the guarding of what is soft and tender is (the secret of) strength.I don't know about you, but I think Ron Hogan nailed this line perfectly! No, it may not be a strict translation, but it captures the essence of the meaning in the popular vernacular.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~
Yielding to force is strength.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~
Holding on to the soft is called strength
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~
It takes strength
to yield gently to force.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
As a lifelong pacifist, I have never actively participated in a physical fight. In my youth, when another child punched or attacked me, I would roll up in a ball and refuse to respond in-kind.
The other children would call me yellow. "You're such a coward," they would say. In their mind's eye, it took no effort at all to absorb punishment.
I would counter that it takes more courage NOT to strike back. It takes more strength NOT to return blow for blow. Most of us have a built-in revenge facet. If someone abuses us, we want to return the abuse in spades. To not allow oneself to succumb to this basic personality feature takes a lot of self-control. It takes a lot of strength NOT to hit back.
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