Finding Firgun

Isn’t there something special about learning a new word and then trying to figure out the best way to start using it? For a logophile (yup, I really love words!) like me, I was especially intrigued when I recently discovered the word firgun.

What I was surprised to understand is that I’ve been living my personal and professional life for a long time under the philosophy of firgun, but I never really knew how to describe it. And now I do! What a liberating shift!

What’s my philosophy? Well, you know I like to answer a question with a question, so first – did you know that one of the most common things people ask me is, how I have been able to cheer on my students and celebrate their wins, while my own children were also going through the college admissions process?

Frankly, it never even occurred to me to not celebrate both, why would that be mutually exclusive?

I have always been one to cheer on my kids’ friends and peers, even if it meant my child might miss a shift on the ice during a hockey game, a top seed placement in a race, or some coveted school recognition. It always felt natural to me to do that. I wasn’t jealous of my friends, or their children’s accomplishments. I just never had the words – or a word – to explain how I was feeling (I guess I was a bit of an outlier).

Until recently, when I stumbled across this Hebrew word, firgun, and it was love at first read. This is the word that sums up exactly what I feel when I watch others fulfilling their hopes, dreams, and goals.

According to an article in Made in Jerusalem:

Firgun is Israeli street Hebrew par excellence. It is a cultural concept that defies translation. It means to root for someone, to be supportive, not to rain on someone else’s parade. Wrapped up in this little word is the notion of not begrudging someone else’s success.

But firgun is not just a word. It is an attitude. It is the ability to view the success or accomplishments of others with unselfish, empathetic good will. In our competitive world, where people are driven by the relentless pursuit of personal interest, firgun is stepping aside and making room for someone else. When we engage in firgun, we hope for the best for someone, without ulterior motives. We are happy for someone else’s happiness.”

I can’t say I’m surprised that there is no English equivalent.

There is a debate on the origin of this word, but many articles I read say it was created as an antonym to the more common word schadenfreude which means to derive pleasure from another person’s or persons’ misfortune. As there was no English antonym, people started to adopt the Yiddish word firgun.

And I am glad they did. I think this is the most delicious, sweet-sounding (and meaning) word in any language.

It feels good to cheer on our family members, friends, our friends’ children, our childrens’ friends, and even strangers. And it feels even better to finally have a word to describe that feeling.

Firgun and its benefits get me through the times when my own children may be going through a challenging time or a period of disappointments. Feeling schadenfreude only makes me feel worse. I don’t like feeling better because of someone else’s hardships. However, cheering on and supporting others always cheers me up.

Like some of you, in two short weeks my son will be opening up his Common Application and beginning his college admissions journey. Like many of your children, he has hopes and dreams of being accepted in a few select colleges, and I hope he is.

It may go his way, and it may not, but he and I will both be embracing firgun and cheering for others, for I know that even if he is faced with disappointing news, we will both feel happy when others get the news they want. And at the end of the day, that is what is important for us as humans.

If you read my blog about inspirational swag, you know I have a special collection of coffee mugs… I am seriously considering designing one emblazoned with firgun in a fun font because what better way to start the day than with this amazing concept and a hot cup of coffee… maybe I’ll even sell them to benefit our Head Towards College Foundation! Stay tuned…

For more on firgun, check out:

https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/community/articles/hebrews-special-pride

https://www.vccafe.com/2021/01/29/what-is-firgun-and-why-should-you-embrace-it/

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