Seventeenth Chapter: Tao-te Ching
The Way of Lao Tzu (Tao-te Ching)
When the best leader rules people barely know that he exists.
The next best is the one who is loved and praised.
The next is the one who is feared.
And the next comes the one whom people despise.
When a ruler trusts no one, no one trusts him.
The great ruler speaks little, acts more.
He accomplishes his task: he leaves no trace.
When the work is done people say, “We did it ourselves.”
As I understand it:
If we replace one authority figure, that of a ruler, with another authority figure, that of a parent, this chapter becomes immediately meaningful and relevant to the lives of those who have children.
Enlightened parents don’t lead. They suspend their desire to be seen as an authority figure. They ask themselves how can they create an atmosphere in which children may act responsibly?
Such parents adopt a model: they keenly observe their children; they make important suggestions with a smile; they trust their children completely and make themselves invisible. Inspiring parents give their children space to dream.
Such parents are ready to serve and never demand anything in return. They trust their children to make the right choice. They offer praise even when the children’s behavior and choices may conflict with theirs.
Fear makes children defy their parents. Parental strategies make them despise them. As adults, children emulate fearful means and hateful tactics to which they were subjected as children.
Children who have been loved, encouraged and inspired are self-loving. Instead of becoming competitive they become cooperative. Love and praise makes them conduct themselves wisely even when parents are absent.
When children are thrilled at their accomplishments such parents are proud but they step back and dissolve in the background so that children say, “We did it ourselves.”
The Way of Lao Tzu, tr. Wing-Tsit Chan, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1963.
Dyer, Wayne W., Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of Tao. Hay House, Inc. 2007.