Let's say that there is a potential situation which I know would benefit me personally, but that I can also recognize that it would not be best for everyone and thus I wouldn't choose for it to occur.

So, for example, if I was a child I might stand up for a sibling unfairly accused of something they didn't do even if I knew that the punishment they would incur, that is, their being banned from all electronics for a month, would allow me to monopolize electronics we usually fight over.

I'm looking for a word or phrase that best expresses the dichotomy of having the outcome I'd feel it right to choose being the opposite of the one I'd most enjoy in a situation where I don't have a say over the outcome and am simply waiting to find out which will occur. I can't, in this case, intervene. I'm not looking for one that suggests I'm emotionally torn or feel guilty for hoping for the 'bad' outcome, only one that corresponds to the fact that I can recognize I would be able to enjoy it if the outcome I wouldn't choose occurred.

  • The classic remark is something like God forbid that <possible terrible event>!. That way you evade responsibility while implanting the idea in everybody's mind. Dec 17, 2022 at 0:05
  • 'I might stand up for a sibling unfairly accused of something they didn't do' doesn't match the passive state you go on to describe, and I think the difference needs to be made more distinct. The active intervention involves self-sacrifice. ['Stand up for' is correct, and means 'come to the defence of' here.] Dec 17, 2022 at 12:43
  • There is the idiom: To have mixed feelings [about an outcome], for example.
    – Lambie
    May 16, 2023 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


Here are a couple of choices:

  1. serendipity is the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. I don't think this word appropriately expresses the mixed feelings of the subject.

  2. schadenfreude is the feeling of joy at someone else's misfortune. Again, it doesn't really express the mixed feelings.

Perhaps the only way to express this is by specifically qualifying one of those words, such as saying that the subject had an uninvited serindipity


The state of mind that the situation creates hinges on the awareness of a possible gain through dealing in dishonest practices on the one hand and the awareness that indulging in that sort of behaviour causes harm. So, not being interested by the moral considerations as they might affect your conscience, you want a plain descriptive term that captures the opposition that you are aware of. Further, you insist on the fact that you do not question yourself as what your decision will be: your mind has been made up and you maintain an unswerving line of action, well intent on doing what is right. This means that you mind is not confronted to a dilemma. The opposition you describe is a dilemma for a given person only if that person is weighing the pros and the cons. The import of all that is that you want a word that expresses the fact that you are aware of a dilemma (which is not yours); there is no such word: only a phrase will do, and it'll have to be very long.

  • consciousness of a dilemma between doing right and doing wrong and that is foreign to my conscience

However, I am not sure that your words are telling what you really want, nor that you know too well what you want: you might be having the impression that there is a term for something which in the end is nothing but a figment of your imagination; that happens!

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