The Tenderness of Youth

Reflections on Chapter 76 of the Tao Te Ching:

Oh baby

When a person is young,
they are soft and tender.

When a person dies,
they are rigid and stiff.

When the Ten Thousand things are alive,
they are delicately tender –
when they are dead, they are brittle and dry.

unyielding hardness is death’s companion.
The soft and gentle are life’s companions.

Forceful armies will not win.
Trees unable to bend will ultimately yield the axe.

The strong and stiff will fall.
The soft and supple will endure.


A newborn babe has a softness and a flexibility.

When things are born, they are soft and flexible. As thing grow older, they lose that flexibility. That flexibility is so important to our lives. It helps us to move through change. In whatever ways that we can practice this, as adults – however we can practice flexibility and incorporating flexibility in our lives, the better our lives will be.

Look for where you are inflexible.

One of the things that they say with brain research is that you really need to make sure that you are challenging your mind. Where are those moments in your life when you just have to have things be a certain way? We all have those moments. As adults, we go through our adulthood and, as we get older, we really want things to be the same because we have figured out what works.  If I do it this way, this works. It helps me to be efficient. So we tend to get a little more rigid in that sense, because of that. We say, “I’ve got to do it this way. I know the way to do it that works. I have all this knowledge in my life and I know this.” That is all well and good, but the flexibility in that is challenged.

You don’t have the flexibility if you are always in that space of knowing all the answers.

Learning new things can keep that flexibility alive. Being able to see things from a different perspective. When you do get challenged and you feel like you know the right thing and there is just no other way to be, that might be an opportunity for you to look at the opposite perspective.

Role play the opposite perspective.

What is it that you can do that will have you understanding that opposite perspective? This chapter, to me, is one of the major principles of Tao – to allow things to be any way that they are. There are so many benefits to studying this work and one of them is that you practice those life skills of what is going to make your life more managable and one of the things that will certainly make your life more manageable is to handle change.

How do you handle change? How do you approach it?

When change comes into your life, it always does, and it often comes in the form of something negative. Something happens, you lose a job, a loved one, a home. Things change. How are you going to handle those changes? How are you going to approach them? This is all about flexibility and about becoming conscious of how you handle that. How do you handle changes?

Are you able to be like the newborn?

This has come up before. These lessons weave in and out. We talked about flexibility in Chapter 55 as well. All of these principles are woven together to make up a good strong life.


I hope that you will take a moment and share your thoughts. How does this chapter speak to you? If you haven’t done so yet, please join my mailing list and I will email you a chapter of the Tao Te Ching each day. It is a great way to stay present with this work in your life and my gift to you for always being here and sharing your time with me.


  1. He not busy being born is busy dying.

    It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) by Bob Dylan

  2. This is a such a great post, Amy. It provides a great reminder about how important being flexible is in finding comfort and happiness. I’ve found that most changes in my life that have seemed negative, as you put it, are very positive and necessary for my life to be right as I view them in retrospect. Would I do things differently given the chance to start again? You bet! Have my biggest challenges been due to my rigidity? Probably.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…Orwell’s 1984 is here getting help from voyeur marketing strategiesMy Profile

    • Yes, I have done this too – tried to look back whenever challenged and notice patterns that will guide me going forward. That is our only recourse when we are in something new. We can only learn from past mistakes, right? Our rigidity can be our teacher just like our mistakes can! It is a clue to what we need to work on. The stiffer the shoulders, the bigger the clue! lol…

  3. Hi Amy, a very thought provoking post, luv the babies. You are so right we have to move forward with flexibility and see the things we don’t want to see.
    Athena Brady recently posted…Giving Something Back 11My Profile

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