The Unnecessary Use of Force

cc image by Rennett Stone on Flickr

cc image by Rennett Stone on Flickr

Reflections on Chapter 33 of the Tao Te Ching:

Knowing others is wisdom.
Knowing yourself is enlightenment.

Mastering others is force.
Mastering yourself is strength.

Knowing contentment
is to understand wealth.
If you persist, you will always find a way.

There is something about the act of really paying close attention that makes you capable of really understanding other people. Do you ever notice how when you try to explain something to someone and they are distracted, they get it all wrong? But when they stop and look at you and really listen, they have their eyes on you – something is different and they really get it?

That is the value of paying attention.

We are so busy all the time, running around, doing this and that. We are so busy that we don’t really pay attention to each other. I think it is so important. You also should be paying attention to yourself! That is the part in the chapter where he says that knowing yourself is enlightenment. Really, that’s the big game!

How well can you know yourself?

What I have noticed, with my own personal development is that once I start paying attention to my own issues, start noticing them, then it is easier to change them. If there is an issue I need to resolve, I can resolve it if I pay attention to it. But if I am not paying attention, I can’t. That is really important.

Another important point in this chapter is the topic of control.

How many of us have ever had someone who tried to convince us to do something that is not really our thing, but they want us to do it? It isn’t really our thing, but they want it to be our thing. It is kind of annoying, but I think we all do it to some degree. I know I do. I have done it in my parenting. I try not to, but I do.

It is very noticeable when someone is trying to control you.

There are two common ways that people deal with control issues. They may fold. They may just give in to the controller. I know I have had times in my life when I have done that. I have just given in and let someone else make the decisions. It’s not me.  Of course, because that other person is controlling me.

The other way that people sometimes deal with control is to rebel. They do the opposite, just because they don’t like being controlled. On the surface, rebellion seems to work but what it often does is force people into doing the opposite of what is expected of them, which still may not be a choice of integrity. When faced with a controlling person, I think it is important to consider what it is that YOU want to do. Rebelling may seem like it is what you want to do. But,  is that just reactionary or is it really what you want? Search for an answer and let your body tell you what is true.

If you are mastering yourself and your focus is on yourself, that is strength.

Mastering yourself is strength, mastering others is force.  It’s not about other people. It’s about you. It’s about your strength, it’s about your development. It’s not about other people. As much as it might seem like it, because people are just irritating or they are doing something that you feel is just wrong.  It’s not about them. It’s about you. It’s about mastering yourself and mastering what it is that you are good at. What is it that is upsetting you about the situation when you are wanting to control things? What is it about the situation that you want to control? What is it about that? What is it about you that can’t handle that? Why is it bothering you that it is like that?

With my daughter, I sometimes get really frustrated.

I tell her something. I keep telling her and telling her and no results. It feels like she doesn’t listen. In those scenarios, the situation really doesn’t have any interest to her. I think it should, but it doesn’t. I have tried in many ways to help it interest her, but it just doesn’t.

Parenting is tricky.  

For example, I am trying to force my daughter to really want to help with the housecleaning.  She really doesn’t care about the housework! I think that she should. It is the role that parents play, to guide their children, right? Parenting is a big area of control for many adults. When you are in a situation where you are trying to force someone to do something, you can feel it in your body. For me, it’s a grasping feeling. If you just pay attention, you can feel it.

That is what it means to pay attention to yourself, to your own patterns. It’s a frustration wall. When you hit that wall, pay attention to that. Pay attention to those frustration walls. For several years, I was really getting upset with things with my daughter. It was troublesome. I didn’t like it. She didn’t like it. I’ve really worked on that. It really bothered me and I know it bothered her. Ultimately, I knew that it was about me. I knew that I was trying to force things to be a certain way. You just don’t get anywhere with force. In Tai Chi, if you push someone with a lot of force you are very easy to throw you off. It is just how it is – the natural pattern of things.

Learning to master yourself is a form of enlightenment. It is a life-long quest. You may never achieve it, but you just keep putting one foot in front of another and eventually you will get better and better. Don’t worry about the outcome. Just focus on today.


What do you think of all this? Please share your comments in the space below!

If you like what you are reading, please SHARE this post through one of the buttons at the top of this post! 




  1. I’m really enjoy this series. I don’t have a lot great things to say about my mother’s parenting skills, but one thing she did do when I was really young was not make housekeeping about housekeeping – it was about spending time with her. She would say things like, “how you would like to help me with _______? That way we can spend some time together.” It made me feel special.

    Tai Chi is about staying centered and using the other person’s momentum to repel their attack. I like that because it requires less physical energy and you can persevere against a physically more powerful person.
    Julia Neiman recently posted…Become An Inspiring LeaderMy Profile

    • That is great, Julia. Yes, we do that. She doesn’t seem to mind the chores much that we do together! A very good point!

