A 2500-year-old perspective on rules

When the greatness of the Tao is present,
action arises from one’s own heart.
When the greatness of the Tao is absent,
action comes from the rules
of “kindness and justice.”
If you need rules to be kind and just,
if you act virtuous,
this is a sure sign that virtue is absent.
Thus we see the great hypocrisy.
When kinship falls into discord,
piety and rites of devotion arise.
When the country falls into chaos,
official loyalists will appear;
patriotism is born.

—Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 18th Verse

Lao-Tzu’s 2500-year-old message is that you don’t need any rules to be kind and just. Law and order may seem to be helpful, even necessary, but there is a difference between being kind and just, and feeling the obligation to be kind and just. Also, there is a difference between not stealing because it’s against the law, and truly respecting the rights of others. The idea extends further. Let your actions be guided by your heart. Don’t act virtuous. Be virtue.

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. He shares his reading, book reviews, and learning on his personal blog.

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