Macabre fascination

What is our obsession with passing on bad news and sad news? The boys come home from school with a long laundry list of bad things that happened – big and small events. They never tell me about new babies or other simchas. We all have friends who turn to the obituaries first when they open the newspaper, and Auntie Em will always tell you who is sick with what, who is getting divorced, who died and who has only tsuris from their kids.

Is passing on the bad stuff a way for us to say “phew, I am glad it isn’t me”? (Schadenfreude) Or is it just pure gossip-mongering?

I have been pondering this a lot recently as I heard some devastating news (someone young had died), and my boys rushed to tell me the same news with their own spin that they had heard in school – and it almost seemed as if they relished in the telling, the gorier the alleged details the better.

Bad news ALWAYS gets passed on, good news sometimes gets forgotten. Why is that?

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7 Comments

  1. sheldan says:

    Sometimes my wife and I wonder about this. It seems that when we hear from relatives, it is about someone getting sick or dying. One of the first things my wife says is, “Why can’t we hear about the GOOD news (e.g., bar mitzvahs, weddings, etc.) for a change?” It makes us not want to bother with relatives who only contact us for “tragedies.” Maybe people should think a little before sharing bad news…

  2. batya from NJ says:

    Somehow ppl. always come together for tragedies such as funerals, shiva visits etc & maybe that’s a good thing since that’s a time that we can really use the support of distant relatives & acquaintances even more so then when life is going great & we are celebrating Smachot (happy occasions).
    I think I’ve heard of the expression “good news travels fast but bad news travels faster” but then again, i may have just made that one up now, i’m not sure ;)!!

  3. Mark says:

    I also heard this particular bad piece of news yesterday evening and was disturbed on many levels. So sad :(

    Why do people do it? Not schadenfreude, but rather as a protective mechanism … “if I know about it, I can understand it, I can protect against it, and it can never happen to me”.

    Also I disagree that good news doesn’t travel just as fast. Wait till they are a little older and they rush home with stories about who’s engaged, and even later, who has had a child, etc.

  4. %Shocked% says:

    One word: Drama.

    The response that good news elicits is short and sweet. Bad news? Long and drawn out.

  5. Ilana-Davita says:

    My experience with youngsters is that part of them is impressed by bad news but part of them is fascinated. As adults, it is our duty to teach to be compassionate.

  6. J says:

    Why don’t you ask the boys to bring home at least one piece of good news every day?
    Each boy should bring a different piece of good news , of course!

  7. bad news gets: baruch dayan emet (not just for deaths…)

    good news gets: baruch…(add Gd’s name and use the formula) HaTov v’HaMayteev.

    so, people are just more aware of the first, giving us a chance to say a bracha. teach them about the second, and how you want to say more brachot, so they should tell you some good news too!

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