  2. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you.
    Kristiina recently posted…{Mani Monday} Reality Check by Ginger + LizMy Profile

  3. Thank you so much for your sweet comment on my blog today. 🙂 I hope you have a great week!! 🙂
    Taylor recently posted…I Like It, I Love It…My Profile

  4. When I read this verse, it reminds me of some of the great leaders I’ve been fortunate to interact with face-to-face. People are drawn to their path because of the example the provide with actions. It’s the humble champions operating from a self-awareness and strong internal compass with a sensitivity toward the perspectives of others that really get it. When you meet someone like this, you know they’re special. Everyone they interact with is changed by their quiet wisdom in some way. In US society, the celebrated stereotypical leader masters by force and/or limelight. These aren’t the truly wise and powerful people.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…Looking at the long term with personal sellingMy Profile

    • I agree, Nanette. I am so drawn to people who take charge of their own lives without trying to take charge of everyone else’s. We do seem to promote a sort of forceful leadership style in our U.S. Government but it doesn’t have to stay that way. I think that it is up to us to pay attention to whom we give this control of making decisions in our country. I myself have failed our country in that respect. I don’t pay as much attention as I would like to. I think part of the reason that I have tuned so much of it out is that I am frustrated by exactly what you are talking about here – so much of it feels like bravado or just saying what they think that the majority of the people want to hear. I am just one people. I don’t want that. Together we make lots of people that don’t want that. We want integrity. We want people to make decisions because of what is in the heart.

      I think you have a point though about meeting some great leaders – perhaps we could convince them to take a bigger role in leading our country? lol…

      • I’m not talking about politics here – but business. On the political front, though, I’ve found one person can make a difference. I spent seven years as a national small business advocate. My community is a rural one, which gives me direct access to federal legislators. You’d be amazed how many times I’ve made a call and/or scheduled a meeting to discuss an issue they knew nothing about (but could be proposing to committee or voting on) or had no information on an alternative perspective to get eyes opened. The good ones listen. It may seem the voice of one is insignificant, but if you can get to the right person, you can literally change the law of the land (it takes time). Don’t discount your power, Amy.
        Nanette Levin recently posted…Looking at the long term with personal sellingMy Profile

        • Isn’t it funny how business and politics are so intertwined? I guess that both are really about how we act as a group which impacts us as a people on a greater scale. I appreciate your comments, Nanette. Hua Ching Ni said in one of his books (or several) that you should behave in the world as if everyone can see you. I never forgot this. I believe that we all make a huge impact in the world every day. Most of us connect with many people throughout our days. Every word, every action, is a statement on the world about who we are. Most of these “statements” are unconscious. The responsibility of understanding this impact can be overwhelming sometimes, but it is important to remember. Along with that, however, we also need to remember that we will fail continuously and that is OK. We need those failures to grow and learn. Just get back on the horse and try again.

  5. I have the housecleaning battles. I don’t find joy in them. He’s 23. When he’s on, he’s on and amazing. When he’s off? OY. 😀 But thank you. One of my things is that I can only control what is in my hula hoop. Yet I constantly try to maintain his as well. You’ve given me good things to think about.
    Arwen recently posted…Thorns, Ownership & ReleaseMy Profile

    • Oh, the hula hoop. That is a good metaphor – or at least I think it’s a metaphor! lol… I know if it were me, I would have a hard enough time keeping the hula hoop up around my hips to worry about anyone else! lol… But at least perhaps my hips will be more shapely! And my daughter will be happier because I am not focused on her! Thanks, Stephanie. The food for thought has been received from you as well!

  6. “Knowing others is wisdom.
    Knowing yourself is enlightenment.”

    So simple yet not always easy. Such an important message. Self awareness opens the doors to seeing all of our inner issues. We don’t always want to see that unless we are ready. In terms of parenting it really isn’t easy is it, possibly the trickest teaching we can have. I happen to have a wise son who as a teenager was very good at using wisdom as his battles, the reflection was sometimes difficult to take but I learnt so much. Parenting really shows us how far we have yet to travel. That’s ok maybe it helps us speed up the process 🙂
    Kama recently posted…Comment on Saving Your Confidence For Later – S (A-Z of Confidence) by katieMy Profile

    • I so agree, Kama! My daughter teaches me a lot and I don’t always like what I see, but I understand that it is a learning process. When I look back to my own parents, I can see that each generation has so much to teach the next one and yet the next generation always moves forward somehow. It is really a beautiful process! I am going to spend a week with both of my parents next week so I am excited to see how this understanding will impact our time together. Thanks for stopping by and participating!

  7. Pingback: 33 – Self-Mastery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge