Being careful in the words we use toward each other teaches consideration
for the importance and value of each and every life.
Words are said to be the messenger of the heart. When our words show
that we regard another person's problem as if it were our own, they
touch that person deeply and give encouragement and strength. Wishing
for the happiness of others and showing an attitude of consideration
for them causes us to offer words that move other people. At the root
of this is our sense of oneness with others, the feeling that we and
others are caused to live as one life.
Opening our eyes to the truth that "the heavens and the earth spring
from the same source. All living beings are one body," we become as
others and others become as ourselves. Then the suffering and sadness
of another is no longer only that person's problem and we can naturally
speak to other people with kindness. The Zen master Dogen (1200- 1253)
expressed the sense of one's self as "the self of others," teaching
that we and others are the same self, because the source of all life is
The Japanese philosopher Masahiro Yasuoka (1898-1983) said, "Keeping
in good health is the beginning of virtue." Staying well and full of
vitality is a demonstration of the creative life force that is forever
unchanging. Every day when we get up in the morning we should say to
ourselves, "Today I feel in top shape!" and begin the day full of
Saying "I'm Sorry"
A Japanese elementary school is reported to have started a "kind
words" program because "children who use words carefully can learn the
value of life." The aim of the program is to prevent serious incidents
from arising caused by bullying or verbal abuse, and to have the pupils
consider the importance and value of each life by being careful in the
words they use toward each other.
On the classroom walls are displayed thoughtful, kind words and
phrases on strips of papers, which the pupils prepared: "Thank you,"
"Nice day," "Good work," "That's fine," and the like.
The poet Hiroshi Osada, who writes the "Children's Poetry" newspaper
column, reports that "what lingered at the very bottom of my heart was
children's use of words when they had to say 'I'm sorry.' It is not
always easy to bring ourselves to say 'I'm sorry' when we ought to do
so. When we can sincerely say 'I'm sorry,' however, we regain something
important. 'I'm sorry' are words that can restore the relationship
between oneself and another person."
When our saying the words "I'm sorry" reaches the heart of the
person to whom we are speaking, a feeling of relief comes over us. We
are then able to consider whether the words we used to that person were
appropriate and can give more thought to the feelings our words can
cause. Speaking with kindness and consideration not only benefits
ourselves, of course, it also lifts the spirits and brings out the best
This article was originally published in the October-December 2008 issue of
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