Schadenfreude

Question: Is it bad that I want my co-worker’s new business venture to fail miserably?

Like, I would probably be secretly excited if it burned down.

That’s bad, right?

I try to be a good person. I really do. Usually I think it’s horrible to wish something bad on someone, no matter what they’ve done. But I cannot escape the amazingly satisfying sense of schadenfreude when something bad happens to this guy. Even retroactively. And it’s a problem, because, were it not for his lovely wife and beautiful children, who I’m sure love him and whom I’m sure he loves, I…

…well, I hate that I’m saying this, but…

I…

I wouldn’t care if he got-hit-by-a-bus-tomorrow thereIsaidit.

One of my friends told me that someone beat this guy up in a bar for being a jerk, years before I ever met him. I love that.

Here’s the thing: this guy tried to get me fired, and very nearly succeeded. He spends fully 3/4 of his day at work with his feet up on his desk and earbuds in his ears, surfing the internet.

I’m not kidding.

Then he complains about what other people have done.

He sits in meetings, with between one and four managers present, and spends the whole time screwing around on his iPhone. Never looks up.

One time, he must have left his phone somewhere, so he spent most of the meeting cleaning out his wallet, and the rest of it trying to determine whether he could maneuver a plastic fork to hit himself in the nose using only his mouth.

Swear.

We used to work with each other directly on projects every day, and he spent every single day treating me like crap. By the time I’d worked with him for about six months, I cried at least two nights a week on the way home. Two times, for a grand total of 14 seconds and using exactly no bad words, I stood up for myself, and that’s how I almost got fired. In actual fact, the choice my managers gave me was:

Choice 1: take a huge demotion and 23% pay cut and change from a normal shift to a crappy life-sacrificing one, by which you also lose benefits and vacation/holiday time…

or

Choice 2: lose your job.

…Despite the fact that our own bosses had told me several times that they think he’s an ass.  (I will supply the caveat here that one of my bosses doesn’t like me and that contributed as well. And I will grant you that when you have two co-workers who don’t like you, it usually means you’re the problem, but after months and months of self-flagellation and struggle, I decided that’s not true. There are lots of other co-workers – past and present – who have problems with these two.)

Sometimes when this guy walks by, I have a really powerful urge to smack him in the back of the head. Or trip him.

So he and his wife have this new business. It opened Saturday, when it was quite literally eleventy-two degrees.

The air conditioner died.

Mwahahahahahahahahahaha! I did a little dance in my head when I overheard that. I might have accidentally smiled a little bit.

But a bunch of people at work  asked him all day on Monday, “Oh, how did it go? Was it great? Oh, that’s so great!” And I know for a fact that some of these people hate his breathing guts. And he keeps talking about it, all excited-but-too-cool-for-school. And people keep saying they’re going to stop by and check out the place.

We don’t speak, so I didn’t have to fake any enthusiasm. When you work with a grown man who goes out of his way to give a wide berth on the rare occasion you both populate the same hallway, and who absolutely will not make eye contact or speak if you find yourselves in the break room at the same time, there’s a tacit understanding that you won’t give a flying fig about each other in any other regard.

It’s a shame, because I’veI known his wife since before they got married and I held his oldest child when he was a tiny baby. And then there’s the other reason the whole thing makes me sad – besides my casual friendship with his wife and the complete derailing of my professional life, which was accompanied by a tremendous and sometimes crippling anxiety:

It makes me a lesser person to hate him so much.

Why am I so worried about my karma? This guy is the biggest a-hole I’ve ever known, but I’m worried about being a bad person because I can’t stand him. Stupid conscience. What’s the use of good schadenfreude if my Catholic guilt is constantly getting in the way? I’m not allowed to have one sworn enemy? Just one? I fought it for a long time. The whole time we were working on projects together, I fought the hate. I gave him every bit of credit due to him for being good at his job. I thought I was falling short because he wasn’t happy with my end of things.

And then, at some point, after the near-firing, after all the crying, after a little devilish encouragement from other people who also hate him, I gave in.

But of course, every time I have one of these evil little thoughts, I have to start evaluating myself and asking myself why I’m so hellbent on vengeance. Passive vengeance, mind you; I’d never actually do something to cause harm.

