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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

“When you are content..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote.

This is not a quote from the Tao Te Ching:



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





       So much in this sentence deviates from the perspectives of Lao Tzu.

       Comparing and competing is an obsession of modern man, but hardly of the people of Ancient China. The idea of being oneself is also quite anachronistic. Lao Tzu would ask: What else can one be?

       Also “everyone will respect you” fits our days better than those of Lao Tzu.

       But behind this modern lingo, thoughts similar to those of Lao Tzu can be detected. To be content without strife, and allow one's life to be simple, is the Way according to Lao Tzu. The one who lives so will gain the admiration of others.

       Indeed, this sentence is found in a popular version of Lao Tzu's text from 1988, written by Stephen Mitchell: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version. His version is by far the most bestselling one. He allows himself some poetic freedom to make Lao Tzu's text accessible to modern man.

       The quote is from chapter 8, which Mitchell translates like this in its entirety:


The supreme good is like water,

which nourishes all things without trying to.

It is content with the low places that people disdain.

Thus it is like the Tao.


In dwelling, live close to the ground.

In thinking, keep to the simple.

In conflict, be fair and generous.

In governing, don’t try to control.

In work, do what you enjoy.

In family life, be completely present.


When you are content to be simply yourself

and don’t compare or compete,

everybody will respect you.


It is decently close to the original text at times, but at others it deviates considerably from it.

       That's particularly evident in the last few lines. They are so far from the original I wonder what Mitchell was thinking. Maybe he took the adaption to modern minds a step too far, over-explaining things.

       For comparison, here is my version of the chapter:


Supreme good is like water.

Water greatly benefits all things, without conflict.

It flows through places that people loathe.

Thereby it is close to the Way.


A good dwelling is on the ground.

A good mind is deep.

A good gift is kind.

A good word is sincere.

A good ruler is just.

A good worker is able.

A good deed is timely.


Where there is no conflict, there is no fault.


Where I say conflict it is also possible to say competition, or for that matter strife or struggle. But as for the rest of Mitchell's version – where did he get those words?

       It is the danger of mixing the translation of a text with explaining it.

       Tao Te Ching is well known for being quite cryptic and vague, also to Chinese readers. A proper translation of it should not try to wash away all that for the sake of clarity. That easily leads to a text saying something else than Lao Tzu did. As in this case.

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.


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


Life Energy

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Creation Myths

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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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