Toon-Te-Ching: Verse 5

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Welcome to this week’s installment of the Toon-Te-Ching.  Each week we are taking one of the 81 verses of the Tao-Te-Ching, pairing it with a toon and connecting the teaching to our work life.

5th Verse

Heaven and earth are impartial;

They see the 10,000 things as straw dogs.

The sage is not sentimental;

He treats all his people as straw dogs.

The sage is like heaven and earth:

To him none are especially dear,

Nor is there anyone he disfavors.

He gives and gives, without condition,

Offering his treasures to everyone.

Between heaven and earth

Is a space like a bellows;

Empty and inexhaustible,

The more it is used, the more it produces.


Hold on to the center.

Man was made to sit quietly and find

The truth within.

No ranking.  This verse reminds me of our recent post on Ranking vs. Linking.  We seem to have a need to know who is better than who.  You might think this is human nature, but it’s actually learned behavior we’ve been conditioned for by society.  As children we are ranked in sports, academics and popularity, and then we grow up to rank ourselves in wealth and power.  When we focus on who is better we create divisions between people. When people are divided, it causes friction. It is common for Corporations to be organized into “Divisions”.  The word “Division” explicitly defines groups as … well … divided. If you’ve worked in any corporation you know this leads to “us and them” problems.

No one is unworthy.  A core American value is “equality”, but corporate life rarely reflects this value.  Raises, layoffs, bonuses, promotions and even decision making rights, are all based on who is most worthy.  These blows to a person’s worth come with a stigma that you aren’t ‘good enough’ for the company. Once tagged as a “low performer” it is common for people to go into a a downward career spiral, unable to find work when tagged as a “laid off person” and losing confidence in their own worth.  

Help others find their gifts.  If all people are worthy, then makes sense to shift focus from where people are lacking, to what people have to offer.  Sometimes a job is a poor fit for a person because it’s not drawing on their gifts. Can you help them identify a better fit?

The Tao is telling us that all people are truly equal and worthy.  Everyone has their own gifts to offer and has treasures available to them.  If we honor the Tao, this means we honor each person for their unique contribution.