Beware of social cannibals
Some people enjoy bad news about others. They savor bits of gossip and slander. You might want to keep your distance from them when they give you the feeling that they might like to hear a little bad news about you. Let’s call these people social cannibals.
The analogy works because gossip and slander are behaviors that feed on weaknesses in others to nourish a sense of superiority. Like hungry cannibals savoring the flesh of another, social cannibals take pleasure in the problems, difficulties and failures of others. It’s dangerous to be in their company because you just might end up in their pot.
Have you ever been transparent about a personal misfortune only to feel that someone found a bit of pleasure in your circumstances? Sometimes it’s expressed in a little laughter and you’re not sure if indicates a strange enjoyment in what you shared. Be careful, you might be facing a social cannibal.
Have you ever caught yourself enjoying a bit of bad news about another person? Maybe you publicly feigned concern over the “unfortunate” news, while quietly finding pleasure in it.
We must be humble enough to admit that this kind of response reveals, “human antagonism in one of its basest and most unheroic forms” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr.). It is also a sin of the heart that is detestable to God (Pr. 6:16-19).
Why are we drawn to bad news about others? Could it be a diversionary tactic to make us feel better about ourselves? We must guard against this deeply sinful and destructive tendency.
Social cannibalism is a predatory form of behavior that can be found in every culture and class of people. It tends to be more prevalent among refined and ostensibly religious people. The Germans call the behavior schadenfreude. The word refers to a twisted kind of pleasure in the misfortune of others. Social cannibals threaten good relationships and destroy wholesome community. Are you a social cannibal?
- “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter” (Pr. 11:13).
- “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife” (Pr. 26:20-22).
- “But let none of you suffer as …. a busybody in other people’s matters” (1 Pet. 4:15).
See: Social Cannibals