Verse 24

If you stand on tiptoe, you cannot stand firmly.

If you take long steps, you cannot walk far.

Showing off does not reveal enlightenment.

Boasting will not produce accomplishment.

He who is self-righteous is not respected

He who brags will not endure.

All these ways of acting are loathsome, distasteful.

They are unnecessary excesses.

They are like a pain in the stomach,

a tumor in the body

when walking the path of the Tao,

this is the very stuff that must be

uprooted, thrown out, and left behind.

Lao-tzu

The 24th verse is about living without excess, Lao-tzu advises us to pull and discard our excess weeds. These weeds are ego-driven desires of self-importance. Our desire to feel important and our desires to brag and be boastful of our accomplishments are allowing our ego to drive us instead of the all giving Tao. It is this desire which keeps us away from walking the path of the Tao. The Tao teaches us that inner approval is healthy, but it is these mind frames of thinking you are better than anyone else which is destructive. These desires for self-importance are like a cancer on our souls. Our ego is our greatest enemy on our journey to discover the Way.

The verse starts with an analogy of standing on our tip toes. I believe this represents us trying to be greater than we are. If we try to fill ourselves with self-importance we will not be able to stand firmly. Lao-tzu’s advice is to stop trying to be what we are not, and instead live as we are. We should be humble in our daily affairs, and be content with who we are at all times. Everyday we should show gratitude for everything we have, and everything we are. Showing daily gratitude centers us and keeps us on the path of the Way. Practice focusing on what you have, and not what you want, then show gratitude for everything the Tao has given you. In the part about taking long steps; I think this advises us to live in the moment and not try so hard to get were going. Instead of focusing on our end goal we should be humble and enjoy the process.

The next part of this verse is advising us to not brag or be boastful. Showing off does not show enlightenment. Bragging about our accomplishments only make us look like fools. In the second verse of the Tao Te Ching it says “when the work is done, it is forgotten. That is why it lasts forever,” or in the ninth verse it says “retire when the work is done; this is the way to heaven.” These are all examples of working without bragging or taking credit for your hard work. It is nice to be acknowledged, but this should not be our primary goal. I see my faults in this part of the verse. I have written posts on my frustration with my writing career progress. I want to have five thousand visitors a day, and in my mind this would be an accomplishment worthy of bragging. In my mind I need to be successful immediately, or I am disappointed. I am standing on my tip toes and taking long steps. I need to just sit back and allow my writing career to happen.

I am most interested in the line “He who is self-righteous is not respected.” The definition of self-righteous is “a feeling of smug moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person.” This is an interesting line in that the Tao condemns being holier than thou in our religious affairs. Unlike Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism do not send its followers out on missionary trips to spread the word. They do not pretend to be superior to others who believe differently. This is why you have never seen an inquisition in these faiths. The Tao does not judge you based on if you believe in the Way or not. It will still provide you with everything you need. I think this lesson is far different from some other religions out there, which is why I have found a spiritual home in this religion.

Instead of letting our ego drive us with the desire to boast, or only work for the accolades of a good job, we should instead be grateful for everything the Tao has given us. The Tao does not seek acknowledgement for all it does for us. The Tao does not come to us saying “look what I have done for you, now what will you do for me.” This is a lesson the Tao tries to teach us by example. We should not see ourselves as important or special for the gifts the Tao has given us. We should appreciate her, and her unselfish giving. The Tao teaches us to be a giver rather than a taker, we should be providing for others and ask nothing in return. The Tao always exists in a state of unlimited giving, and teaches us to do the same. If we are able to mimic this sense of gratitude and giving we will be closer to walking the path of the Way.

“By returning to radical humility and seeing the greatness within everyone you’ve than cleared your life of excessive self-importance…and this is the way of the Tao.”

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

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Comments
  1. For me, this verse is about fullness. When we are full of ourselves, we do not allow space for new information and new perspectives — wisdom — to take hold.

    The person who is empty of desire never overreaches — there’s no perceived need to. Only the person who is full of themselves oversteps.

    Finally, I would again caution you about the use of the article “the” in reference to Tao. Tao is not an it. Tao is the essence of all. The example of Tao is within each of us — buried deeply within our own internal nature.

