Someone else’s joy

I was reading through Jay Sheatty’s book Think Like A Monk and in one part the author discussed empathy and concern. How those are worthwhile emotions or feelings, but they’re rooted sensing other people’s negative emotions.

For example we say things like I am concerned about Bill because they’re struggling with …”

So, you have empathy for someone when you hear or see or talk to them about their struggles. And Sheatty called out the fact that in English, we don’t have a word for the opposite of that. In English, we don’t have a word for when we identify with someone’s joy. There’s a Sanscrit word Mudita that is the opposite of empathy.

It’s the personal feeling of joy from hearing seeing or talking to someone about their positive things.

I wondered about Schadenfreude, it seems related to this. Schadenfreude is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.

Is there an opposite word for that? Not really in English, I can’t think of one. And I don’t know much German. But I did see the word Firgun, from Hebrew. It is an unselfish, empathetic joy that something good has happened, or might happen, to another person.

I’m struck that we do not have words like this in English to represent those feelings of joy from another person.

I originally spoke to this on Racket.

Posted on July 10, 2021

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