Tao Te Ching: Verse 76

A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.

Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.

Therefore the stiff and unbending is the way of death.
The gentle and yielding is the way of life.

Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.

The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.

What is Lao Tzu asking us to consider in Verse 76?
It seems he is asking us to be flexible in life
Adjust to the changing circumstances of life.

In the western world we are raised to believe flexible is weak.
Lao Tzu in the Tao says that it is flexibility that is strengths; and that rigid and inflexible is actually weakness. How can we as westerners deal with these opposite eastern beliefs.

This verse asks us to remember that when we are born; we were gentle and weak. Lao states as long as we remain that way we grow, mature and live.

But when we stop growing mentally; becoming stuck or rigid and inflexible in our beliefs we stop growing. We then become hard. We then stop learning and growing intellectually and we die to our true potential.

Take an example of flexible and rigid from nature. A palm tree sits on the beach and takers the first brunt of the storm.
Yet it survives to live again because it allows itself to be flexible. It bends to the ground during the storm; yet when the storm passes it bounces back and lives for a new day.

The mighty oak however; our symbol for strengths; that is inland of the storm stands rigid when the storm hits it. Even thought the oak is mightier than the palm; and the winds are now less it breaks. Why because it stays rigid and inflexible. That rigidness causes the mighty oak to break.

The lesson of the palm and the oak is that flexible allows life and growth to continue on for another day; while inflexible and rigid cause death.

How do you approach life? The Tao tells us that;

“The hard and the rigid will break;
The soft and the flexible will remain”.

In peace…the Tao Warrior

Author's Bio: 

Steve Nonahan; pen name "The Tao Warrior" is a writer, life coach and nascent master of the Tao Te Ching.