The Tao Te Ching: Verse Three

Do not glorify the achievers so the people will not squabble
Do not treasure goods that are hard to obtain

So the people will not become thieves do not show the desired things
So their hearts will not be confused thus the governance of the sage:

Empties their hearts, fills their bellies, weakens their ambitions,
Strengthens their bones, let the people have no cunning and no greed
So those who scheme will not dare to meddle

Act without contrivance and nothing will be beyond control

                                                                                                      Lao Tzu

This wisdom from the Tao guides us to understanding that envy, greed and even stealing have its beginnings in the perception that we are lacking something and that happiness can be ours if only we could acquire it. Lao Tzu counsels that this type of personal torture can actually sow the seeds of perpetual discontentment. Yet we engage in chasing the illusion that acquiring more will make us happier almost daily.  He suggests that if those who have the desired things that are hard to obtain live inconspicuously then others would not have a sense of lacking and therefore no need to chase the illusion

The essence of this teaching challenges us to confront our need to engaging in the behavior of comparing ourselves to others and then judging ourselves as better or worse.  It asks us to rethink the type of fuel we use to drive our lives. So many of us depend on the neurotic mantra, “If only…” If only this, if only that…then I could be happy. Caregivers seem to have a double dose of this trait. I think our ability to be open and available to others also makes us more vulnerable to personal and outside criticism.

We want so much to get it right and are so willing to fix ourselves that we will do whatever it takes to accomplish just that. Many times this ability to take on more in the pursuit of getting it right is referred to as inner strength. The quest for excellence does require strength and stamina however, I am concerned about the motivation to pursue more?

Nurses have been caught up in this quest, and I am no exception. I am not certain when the moment came. Perhaps it was because the change was subtle. For most of my early adult life I struggled to ensure that I would be seen as equal and be afforded equal opportunities. I am a child of the fifties with my most formative years shaped by the woman’s movement. However, there came a time when being seen as equal was no longer good enough. The pursuit of excellence morphed into a need for perfection.

I entered the nursing profession in the seventies at a time when hospital affiliated training programs no longer met the core requirements needed to prepare RNs for the modern challenges facing the profession. Academic preparation at the college level was now an essential part of that fundamental training. Associate programs gave way to baccalaureate programs. In the 80’s clinical certification in a chosen specialty became the newest benchmark. More than one certification couldn’t hurt. Graduate programs evolved. The finish line was elusive. I bought into this pursuit of excellence whole heartedly. I encouraged my friends, my family, and my colleagues to do so as well. I agree that these growing pains were vital to the development of our profession but what collateral damage happened along the way? Are we more united in our hopes and visions? Are we more credible or are we just incredibly credentialed?

Opinions on what it took to be a competent nurse began to divide the profession into opposing camps. The necessary and healthy dialogue on the vision of the profession in the twenty first century was frequently overshadowed by destructive, judgmental attitudes of right and wrong. Did we unintentionally send the message to many that they were not good enough? Did we perpetuate the image of women undermining women? What part did our male colleagues play?

There is a global shortage of nurses today. The reasons cited for this global shortage are complicated and multifaceted but it is time to now ask; what did we contribute to the problem? Did our need to organize actually drive us to polarize? Did we inadvertently create an environment that nurtured hostility and perpetuated the image of nurses eating their young? The profession has worked hard and has come such a long way but I fear that unless we find ways to reconnect we will be doomed. We will be unable to create a new, stronger and sustainable reality. The price we pay along the way will include peace of mind, compromised health, failed relationships, and wounded spirits.

So how can professional and family caregivers avoid the pitfalls of buying into the tantalizing pursuit of the illusion that more equals better? I suggest we slow down and take the time to really get in touch with ourselves and the true nature of our motivations. If we come to the decision that our pursuit of the next great thing is fueled by our own innate desire to grow; then go for it. However, if in the silence of our introspection we can find the strength to acknowledge that there are extrinsic forces at work then perhaps we can find the confidence to resist entering into another dualistic struggle.

There can be no achievement without a focused mind so practice sitting quietly. Listen to the wisdom that can come to you in those meditative moments. Work to know yourself. Embrace your strengths and acknowledge your shortcomings. Find the humor in your own physical and emotional challenges. Accept all that you can about yourself. Set high but achievable goals and methodically work toward improving the rest. This process cannot work unless the goals you set are yours and yours alone. Walk your personal and professional path with courage, integrity and gentleness toward yourself.

Work to develop your intuitive self by respecting that inner voice that can guide you in a clearer direction. Embrace a fundamental concept in Feng Shui and begin to address the clutter in your living and work space. Do not organize the clutter. Get rid of it. Get into that closet, go throw those draws, look under the bed and discard that which no longer serves you. This energetic exercise will assist you in quieting the clutter in your head and drawing in that sense of freshness that can inspire your own authentic, sustainable personal growth.



2 thoughts on “The Tao Te Ching: Verse Three

  1. thank you Phyllis for this insightful and stirring commentary. ANA’s “lead from where you stand” and the concept of nurses practicing to the ability of their training is so pertinent in modern nursing: usu a concept referring to AP; how about the nurses educated up to BSN: can they demonstrate their training in their practice? or are they hampered by the issues you have innumerated?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.