The softest things of the world
Override the hardest things of the world
That which has no substance
Enters into that which has no openings
From this I know the benefits of unattached actions
The teaching without words
The benefits of actions without attachment
Are rarely matched in the world
Verse Forty-Three speaks to the professional or family caregiver that has ever been criticized for stepping up to help or perhaps even resented by the one you intended to serve. If you ever found yourself mumbling, no good deed goes unpunished, then this verse of the Tao is for you.
So often caregivers are overtly or covertly relied upon to get things done. While it can be a great complement to be known as a mover and shaker; we can sometimes get caught up in our own ego-based needs and confuse being tough for being strong. This is where we invite all sorts of trouble for ourselves.
The guiding message of this verse is to channel all your desire and well- meant ability to be of assistance into a subtle rather than overt effort. This is not to say that less is more but rather not underestimate the value of non-action. In this example non-action does not mean, do nothing. Rather it is a reminder to be mindful of your motivation. If your desire to be of help is fueled in anyway by your clinging to a need to be needed, then non-action is required.
Lao Tzu likes to use nature as a metaphor for his lessons. He often suggests focusing on the nature of water. It has a gentle quality that flows around obstacles yet relentlessly carves its own path over time. He references the wind as the force that moves much without being seen. Caregivers must always be more self-aware than most. The lack of self-awareness can sow the seeds of compassion fatigue; because you will never be able to fully have what you crave without creating a distance or a void between you and the recipient of your compassion.
Non-doing is also a powerful method of self-discovery. As you attempt to refrain from your usual behavior, you uncover the internal forces that make stopping so difficult. You learn where you are attached; and learn about the emotions, impulses, and beliefs that keep you caught up in that attachment. When you resist doing something out of habit, you will be afforded the opportunity to see, perhaps for the first time, the cost of your behavior. Of course this goal can only be attained through much gentle introspection but with time you will be more self-aware, more authentic and more able to use your good judgment before leaping into action.