Those who lead people by following the Tao
don’t try to force issues
or use weapons to enforce their will.
For every force, there is a counterforce.
Violence, even well-intentioned
always rebounds upon oneself.
Whatever strains with force
will soon decay.
It is not attuned to the Way.
Not being attuned to the Way,
its end comes all too soon.
The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of his control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.
This part of the Tao Te Ching offers advice to leaders and heads of state, although the wisdom applies to anyone in any position of authority, including leaders of organisations, businesses, social groups and even parents.
One of the key messages is for us to relinquish the need to control and dominate other people and events. Why do we spend so much of our time and energy trying to control that which is beyond our control?
No matter how much we stress and fret and struggle, the world remains as it is; night follows day and the seasons pass in cyclic succession. And no matter how much we try to dominate and control, others will always remain as they are, until such time as they change of their own accord.
One who lives in alignment with the Tao has no need to control life or to convince others of his worth and seek their approval. What lies outside of us is ultimately beyond our control; even if others give us the compliance, approval or validation we seek, they can just as easily take it away again.
But when we seek our fulfilment from within – from knowing and embodying the Tao within us – we have true power and no one can ever take that away from us. Why so much fuss and focus on dominating the outer world when it’s the inner world that really needs our attention?