The Tao Te Ching: Verse Sixty-Nine

In using the military, there is a saying:
I dare not be the host, but prefer to be the guest
I dare not advance an inch, but prefer to withdraw a foot

This is called marching in formation without formation
Raising arms without arms
Grappling enemies without enemies
Holding weapons without weapons
There is no greater disaster than to underestimate the enemy
Underestimating the enemy almost made me lose my treasures

So when evenly matched armies meet
The side that is compassionate shall win

                                                                                         Lao Tzu

One of the most disruptive emotions one can experience is the feeling of hatred toward another. While it is difficult to admit that one actually feels hatred; each of us has certainly had a close encounter with its more subtle symptoms: dislike, anger, passive aggressiveness, overt hostility, sabotage and so on.  In this sixty-ninth verse of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu speaks about how armies should meet and treat the enemy. I believe his message here to professional caregivers is a suggestion on how to deal with the enemy within which is, our potential for anger toward each other. His guidance is simple and clear, only compassion (non-aggression) shall win.

Much has been written in the literature about creating a healthy work environment. We point to the impact of staffing, systems, accessibility to equipment and products as issues that negatively affect a work day, our stamina and patient safety. While I believe important gains have been made in these areas; more could be done to address our tendency to judge, undermine and mistreat each other in subtle or overt ways.

Showing my anger, regardless of how justified I tell myself I am, has never made me more peaceful or content. I may succeed in sending the object of my anger a strong message and even upset them but my anger has never served to remedy a situation. Anger only serves to complicate the issue and leave you with an ugly residual sense of restlessness, irritability and sadness.

One of the biggest outcomes hoped for in the study and practice of Eastern Philosophies is the letting go of habitual behaviors. Staying caught up in addressing people and situations in the same manner even though those approaches no longer or never worked for you is what the famed Buddhist Nun; Pema Chodron refers to as, Being Hooked.

It is time to let go of being our own worst enemies. Let us be open to the idea that what is often chewing away at us is perception antagonized by fatigue rather than fact. Make a choice to channel potential negative energy in a more positive, results oriented outcome. Nothing is to be gained by horizontal violence and much is being lost every day. Let us have the strength to resist habitual judgmental reactions, let us focus on the good work being done by everyone, let us be compassionate with ourselves and commit to maintaining a balance in our personal and professional lives that will afford us the ability to connect and stay united.

“What you are now is what you have been, what you will be is what you do now.” -Buddha



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