Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Don’t Laugh At The Failures Of Others–Save Your Smiles For Successes

If you delight in someone else's failure, have some concern about your own character.

Dare to Dream,
Never Give Up,
Don’t Let Others Destroy Your Confidence-
Do You Really Believe Those Things?

One of the enduring positive philosophies of our culture–and of people who want to succeed–is to not be defeated by the sneers and taunts of others and to not consider an initial failure to be a permanent one. Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” He also said to never, never, never give up.

  • We enjoy hearing about people in history who achieved success even though they were mocked, ridiculed or persecuted because of their dreams.  
  • We applaud those with the courage to envision a better future, a better life or a better way of doing things.
  • We commend those who have the perserverence to keep trying when nay-sayers tell them they have failed and should give it up and get out of the way.

Unfortunately, all of our praise usually stops when the person trying to reach a goal or achieve a dream is an enemy, adversary or competitor.  Sophocles said, in about 400 BC, “Isn’t it the sweetest mockery to mock our enemies?”

Has It Happened To You?

You may have tried to change things at work for the better, only to have several people purposely try to block your success. When things didn’t go as well as you had hoped, some of those people chortled behind your back or to your face and you had a difficult time keeping on. You found out quickly why almost everyone with a task to accomplish has had detractors who seemed to enjoy watching problems develop, just so they could laugh with their supporters and say, “I told you so.”

You probably found out that some people enjoy the failures of others more than they enjoy their own successes. More to the point–some people are most happy when they can mock, kick, laugh at and disparage someone else. That is when they are in their element. It’s always been that way.  William Paley (1742-1805) said, “Who can defeat a sneer?”  Charles Simmons, British lecturer and politician in the 1940s said, “Ridicule is the first and last argument of a fool.” 

Do Unto Others……..

Have you ever wished some coworkers or employees you know would work harder at helping make things better than they do at tearing things down and blaming you for all of it? If you have worked around the barriers they placed to prevent you from being successful, you know how it feels and how it can stop forward motion, not only for you but for a group. That doesn’t mean their ideas are all wrong and yours are all right–but you get the sense that no matter what you tried to do they would knock it down.

Don’t do that to anyone else. Not even to those you dislike. Not even to those who you think really messed things up. Certainly not just because you want to seem better than them in comparison. That’s especially true if you had a chance to help make things work but you were too busy tripping them or refusing to lend support just because you couldn’t stand the thought of them succeeding.

Don’t support those who delight in mocking others.  When someone’s communication primarily involves ranting, snickering, jeering and heckling, avoid them as though they have the Swine Flu. They probably have something worse–a mean spirit and a cold heart.

Be part of the solution.  See if you can find it in your heart, mind and character to help–or at least to not to be a hindrance. If your help is rejected in a way that is demeaning, angry or unappreciative, focus on improving yourself and your area of responsibility and waiting until things change. Or, work in a positive, healing-not-hateful way to bring about change. If your ideas are appreciated and even a few are accepted, you may have forged a link that can help you, the other person and everyone else.

The bottom line: I am not suggesting that everyone who fails to achieve their goals is worthy of your sympathy or full-hearted support.  Many times people fail because they are selfish, unskilled, lacking in knowledge or wanting achievement without effort. Sometimes they fail because they were approaching a problem the wrong way, weren’t prepared for contingencies, used poor judgment about the people they picked to get tasks done, or didn’t provide enough oversight.  However, until you’ve thoroughly tidied up your own personality, knowledge, skills and effectiveness, don’t snipe at others, backstab them or show nastiness by high-fiving when they fall short of the positive things they were trying to accomplish.

Consider the advice you have probably given someone else: Don’t let others drag you down!  Apply that to your actions–don’t drag someone down and don’t smile if you see it happening. Save your smiles for successes.

February 7th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 12 comments


  1. Wow. This made me stop and think! I have to admit you are talking about me with a lot of this. 🙁 D.

    Comment by denisek | February 7, 2010

  2. Tina, this is one of your best articles yet, in my opinion. I have observed a steady decline in civility and decency since the advent of call-in talk shows and “commentary” that is mostly mockery and hatefulness. There seems to be a terrible enjoyment of hearing someone has done wrong, has made a mistake or is having problems in some other way. The same thing happens even in groups of Christians who are quick to point a condemning or ridiculing finger.

