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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"The best fighter..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: The best fighter is never angry.

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"The best fighter is never angry."






A fighter? It is bizarre to link a saying about a fighter to Lao Tzu. He was no sports fan, nor a street hoodlum. He did speak about warriors, but far from approvingly, and he condemned violence.

       He did admit that war might sometimes be inevitable, but it should be grieved - even by the victorious side (chapter 31, my version):


Weapons are ominous tools.
They are not the noble ruler's tools.
He only uses them when he can't avoid it.
Peace and quiet are preferred.
Victory should not be praised.
Those who praise victory relish manslaughter.



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       Though he had nothing to say about fighters, he did say something similar to this quote about warriors in chapter 68:


Excellent warriors are not violent.
Excellent soldiers are not furious.


       Here is D. C. Lau's version from 1963 (page 130):


One who excels as a warrior does not appear formidable;
One who excels in fighting is never roused in anger.


       There is a distinct difference between fighter and fighting. The former delights in it, the latter is not necessarily done with the same sentiment. Lau's version indicates that both lines deal with warriors.

       Here is Robert G. Henricks' version from 1989 (page 162):


One who is good at being a warrior doesn't make a show of his might;
One who is good in battle doesn't get angry.


       If the quote discussed here is a misinterpretation of something in Tao Te Ching, it is most likely the second of these two lines. But the difference between a fighter and a soldier is tremendous. The fighter wants to fight, but the warrior wishes to avoid it, if possible.

       Still, for both of them it is true that they should not act out of anger or fury. Otherwise the soldier would be monstrous, causing additional mayhem, and the fighter in a sport would lose control and probably break the rules.

       The earliest example I have found of the quote examined here is in a book from 1954: The faiths men live by, by the theologian Charles Francis Potter (1885-1962). He claimed to quote Lao Tzu, unfortunately without giving a source. Here is the whole paragraph of that quote (page 79):


The best soldier is not warlike. The best fighter is never angry. The best conqueror takes part in no war. The best employer does not look down but up to his employees. This is the virtue of non-contesting. This is the secret of bringing out other men's ability.


       I have not been able to find a Tao Te Ching version with that exact wording. I guess Potter allowed himself some paraphrasing, and that might be the reason he did not give any source to this or any other Lao Tzu quote he used in the book. The word "fighter" is not the only odd choice in this quote. So is "employee." Both choices were probably intended to modernize Lao Tzu's words.

       Still, it is definitely chapter 68, in its entirety - though distorted. Here is my version of the whole chapter:


Excellent warriors are not violent.
Excellent soldiers are not furious.
Excellent conquerors do not engage.
Excellent leaders of people lower themselves.

This is called the virtue of no strife.
This is called the use of people's capacity.
This is called the union with Heaven.
It is the perfection of the ancients.

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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