    • Tim Lundmark says:

      Rambling,
      I always love the added input you give me. It always helps me to see things from somebody who is well versed in this. I have a hard time when I am writing about the Tao and refering to the Tao as “it” or “the.” When I try different words it just doesnt sound right. I have watched myself on using it, but I will have to watch using the word the

  2. DP says:

    You read my mind today.
    I stumbled on a blog of an old friend and it’s all about me, me, me… I am planning on writing a post about the uselessness (albeit present) lifestyle obsession of the rich, famous, and socialites.

  3. Johanna says:

    Good post. I especially like what you wrote in paragraph 2 about reaching for greatness beyond ourselves and always looking to the future rather than living in the present. Good advice no matter what religion you are!!

  4. Actually, Jesus condemned self-righteous behavior often, particularily when he fiercely criticized the Pharisees. In Luke 18:9-14, he tells a story about a Pharisee who thought himself so much better than a tax collector. He summarized his point with this statement, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
    It is unfortunate that many Christians do not pay more attention to Jesus’s teachings on this subject.
    Jodi

    • Tim Lundmark says:

      Jed.
      Welcome to the community. I look forward to your contributions. I think many Christians have lost the true meaning and teachings of the religion. Thinking as a Christian I feel Satan has infiltrated the churches and led people away from the Word. I will not get long winded but one example is the many translations of the Bible. Over time it has been changed and altered so they could copyright it and in doing this the Word has been changed. Many churches believe we are saved by grace not works, which is a false teaching. There are parts in the Bible where this is mentioned (Acts 15:11, Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:8, and 2 Timothy 1:9) but there is much more to this story which happens to be a post I am working on so keep your eyes out for it. This will blow your mind

      • Based on the Bible verses you quoted, Tim, I think what you meant to write was “Many churches believe we are saved by works, not grace, which is a false teaching.” I totally agree with you on that.
        I will watch for that post!
        Jodi

      • Tim Lundmark says:

        Jed.
        Ok so I may have misquoted but we are saved by works and grace. So I think we may disagree? Or do we I am very confused today

      • The Christian faith holds that people are saved by faith alone as stated in John 3:16, which is the most quoted verse in the entire Bible. This verse was central to Martin Luther’s teachings.
        Works are considered evidence of that faith. (James 2:11)
        This is may very well be the most misunderstood concept in Christianity (even by Christians), and it is considered to be the major difference between Christianity and other religions.
        I don’t want to get caught up in semantics, but since it is a central belief I thought I should clarify the point.

      • Tim Lundmark says:

        Okay so if we are saved by faith alone then why does the old and new testiment reference following the commandments? Without giving away to much of the post I am working on I would like to draw your attention to one example which is a strong one, but is powerful mixed with my other findings.
        “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12 KJV
        Here it illustrates having faith in Jesus AND keeping the commandments. I think to truly walk with God you need these two componants. Without them you are mislead by Satan and then he wins…. Okay I could say so much more but I will save it for my post.

      • The Christian faith holds that people are saved by faith alone as stated in John 3:16, which is the most quoted verse in the entire Bible. This verse was central to Martin Luther’s teachings.
        Works are considered evidence of that faith. (James 2:11)
        In other words, the idea is that you can’t earn your way to heaven.
        This is may very well be the most misunderstood concept in Christianity (even by Christians), and it is considered to be the major difference between Christianity and other religions.
        I don’t want to get caught up in semantics, but since it is a central belief I thought I should clarify the point.

  5. We are talking about two different things here. Salvation is based on faith. Following the commandments and other teachings won’t get us into heaven, but it is good for us.
    People tend to think that God wants certain things FROM us, and that is why there are instructions in the Bible. In fact, God wants certain things FOR us, and knows that it is better for us when we live our lives in the way that the Bible describes.
    No one can be perfect (except the son of God, but that is another reply). If being right with God relied on our following all the rules, nobody could do it. That is the problem with trying to earn our way to heaven.
    Instead salvation is a free gift that we only have to accept through faith.

  6. […] what we need to push away from ourselves. An excellent description of this verse can be found by My Descent into Madness. This source helped me to better understand what Lao Tzu meant in his […]

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