    God has blessed you again with uncommon wisdom. You’re in our prayers this week. Don

    Comment by Don R. | February 7, 2010

  3. All of this is true. In our department we’ll have new managers come in and try to improve things, but some people don’t want them to succeed. Don’t ask me why. Sometimes that person leaves and the next person tries it and it works and they’re the hero, but it’s because someone else put the thought in people’s minds. Seems unfair!

    Comment by Bakers | February 8, 2010

  4. The difference I see is that sometimes people need to fall on their keester to get their attention. I’ll admit that sometimes I’ve laughed at someone finally showing that they aren’t as wonderful as they thought they were.

    Maybe that’s mean, but when you’ve had to listen to them brag about how they were God’s gift to the world or have everyone else go on about them, it’s kind of sweet revenge to finally see the truth come out. I think we’ve all done that at some point and it’s just human nature.

    Comment by J.C.T. | February 9, 2010

  5. This is why I don’t listen to the celebrity gossip shows. They laugh and make fun of everyone for their weight or breaking up with someone, or other things that you know are sad to the people involved. I think it’s mean and I don’t see how people can listen to it. One thing you have to say about Oprah….she’s compassionate and never rants like Rosie or some of the others. I don’t like The View when they sit around and tear someone apart. Even when you don’t like someone’s politics or religion or whatever, you have to realize they have feelings too, and can suffer mentally and emotionally just like everyone else.

    Comment by C.M. | February 9, 2010

  6. This post is classic – well said and right on target. Reminds me of what our mothers told us, “If you can’t say anything nice, it’s better not to say anything at all.” Silence is often the best response.

    Comment by Jeff Adams | February 9, 2010

  7. Is it OK if I secretly am glad when some jerk who lorded it over everyone else finally gets his just desserts? I don’t think I can be so saintly that I tell him I’m sorry he made a miserable mess out of scheduling employees on the day shift when he told everyone else he had found a perfect way to do it and we were all idiots. Oops, I guess that gives away who I’m talking about. 🙂

    Comment by Mike | February 9, 2010

  8. Tina says: Thanks to all of you for your comments. Good points were made by all. This is especially difficult for me because I get irritated very quickly, have little patience and am sarcastic in my remarks when I talk about someone I don’t like. Some of you who know me, know that I truly do work at controlling those tendencies. (Think what I’d be like if I didn’t!) Shudder!

    My goal for this article was to say that whether or not we like someone or want THEM to succeed, we should not mock dreams or hopes that are well-intentioned and, if successful, would be good for others as well as the person involved.

    Whether it’s in politics, business, work or families, I would like to hear someone say, “I don’t think he went about that the right way and I didn’t like his attitude about it, but the goal was a worthy one and I’m sorry THAT didn’t succeed.”

    Comment by TLR | February 9, 2010

  9. First, I have heard you talk about people I knew you didn’t like very well, but you always tried to see their viewpoint. Second, I have seen you in situations where anyone would be irritated (think about the class being interrupted five times)and you were very nice about it. So, you are too tough on yourself!

    I read once that the worst thing a person can do is to destroy someone’s dream. Making fun of someone’s dream can destroy it. P

    Comment by P.A,H. | February 9, 2010

  10. Tina says: Thank you, P.A.H.! I am acutely aware of the things I need to improve, but I liked reading such a supportive comment! And you’re correct that nothing kills a dream like ridicule. It also can stop others from wanting to try to achieve anything that might be considered an unreachable goal.

    Comment by TLR | February 9, 2010

  11. Well said. I don’t make excuses for people who have had a failure at work if they failed to get help or to plan ahead. But, if they have done their best and the situation was out of their control, I think one of my jobs is to stand up for them if someone (usually the person above me) criticizes them unfairly or makes fun of them. They might need to be corrected for next time but there won’t be a next time if they get ridiculed. Thanks for the thoughts.

    Comment by David R. | February 11, 2010

  12. Hi Tina…this is so touching…thank you for that note… I like !

    Comment by Matome Petja | October 21, 2010

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