Schadenfreude

schadenfreude noun 1. pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

At 3 AM on May 29, 2017, police in Jupiter, Florida pulled up to a car stopped, but running in the middle of the road. The driver was asleep at the wheel. When the police woke him, he was disoriented and slurring his speech. Though he passed the breathalyzer, he failed every other field sobriety test. He was arrested for driving under the influence.

As you probably know, the driver was Tiger Woods. Woods claims he had not been drinking, but had taken pain killers from a recent back surgery and not realized how they would affect him.

Tiger’s disheveled, unshaven mugshot went viral. It was everywhere – on TV, magazines, newspapers and especially on social media. Twitter and Facebook exploded with memes and mocking.

The man who at one time was the most famous and well-paid athlete in the world, was now a drugged out, balding, unshaven, middle-aged mugshot on Facebook.

People couldn’t resist. They shared the memes. They made snide remarks. We just can’t seem to get enough of celebrities who fall from grace (see also: Brian Williams, Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby, et al).

Why do we take such interest and, dare I say, enjoyment from the misfortunes of the rich and famous? It seems to stem from two unseemly corners of our own hearts: pride and jealousy.

The Apostle Paul encourages us “rejoice with those who rejoice” and to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). We tend to do the opposite. We stew in jealousy when we see others succeed where we have failed. And then when they fall, we secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly) revel in their misfortune.

When we see the high and mighty fall, we feel better about ourselves. We’re not like them – arrogant, corrupt, morally bankrupt. We are good, decent, hardworking people. They are getting what they deserve.

There is an old Spanish proverb which says, “Don’t ever say, ‘From that water I will never drink.’” It means, “Watch out! Don’t think it couldn’t happen to you.” We are all two or three bad choices away from losing everything.

One too many drinks or accidentally mixing pain medications, and you could find yourself in a jail cell or worse. One moment it’s harmless flirting, the next your wife is filing for divorce. Your friend loans you a pill to take the edge off and help you sleep, the next thing you know, you’re strung out.

Don’t ever say, “From that water I will never drink.”

So, how should we react when we see celebrities like Tiger Woods fail and fall? Turn the channel. Scroll past it on Facebook. Pray for them.

Take a look at your own mug in the mirror, your own sins, your own weaknesses. Then pray again. Pray that God forgive your jealousy and pride. Pray that God help you not to fall.

Jesus’ warning to his overconfident disciples should echo in our ears: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).