Go Low to Stand High–Chapter 66

Tao Te Ching
Chapter 66

In chapter 66 of the Tao Te Chng Lao Tzu used the metaphor of how streams flow down to the rivers and oceans for the idea that people and things will come to a humble person.

Kings of a hundred valleys

hundred rivers 200

‘Rivers and oceans can be the kings of a hundred valleys
Because of their goodness in staying low
So they can be the kings of a hundred valleys”(1)

“Their goodness in staying low” to me is being humble.  Being humble is not being shy, it is not believing you are less that others.  Humble is a quality of not pushing your greatness on others.    We know how good we are, but we do not brag to the whole world about our greatness.  Gandhi and Martin Luther King are examples of humble persons who received the support of many.  They became the kings in their movements.  Lao Tzu tells us what we must do if we want to be the “kings of a thousand valleys”

 Lead from behind

“Thus if sages wish to be over people
They must speak humbly to them
If they wish to be in front of people
They must place themselves behind them
Thus the sages are positioned above
But the people do not feel burdened
They are positioned in front
But the people do not feel harmed”(1)


Spoken Chapter 66

What Lao Tzu said 600 B.C. can be seen today.  I have seen in the workplace and in personal relationships where these principals are at work.  Humble people seem to have better luck at getting the employees to have better work and customers to respond better.  For the purposes of this blog humble is being proud without being a know-it-all and telling others how much better the speaker is than the person they are talking to.  This applies to ourselves in our communication with everyone.  This is true when someone tells us how GREAT they are, people have a tendency to tune the speaker out or react in other negative ways.  Let us just stop and think about humble people we know that it seems everyone likes them and will do anything for them.  We even honor them.

I have seen many times the success of people who encourage others to do their best and then leave them alone to get the job done.  Workplace relationship classes teach if you want someone to do something get them to think it is their idea.  The same principals applies in the family and the community.  We are so much more motivated when we think something is our idea rather than to being told what to do.

  People never grow tired

So is the way of the Sage, leading by being behind, by serving in a humble manner In this approach the people do not feel threatened or oppressed by him By ruling as a servant the people choose to have him as their king By this way the people never grow tired of the Sage knowing that no harm can come to them.

“Thus the world is glad to push them forward without resentment
Because they do not contend
So the world cannot contend with them”(1)

Although it is good to be humble and lead from behind, it works   “The world is glad to push the sage forward” because they do not feel burdened and they feel safe.  People know they are not burdened for they are part of the process.  They feel safe because of the attitude of the sage.

Those who have translated the Tao Te Ching have used different word for contend, they used struggle, or strive to name a few.

(1) www.Taoism.net and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths in 2006

Darrell Denstedt

July 13, 2015

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