 2014

Joy and Sorrow

Recently on TV, radio and more intrusively in the newspapers, there are frequent stories denigrating celebrities and national figures. The treatment is often savagely detailed, giving information about indiscretions which in former days would be regarded as minor peccadilloes. Moreover events which have happened many decades previously are raked over, and the defendants are expected to reply to precise words and actions. It is a matter of conjecture what the motivation is, especially as The Common Law doctrine of ‘Laches’ is contravened. ‘Laches’ is a principle that no aggrieved person should rest upon his rights but should seek redress without delay.

There seems to be cause to suspect that the media are engaging in Schadenfreude. This German word, of which there is no exact in English, is defined as:

Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

The Book of Proverbs Ch.24 vv17-18 counsels against this notion: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth. Lest the Lord see it and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him”.