Are We Really Glad for Others’ Misfortunes?

Challenging the Belief: “Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.”

Michael Boyd
4 min readSep 7


Homeless man holding a sign with the words ‘seeking human kindness’, a testament to the inherent human need for compassion and understanding.
True empathy goes beyond generalizations. Let’s challenge our beliefs and recognize the potential for kindness in every heart. Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

We’ve all heard variations of the idea that people are inherently self-centered or take pleasure in others’ misfortunes. One of these sentiments is epitomized by a quote from famous football coach Lou Holtz:

“Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.”

This assertion paints a bleak picture of human nature, suggesting that we are surrounded by apathy or even schadenfreude. But is this truly an accurate representation of human behavior and empathy? Let’s explore.

The Essence of Empathy

To begin, it’s crucial to understand the innate human ability to empathize. Empathy is our capability to understand and share the feelings of another. Throughout history, this ability has played a central role in our evolution as a species. It promotes group cohesion, strengthens communities, and enables us to support one another. An entire lack of empathy is often associated with sociopathic behaviors, which are not the norm but rather the exception.

Studies have demonstrated time and again that when we see others in pain or distress, the same areas in our brains that are activated during our own pain light up. It means we can literally feel others’ pain to some extent. If 80% of people were genuinely pleased with another’s problems, it would contradict this fundamental aspect of our neurology.

The Value of Shared Problems

Another aspect to consider is the significance of sharing problems. Vulnerability, when expressed, can lead to deeper connections and relationships. Brene Brown, a renowned researcher on vulnerability, has frequently emphasized its role in fostering intimacy, trust, and understanding between individuals.

Furthermore, by sharing problems, we often find solutions, gain new perspectives, or simply receive the reassurance that we aren’t alone in our struggles. This sense of community and unity can be immensely healing. If Holtz’s assertion were accurate, support groups…



Michael Boyd

Co-owner of Battle Born Grooming Co., sharing my insights on entrepreneurship, personal growth, and fighting against Goliaths.