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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"Quarrel with a friend..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: Quarrel with a friend and you are both wrong.

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"Quarrel with a friend and you are both wrong."






This saying is sympathetic, but raises the question: would it be fine to quarrel with anyone who is not your friend? Lao Tzu, for one, would surely not think so. There is no point in quarreling, just a lot of noise with little or no positive result.

       On the other hand, neither he nor any other philosopher would claim that when two disagree they are both wrong. That is what this quote implies, and any thinker shuns such a statement. Socrates in his dialectic method discussed a subject until everybody agreed that he was right. He was brazen that way. I bet that every philosopher was convinced of being right - ergo, all opposing views must be wrong.


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       In all his modesty, Lao Tzu was surely the same. He understood Tao, the Way, but very few others did. It is abundantly clear in the unusually personal and emotional chapter 20 of Tao Te Ching, where the last lines read (my version):


Other people are occupied,
I alone am unwilling, like the outcast.
I alone am different from the others,
Because I am nourished by the great mother.


       The great mother is Tao, the Way. He felt all alone in perceiving and understanding it.

       Although convinced of his own wisdom, he was still no friend of arguments. They were pointless to him, since nobody else could really comprehend what he had realized. In the very last of the 81 Tao Te Ching chapters he wrote:


Those who are right do not argue.
Those who argue are not right.


       A modern English expression describes his sentiment adequately: Why bother?

       The earliest appearance I have found of the quote examined here is in the book Words for All Occasions from 1997, by Glenn Van Ekeren, accrediting it to Lao Tzu without giving a source (page 169). I have not found it in any Tao Te Ching version.

       There is nothing unique about the message of the quote. Friends should not need to quarrel, but when they do it can get intense, maybe even damage their friendship. The aikido master Koichi Tohei (1920-2011) had a simple explanation to the problem in his book Aikido in Daily Life from 1966 (page 158):


Often after a quarrel between friends, both say to themselves, "He was wrong, so he has to apologize first. I won't."


       That is one reason for the conclusion of the quote examined here. Both are wrong in the eyes of the other. I doubt, though, that Tohei is a paraphrased origin of this quote. The dilemma of friends quarreling has been known for long. In the novel Violet from 1836, by Marianne Dora Malet, one of the characters says (page 210):


When friends quarrel, you are quite sure the quarrel is an irreconcilable one.


       Mike Carey, the writer of comic books and novels, wrote in one of the latter, The Naming of the Beasts from 2009 (page 99): "Nobody wins when friends quarrel." Henry Fielding (1707-1754) expressed it with additional severity in The History Of Tom Jones from 1749 (page 451 in the 1966 edition):


The only way when friends quarrel, is to see it out fairly in a friendly manner, as a man may call it, either with fist, or sword, or pistol, according as they like, and then let it be all over.


       There seems to be little hope that the friends by themselves can end the quarrel peacefully, but Seumas MacManus had a solution in Yourself and the Neighbours from 1914 (page 90):


If friends quarrel, or there be a family fall-out, it is of course your duty to go to them, hear both sides, gently reprove all parties, and make them shake hands in your presence and promise to be henceforth nearer and dearer than ever to one another.


       That is easier said than done.

       So, the dilemma is far from new, but Lao Tzu did not comment on it.

Stefan Stenudd
September 20, 2020.



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Fake Lao Tzu Quotes - Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. 90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



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