"Those who boast are not respected."
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 24
The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained
Those who stand on their toes are not steady.
Those who take long steps cannot keep the pace.
Those who show off do not shine.
Those who are self-righteous are not prominent.
Those who boast are not respected.
Those who praise themselves do not prevail.
To the Way,
Such people are surplus provisions and useless actions.
They are rejected by many.
Those who follow the Way do not remain with them.
Banned If You Boast
The world is full of self-appointed stars. I have a hard
time condemning such people, partly because I might be one
of them and partly because it's quite understandable,
considering the short rat race we have entered by no will of
To put it bluntly, we are all going to die, and we
know it. That's not a very envious position to be in. So, we try
to make the best of it in any way we can. We're quite
desperate to make it meaningful and significant. Right there
is where false pride, self-righteousness, and bragging
begin. It's understandable. How else to keep a brave heart as
death inevitably approaches?
Still, Lao Tzu is not wrong. If we allow this bragging
and self-appraisal to clog what we see in the mirror, then we
are sure to be victims of contempt. The reason is simple. We
all share the same insoluble dilemma – a life always
somehow too short, with an inescapable end at an unpredictable
moment. Since that's the burden we all carry, who is to
stand out, who is to wear a crown and sit on a throne?
The only way to show respect towards all the
others sharing the same predicament is to be humble about it.
There are many who offend the guidelines of this
chapter in the Tao Te Ching. Honestly, don't we all,
occasionally? Some do it on a regular basis and with a vengeance. In
many cases, they have admirers who assist them in this
worship. Actually, we seem to love having idols that we praise for
a while, and then forget or condemn.
It's our longing for a life full of meaning. If we can't
all have it, let's choose some of us to laureate, in order to
keep the dream alive. These idols of ours are also our
victims. Like the chosen ones among the pre-Columbian
Chichimecas, our idols are cheered and spoiled for a time, and
then sacrificed. Whether the praise is just one's own or shared
by one's fellow men, the outcome is equally costly.
We want to survive death, somehow. We want to
make a mark. That aspiration is one of envy of the gods of
our own invention. We want to be them. The old Greeks
called it hubris, comparing oneself to the gods. We would call it
delusion. It's not folly, but solace against the sad facts of
life. We need to rid ourselves of the sadness by which we
regard our fate, in order to overcome it.
That's no easy path, but Lao Tzu also informs us
that nobody said it was going to be easy. Tao might be the
Way to a life of ease, in accordance with the universe, but
getting there is no picnic.
© Stefan Stenudd.
Tao Te Ching Explained
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