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I need a word that describes the opposite of envy in this situation. Example: If a mother sees another mom with a child who is well-behaved and makes good grades that mother might be envious, wishing she had a child like that. The word I'm looking for should describe the opposite of that in this example: A mother sees another mother with a child who has Autism or is handicapped and that mother is glad that she doesn't have a child like that. Someone has already suggested the word content but that doesn't really work here.

closed as too broad by Edwin Ashworth, anongoodnurse, Zibbobz, tchrist, Ellie Kesselman Mar 4 '15 at 23:40

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    What makes you feel that you've exemplified an opposite of envy? Both situations in your examples seem to me to stem from meanness, thereby being similar and not opposite. – anemone Mar 4 '15 at 12:22
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    The opposite of envy would be pity but that's not exactly what you're asking about – blgt Mar 4 '15 at 12:22
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    @anemone I can see what you are saying. I think that clawson probably intends to express something more like "Seeing the poor child of that mother helps me be grateful that my child is well" instead of "I am grateful that my child is better than hers". – Christopher Bottoms Mar 4 '15 at 12:36
  • I consider it my duty to remind to OP of the need for research. Where have you looked? What have you found? ... – Kris Mar 4 '15 at 13:18
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    @ChristopherBottoms Yeah, that's possible. Still, I perceive two rather different questions here. One -- what the opposite of envy is (assuming that for some reason envy does have an opposite). Two -- what's the name of the feeling some people have upon seeing a mother with an autistic child &c. and being glad they haven't got a child like that. – anemone Mar 4 '15 at 15:38

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There are many words to describe this. Here are a few:

  • Relieved
  • Thankful
  • Grateful
  • Lucky
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    ... or the glad the OP himself used without even noticing. – RegDwigнt Mar 4 '15 at 12:38
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I proffer - contentedness

  • the state of being contented with your situation in life. (vocabulary.com)

Also, what about "goodwill".

  • a kindly feeling of approval and support : benevolent interest or concern. (MW)
  • I agree, if I am envious, I want things I don't have. If I am contented, I do not want things. this works very well. – AJFaraday Mar 4 '15 at 14:44
  • Yeah, they're opposites. If you're content you can't be envious – Mikey Mouse Mar 4 '15 at 15:23
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    This doesn’t fit the situation. The absence of want isn’t the polar opposite of want. The opposite of desire is repulsion. Mutual exclusivity is not a good test for opposites. – Tyler James Young Mar 4 '15 at 16:49
  • -1 because "contentedness" does not address how the emotion was inspired by observing another person (whereas "envy" clearly does -- so its opposite must, too) – Shane F. Mar 4 '15 at 20:53
  • @TylerJamesYoung, great point, Mutual exclusivity is not a good test for opposites. ++ – Manish Mar 11 '15 at 20:37
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In addition to Sam's how about:

She will feel fortunate/blessed/advantaged/lucky.

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    It describes the emotion in the example, but this is not actually the opposite of envy. – jprete Mar 4 '15 at 15:16
  • @ jprete True fortunate/blessed/advantaged/lucky are not actually the opposite of envy.They however fit the situation the good OP describes. – Babel Mar 6 '15 at 6:35
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I admit this is far removed from the example in your question but in polyamourous communities they refer to the opposite of envy/jealousy as:

Compersion:
1)The feeling of joy one has experiencing another's joy, such as in witnessing a toddler's joy and feeling joy in response.
2)The feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one love another; contrasted with jealousy.

(src: Wikipedia)

In my experience it tends to be used more in the second sexual context so maybe not useful to you.

  • +1 terrific answer. I would point out that number 2 contrasts with jealousy, while we are trying to contrast with envy -- and jealousy and envy are slightly different (though whoever wrote #2 might have actually meant to say "contrasted with jealousy or envy") – Shane F. Mar 4 '15 at 21:18
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What you describe sounds like schadenfreude: “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others”

The mother in your example doesn’t pity the other mother, she doesn’t empathize, and she’s not content. She gets a pleasure (possibly guilty) out of the fact that someone has it worse than she.

I don’t think most people would consider this the opposite of envy, but I think envy has too many component parts to have a perfect opposite.

Though this is a single-word request, comments from OP have led me to think that combining this word with another suggestion might be best. I present: “smug schadenfreude” (examples).

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    schadenfreude doesn't really fit with the examples, as it describes the feeling of joy because of the misfortune of others, not feelings of joy because oneself doesn't have those "misfortune" (although in some cases this might be a fine distinction). – tim Mar 4 '15 at 20:14
  • -1 same reason as tim – Shane F. Mar 4 '15 at 20:51
  • @tim Nobody experiences schadenfreude for people in the same boat, as far as I understand it. Perhaps this is the fine distinction you mention, but is there a better word? OP already said “contented” is not it and most other suggestions seem to be in that same vein. – Tyler James Young Mar 4 '15 at 21:15
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    @TylerJamesYoung I would say that you actually can feel schadenfreude even if you experience the same thing (eg you just fell down the stairs, and see your friend falling down right after you, you could be feeling schadenfreude). But my main point was the motivation: with schadenfreude, the joy is created directly out of the misfortune of others, while the examples of the OP seem more along the lines of getting joy out of ones own situation, aided by seeing others in a different situation. But no, I don't really have a better word for that either. – tim Mar 4 '15 at 21:24
  • Think I'm leaning more toward schadenfreude, smug or complacent. These are good words to describe when someone is disdainfully proud due to someone else's situation. I was looking for something of a haughty nature...snobbishly felt. Thanks. – clawson Mar 5 '15 at 14:45
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If you really want to say that a person is in a situation that another would not envy, the word that best suits the situation would be unenviable, though you would have to use it in a different way.

Unenviable

adjective

d: very bad or unpleasant

I was given the unenviable task of cleaning the toilets.

He found himself in the unenviable position of having to admit he'd lied

Mirriam-Webster

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I think you'd be better off with something like unselfishness, selflessness, or even altruism.

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Depending on how strong the emotion is "proud" can be the opposite of envy. Though in your example"satisfied" || "fulfilled" || "contented" seems appropriate.

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The word that seems most appropriate to your example is smug.

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If you wish another person's ____ was yours, you feel envy.

If you're glad another person's ____ is not yours, you feel pity.

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