香山リカのココロの万華鏡:傷つけたら謝る /東京

July 12, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: If you've hurt someone, go ahead and apologize
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:傷つけたら謝る /東京

Recent comments made by lawmakers and a lecturer during a study session of the Liberal Democratic Party have been brought into question, including those demeaning two newspapers in Okinawa and the Okinawan public.

While those who made the comments explained that they had been "joking," and that what they had said "did not constitute suppression of speech," there is no denying the fact that these statements resulted in people feeling hurt.

In my view, there does not exist a single individual who does not end up hurting others in some way or another throughout the course of daily living. Even comments that were made without any malicious intent on the part of the speaker may end up making someone else feel saddened or angered.

For some time after my father had passed away, for example, hearing other people my age say things like, "My father is making efforts to take care of his health, so he is really doing great," would make me wonder, "Does this mean that my own father had been neglecting his health?" which would in turn cause me to feel despondent.

In other words, even if we understand that someone may not have meant a particular statement in a certain way, we may still perceive it in a negative manner.

Naturally, I assume that I too say things from time to time that end up causing painful feelings for others. The people who come to visit my office are particularly vulnerable to being hurt, since they are experiencing mental and physical difficulties. And on those occasions when I do end up saying something insensitive, rather than protesting with something like "Please don't say that!" they normally do nothing beyond managing a weak laugh. On numerous occasions, I have gone pale-faced when years later those same people have come back and told me, "What you said to me back then was really shocking."

How can we address this problem, then? If we put too many restrictions on ourselves in terms of what we are permitted to say, we will end up not being able to say anything at all. At the same time, however, we must always keep in mind the fact that even our innocently expressed speech has the power to inadvertently cause pain for others -- particularly those who are in vulnerable positions or members of marginalized groups.

And if someone then confronts us by saying, "I really wish that you wouldn't have said that," we must immediately apologize for having caused hurt with our words, rather than deflect their criticism by saying something like "I didn't mean anything negative, so what's the harm?" or "You're the one who's in the wrong for getting upset."

Finally, while this is most definitely not an easy thing to do, we must also practice gathering the strength to say "please stop" when others bring up a topic or say something that makes us feel uncomfortable. At such times, we should not worry about disturbing the positive atmosphere. Rather, we should firmly express our own feelings -- even if it is done by speaking quietly.

Of course, the ideal situation is one whereby we never say things that end up hurting others. Realistically speaking, however, this is something that we human beings are unable to avoid.

At such times, then, we must apologize as soon as we realize what has occurred, and we must then make efforts to take better care the next time. This is a fundamental truth, and it is applicable in any and all types of situations.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2015年07月07日 地方版

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