But the fantasies are so powerful…

Is there anybody you hate? Please tell me about them so I don’t feel so bad.
——
Featured image from gotarant.com

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19 thoughts on “Schadenfreude

  1. Interesting. I am new to your site (via Older Eyes) and notice that a lot of your views run counter to mine. Nevertheless, I really appreciate your writing style and how you express yourself. Consequently I enjoy reading your “stuff” even when I totally disagree with you. (Although I will sometimes read a post a couple of times thinking “Did she really say that?”)

    But, based on the posts I have read,I find it curious that you give this other person all this control over your emotional health. My impression of you is one of someone who is not so swayed by someone’s opinion of them. (Yes, I understand the “almost got me fired” issue. Been there, done that, got a new job.) I used to have a lot of anger that showed itself in many awkward ways and I found it easy to “hate” others when I was offended. It is not important how I changed all that, but it certainly does make life a whole lot more wonderful when you do.

    Two saying I take to heart today are: “Hating someone else is like taking poison yourself hoping the other person will die”, and “Let me try to see this person through God’s eyes”. They may sound corny, but what a change it has made in my life. There are certainly still people that I do not like, but I don’t have to let them have any control over how I feel about them. I can simply accept that they are doing the best they can and move on.

    I know you were not looking for advice (preferring to know if there is someone I hate too), but I do believe that the sister I recently lost killed herself with all the pent-up hate she carried in her life. It was very hard for her to find a kind word about anyone without having some “kicker” attached to it.

    Maybe if you wish this guy all the success in the world, and he does succeed, he will leave and be out of your life forever. Just a thought.

    • Hello, and welcome! Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoy my stuff, even when you disagree. In this case, maybe you caught me on a bad day. 😉 In all seriousness (which is generally counter to how I blog), I struggled a great deal with everything that happened as a result of this person’s behavior toward me, and blamed myself for a lot of it. Like you point out, I’m rarely this affected by the way someone thinks of me. That doesn’t mean I don’t care what they think; I am not above realizing that sometimes someone else can point out something that I need to work on, and that’s a blessing. That is exactly what I tried to do for a long time with this person. But it really bothered me that he bothered me, you know what I mean? I couldn’t figure out why it ate so much at me. As I mentioned in my post, I fought against how I felt toward him for a very long time, to the degree that others who know him, and knew the situation, wondered why I was being so nice about it. I wonder if I can adequately convey my thoughts this way: it was in denying myself the truth of my feelings that I suffered most. Does that make sense? In other words: when I finally allowed myself to admit that I just do not like this person, and do not have to… that was when I stopped being so affected by him. (Current post, I’ll grant, seeming to be evidence to the contrary!)

      I am terribly sorry to hear about your sister, and I can only imagine the pain of her struggle. Please understand, though, that this is only one person. I think it’s pretty human to find oneself disliking someone intensely. And many, many times, I have told myself that he is the way he is because he is not a happy person, and that must be a difficult way for him to live. I don’t harbor hatred as part of my being. I just can’t stand this guy. And to be honest, I believe I’ve earned the right to feel that way about him.

      As for you often wondering, “Did she really just say that?”… the answer is… Yes. She did. 🙂

  2. Yes. My friend over on another blog asked “What’s the one crime you would commit if you could get away with it?” and my first totally spontaneous thought, literally, was to kill this person – and then I realized that I am truly an awful, evil demon trapped in a human body. So I think you should feel okay.

  3. Oh, I feel the push and pull of that conscience telling you, that you shouldn’t feel like wanting the guy to royally screw up something and have it bite him in the ass. How could anyone be rooting for the guy that slides by while doing the minimum?

    I don’t think you are being evil at all… no way…if his new business fails it might be a good life lesson. It sounds like he needs a little cockyness kicked out of him.

    What kind of a-hole tries to get someone fired????

