Foundational Thinking #7

Knowing and Mastering

Over 2500 years ago Lao Tzu said “knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

On some levels it is easy to know others. You do it everyday and every time you meet someone. Of course, the level of knowing grows deeper as time goes on.

When you first meet someone you immediately form an opinion, good, bad or indifferent. Nonetheless an opinion is formed. As you get to know the person and learn about them, your opinion may change or be validated.

When it comes to knowing self, it is much harder. We always want to see ourselves as we wish to be – good, bad or indifferent. Each of these self assessments is in keeping with our individual mode of acceptance. Some of us work with approval as our way of securing acceptance from mom, while others use rejection for the same purpose.

Regardless of the approach in current use, it doesn’t have to be that way. This is not to imply that those on the approval path need to turn to rejection. It does mean to examine all the ways that you seek approval. There are some situations when seeking approval works against you. Those are the concepts and their respective patterns that need to be brought under control.

Those who use rejection as their form of acceptance will gain strength from changing. Now, there are some who are deep into rejection, becoming the outlaws of society. This, too, is driven by the need to be rejected. It can be changed with understanding and exercising control.

In both instances, wisdom of self is achieved through the depth of understanding and application.

In the second part of Lao Tzu’s statement he talks about mastering others as strength. There are questions that arise here based on his personal concept of strength. In this application we would say that mastering others is being aware enough that no matter what they may say or do, it does not trigger a patternistic response from you.

The last part of the statement is where true mastery comes into play. Knowing self. This has been the mantra of every spiritual master that has manifested. Each has said it in his own way.

We find in the New Testament these statements by Jesus about knowing self: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed. 32. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31)

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