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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

“When I let go of what I am..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote.

This is not a quote from the Tao Te Ching:



“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”





       This fake Lao Tzu quote is weird not only in the eyes of Lao Tzu, but in those of just about every ancient thinker. They would all agree that I have to be what I am – that's the path worth taking. What I might be is just an illusion, making the mind fool itself.

       It makes sense in our modern zeitgeist, though, where everyone from a young age wants to be famous and spectacular. Like in the credo popular in the American culture: “You can be anything you want to be.” Good luck with that.

       Lao Tzu in particular would sneer at such ambitions. Modesty was his ideal. Returning to the natural way. Not chasing some gilded dream, which would disappoint even more if it were reached.

       The trick, every sage of the past would tell you, is to be who you are.

       In short: this quote is plain nonsense.

       On some websites, there is another sentence added to the quote:


When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.


       That has an anti-materialistic ring to it, which Lao Tzu and Jesus alike would appreciate. But they might prefer to reverse it to something like: you should not have what you don't need.

       Both lines are from a wildly tendentious version of the Tao Te Ching by John Heider: The Tao of Leadership from 1985. It seems to have no intention of being true to the original.

       The fake quote is very loosely based on lines of chapter 22 of Tao Te Ching. So loosely that it is difficult to ascertain exactly what lines he interprets that way.

       Heider seems to give those two sentences as a kind of digest of the whole chapter, and then he moves on to explain what he thinks it means. He calls them feminine/yin paradoxes.

       Actually, Lao Tzu praised what he regarded as feminine qualities and even called Tao the great mother – but not in this chapter.

       Here is my version of the whole chapter 22:


Hulk to be whole.

Bend to be straight.

Empty to be filled.

Wear down to be renewed.

Reduce to gain.

Excess confuses.


Therefore, the sage embraces the one,

And is an example to the world.

He does not show off, therefore he shines.

He does not justify himself, therefore he is revered.

He does not boast, therefore he is honored.

He does not praise himself, therefore he remains.

Because he opposes no one,

No one in the world can oppose him.


The ancients said:

Hulk to be whole.

Are these just empty words?

Indeed, he shall remain whole.


Stefan Stenudd
April 2, 2017



Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Here are some fake Lao Tzu quotes I have found, in alphabetical order. Click the quote to get to the webpage where I comment it. I plan to add more false quotes in the future, so do come back.

       I have chosen quotes that exist in meme form (images with text), because they tend to spread the most all over the web, especially in social media.

       Click the quote to get to the webpage about it.


“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”


“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”


“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”


“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the moment.”


“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”


“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”


“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”


“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.”


“Man's enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.”


“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”


“Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.”


“The soul has no secret that the behavior does not reveal.”


“There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take the one with a heart.”


“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”


“When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”







My Taoism Books:


Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.


Tao Quotes - the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



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I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.


Qi Energy Exercises

The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained, with simple instructions on how to exercise it.


Life Energy

The many ancient and modern life force beliefs all over the world explained.


Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.


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Other Books by Stefan Stenudd:


Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi - Increase Your Life Energy

The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles

Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art
Aikido principles, philosophy, and basic ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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