  4. Some years ago, I took a class in Judaism from a Rabbi I very much respected. Now, I’m hoping I remember this right, but the subject of Hitler came up and he said, “There’s nothing wrong with hating Hitler. In Judaism, unlike Christianity, it’s OK to hate someone if they’re a despicable character.” I’m going to do some research to see if that’s really the case. Also, if you read some Jewish literature, particularly the Kaballah, God made certain figures evil because they were needed in his plan, much as bad guys are needed in a novel. With that viewpoint, seeing your enemy as a bad guy might just be seeing him as he is. I, for one, believe there are truly evil people … big evil like Hitler and smaller evil like your co-worker. We’re not required to love them … and maybe we can even hate them. That said, in trying to come up an answer to your question, I can’t find anybody I hate. As a former Catholic, I too find it hard to say I hate someone. My curmudgeon has no such problem … when my curmudgeon comes home, I’ll ask him who we hate.

  5. Well now you’ve got me wondering if my religion allows me to hate Hitler. Jesus did say “turn the other cheek,” and “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,” and that is how I try to live. But sometimes I think it’s more about the spirit of the law than the letter of it! I will say this: knowing this person and his very nice wife has taught me that everyone can be loved by someone… which is a nice reminder when you feel unlovable.

    Now, Bud, for crying out loud – find Inner Curmudgeon!

    • OK, I’ve got one and I don’t even need my curmudgeon. My niece … daughter of my favorite in-law … was married to a narcissist. Not an “Oh, he’s so self-centered and narcissistic” but the real deal. The stuff he did in the marriage was incredible and when he got caught cheating and my niece filed for divorce, it got worse … police, restraining orders, getting revenge though the kids. It was during this period that my sister-in-law discovered a very large abdominal tumor which proved fatal. My brother-in-law believes that the reason she didn’t notice any symptoms is that she was so wrapped up in the drama of his daughter’s divorce. The day my niece was leaving for her Mom’s funeral, the police showed up. Her delightful ex had told them that she was taking the kids out of state illegally. The man is the biggest asshole I’ve ever met and I do hate him … with no compunction, by the way. I’ve sometimes wondered if I could kill him and marveled that my brother-in-law hasn’t.

      • Wow… yeah, I don’t blame you. It’s so hard to understand people who truly just want to hurt others. I’m sorry that he caused so much suffering, both directly and indirectly.

  6. I’m enjoying the comments as much as the post! I also don’t have anyone I hate, or even dislike that much. But I have felt that terrible and bitter ANGER for certain people often enough. (Yes I caps’d it! ANGER!!) I think you did the right thing by acknowledging your feelings and just allowing yourself to really truly absolutely and totally not like this guy. At the same time, you clearly recognize that there must be something redeemable about him if this terrific lady loves him. Sounds pretty level headed to me. Still bitter, still angry, but seeing clearly.

    I don’t believe that Christianity says we have to like one another. It does say we have to love one another – not necessarily everything about someone or what they do or how they act. But love them as a fellow human. That’s easy enough, really. If you would tell him to duck in time to avoid being hit in the head by a bullet from a drive-by shooting, then you love him as a human. Done.

    As far as wishing his business would fail? That sounds pretty human of you, too. I’ve been “guilty” of that plenty of times – oh, to see the comeupance, what joy, what sweet, sweet revenge – if only in my own mind. And then I learn all over again that, yes, Revenge is Sweet…but it’s not filling. Dammit.

    • Sigh… Yes, you’re right. His business failing would not make him stop being a jerk. Therefore, I would not be satisfied. And you make an excellent point about the difference between like and love. I say I wouldn’t care if he got hit by a bus, but the truth is, if I was standing there, I’d probably do CPR. Or shove him out of the way.

      But I’d shove him really hard. Maybe make him smack his face on the ground. Oops. 😉

  7. You made me laugh out loud!

    I admire that you would give him CPR (and it makes me wonder about myself that I went straight for the bullet-to-the-head scenario for my example).

    Okay, just read that line again about smacking his face on the ground. And laughted out loud again, only this time at work. Oh, well…he deserves that much, I guess. And unlike a failed business, that kind of physically manifested revenge is quite filling. It’s a huge chunk of chocolate cake compared to the air filled sweetness of a Krispy Kreme donut.

  8. Bold admission! I once realized it was time to break up with someone because I had started fantasizing about him dying so I would be free from the relationship. And he was a nice guy — not a dick at all. THAT is when you realize you’re a terrible person. This? Perfectly within bounds.

  9. Pingback: Love. Anger. Fear. Etc. « Older Eyes

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