Criticism from the boss like a knife to the heart
The dramatist and poet Shuji Terayama (1935-1983) penned a short essay called "Kotoba o Yujin ni Moto" (Let's make friends with words). In it, he wrote: "It should be a piece of cake to flash words like a jackknife and thrust them into a person's chest."
His words have a somewhat menacing ring to them.
Of course, that bold statement is a testimony to Terayama's pride in being known for his skillful way with language.
"As I strike a match/ For a brief moment/ The sea is shrouded in thick mist/ Do I have a homeland for which to give my life?" Terayama's words struck home, knifelike, with many people and left a lasting impression.
But when a heartless person brandishes sharp words, the pain inflicted could drive other people to die.
A company worker whose boss kept throwing abusive remarks at him hanged himself in March 2003. The insults included phrases like, "You are stealing wages," and "Your presence is obstructive. Get lost."
On Monday, the Tokyo District Court recognized the verbal abuse led to the man's suicide and ruled that his death was a labor accident.
A suicide note the man left was filled with harsh words, apparently quoting his boss: "You are ripping off the company," and "I don't know how your wife can put up with you."
Spoken words, depending on the pitch and tone of the voice, can be more cruel than written ones. Referring to the victim's mental anguish, the presiding judge said: "(Some of the words hurled at him) denied his personality and very existence."
An old saying goes: "Words of praise are few, but disparaging words never end." It is much easier to run down others than it is to compliment them, which offers us an insight into the true nature of human beings.
The court ruling this time is a strict warning to abusive workplace superiors who lack the ability to hold their tongues.
In Terayama's essay, he also wrote that words must serve as medicine. He described them "words that comfort someone even after that person was seriously double-crossed."
People who only know how to criticize others do not deserve to be superiors.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 17(IHT/Asahi: October 18,2007)