No More Demands

by Christopher Lovejoy on February 2, 2014

Making unreasonable demands is a strategy of manipulation calculated to mask insecurity. As such, it’s a confession of impotence, a way to compensate for a sense of powerlessness.

When bosses make such demands of workers, when parents make such demands of children, when wives make such demands of husbands, the energy of fear and anger take them over.

And when workers make such demands of bosses, when children make such demands of parents, when husbands make such demands of wives, the energy of fear and anger take them over.

A nagging sense of lack is converted into a false sense of power.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 75

This verse was intended for leaders of the people at a time when rulers overtaxed and overburdened the populace for their own gain, so much so that people lost all sense of loyalty to the point of rebellion.

It’s an old story, full of tragic occurrences and consequences.

When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.

When governments are too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.

Act for the people’s benefit:
trust them; leave them alone.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Simple and to the point, how might these words apply to our individual lives? For starters, we might view ourselves as leading by serving those in need rather than those who have more than they need.

My Impressions of the Verse

By itself, this verse (verse 75 of the Tao Te Ching) makes an appeal to common sense, but I find its meaning enriched when I read the verses that come before and after it (verses 74 and 76).

When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.

When governments are too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.

Governments of the western world, being corporate entities with stakeholders and shareholders masquerading as servants of the people, are mere shells of what they once were.

Act for the people’s benefit:
trust them; leave them alone.

Today, people are herded and caged as far as possible, in a totalitarian tip-toe fashion. Liberties are curtailed incrementally, like a frog in water whose temperature rises to the appearance of a boil.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

If we view ourselves, not as leaders, but as leading by serving, perhaps we might find this verse relevant to personal fulfillment. As we rise in our power, by way of wealth or influence, perhaps the most important thing we can do is to not let it go to our heads.

The phrase “to not let it go to our heads” can actually be taken literally. One study has clearly shown a marked loss of empathy with gains in power, which has absolutely nothing to do with being busy.

Letting power go to the head from the heart speaks to this loss of empathy.

With respect to ourselves, we can lead with the heart by serving our bodies, by knowing when to rest, relax, and take it easy. We trust the wisdom of our bodies to make sound recommendations.

With respect to others, we can lead with the heart by serving their interests, by knowing when to give advice or praise, by knowing when to allow them to go their own way, to rely on themselves.

As and when we are divorced from our own hearts, it’s all too easy to see and hear how we could make demands on ourselves and others, rather than make allowances for lack and limitation.

In keeping with the heart, demands give way to allowances. Demands for clarity, control, and certainty yield to fair and patient inquiry, and if needs be, skilled advocacy informed by facts.

Having no compulsion to make unreasonable demands – being in a state of grace and ease – is a blessed consequence of contentment, which bodes well for having a sense of fulfillment.

Next up: Soft, Gentle, Pliable (Living by Bending)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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