“Schadenfreude” and Trump’s COVID Diagnosis

6 minutes
Photo by History in HD

The media branding reactions to Trump’s COVID diagnosis as “schadenfreudeis an attempt to instill negativity and shame in those who are experiencing a culturally accepted belief.

Disclaimer: This article is using a popular topic in our society (politics) to teach emotional intelligence. Here we show the hypocrisy in culturally accepted norms, and how the media can influence how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. It is in no way, at all, whatsoever an attempt to make a political statement. At EQnow we wish for a speedy recovery of anyone who has COVID, no matter who they are 🌱.

Like with anything else, Donald Trump’s COVID diagnosis is bringing division and controversy. While some are wishing for a speedy recovery, others are happy about his misfortune. The media has decided to call those who find joy in Trump’s diagnosis “schadenfreude”.

As searches for the term schadenfreude spike, people are questioning if it is immoral to find joy in Trump’s misfortune.

Short answer: no

Long answer: If you are experiencing what the media is portraying as “schadenfreude” regarding Trumps diagnosis, you are actually experiencing a well known and forwarded concept in today’s culture: karma.

Here’s why:

What is Schadenfreude?

Schadenfreude is a German word. Schaden meaning “harm” and freude meaning “joy”. Put together schadenfreude is translated to harm joy and describes the concept of having joy from seeing others experience harm or misfortune.

Lisa Simpson describes it here:

Is Schadenfreude Bad?

While it may be unbecoming, there is no way to determine if schadenfreude is inherently bad or good. I would say that schadenfreude is evidence of other emotions. Emotions arising from a disdain for someone or disdain for oneself.

Schadenfreude and Disdain for Others

Schadenfreude is most likely a disdain for others if the person who is being harmed is someone we know. If we do not like the person, or if they did something bad to us, we may find happiness and justification in their misfortune.

Schadenfreude and Disdain for Self

Schadenfreude is most likely a disdain for one’s self if the person who is being harmed is someone we don’t know. We saw someone have something we do not have and we find pleasure in seeing them fall because we are jealous.

What is Karma?

Karma is a spiritual belief that assigns bad fortune to those who have done something bad in a past life. It has been modernized to mean the joy of suffering of someone we do not like.

An ex who cheated gets cheated on by their new lover — Karma
A fit girl in high school who was mean and bullied others gains weight —Karma
A man with road rage who is speeding is pulled over by a cop — Karma

Below is a song explaining Schadenfreude from the musical avenue Q. You will notice the examples they give in the song can also be labeled as karma.


People do not feel bad for other’s experiencing pain when we call it “karma”. We have been taught that karma is good. We have been taught that it is the universe giving someone else their “just due”. We use it as a means of validation.

Whats the Different Between Schadenfreude and Karma?

Great question! In regards to having schadenfreude for the misfortune of someone you know, there is no difference. Someone could argue that there is a difference but that is just their self-justification at work because they are trying to avoid cognitive dissonance. People have experienced joy at the pain of others (aka karma) for quite a long time.

Those experiencing and not experiencing schadenfreude due to Trump’s diagnosis are more alike than they think. If you’ve ever seen someone have a misfortune and called it karma then you’ve experienced what the media is portraying as schadenfreude.

Reasoning and Results of Media Rebranding Karma and Calling It Schadenfreude

One thing for certain is that circumstances today are hella’ confusing and people are desperately searching for answers. We are trying to figure out what we are feeling and why. When the media coins karma as schadenfreude they are branding a new feeling and they have the power to tell us what our feelings mean and how they define us – if we let them.

Karma is OK if we feel justifiably that someone did something wrong. To say Trump’s diagnosis is karma would be to say Trump did something wrong. Can a person getting a disease they said was not a big deal karma? From an objective lens, I would say yes.

It is also important to point out here that in current culture karma can only go so far. Of course we will call someone getting a speeding ticket or being cheated on as karma but we stop calling things karma when the stakes are high or a life is on the line- thats just bad form. Some people didn’t get that memo though and sometimes “karma” can go to extremes.

Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

Why You Should Not Feel Guilty for Having “Schadenfreude” at Trumps Diagnosis

What you are feeling is normal. It’s only natural to feel this way since we live in a society that pushes a misrepresented ideology of karma. Feeling this way is in no way a representation of your character or if you are a “bad” or “good” person. In this situation, you are literally a product of your environment.

It’s bad energy. It’s not tough to see the negative energy that follows politics in general. If we feel bad for feeling a natural, culturally accepted belief then we are taking on that same negativity. It is not a negativity meant for you to carry. Reject it.

Why We Should Take This as a Lesson to Ditch the Idea of Karma as It Is Currently Defined in Western Culture

Someone feeling schadenfreude or karma is not a representation of that person being “bad” or “good” or “smug”. It is a representation of the ideologies that are forwarded by their environment. The issue is not with schadenfreude it is with the culture that forwards the believe that it is OK for us to have joy in the pain of others.

No one deserves anything bad to happen to them. I know it can be frustrating and we want people to get their just dues. But, if we want to be a civilized, loving and empathetic society we shouldn’t find joy in the suffering of others —no matter how much we think they deserve it. Empathy for others can be taught and this is a lesson in empathy right here. We need to ditch the idea of karma (as it is currently defined) to have the loving, kind and emotionally intelligent society that we want and need.

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