Patching up a great hatred is sure to leave some hatred behind. How can this be regarded as satisfactory?
Therefore the Sage holds the left tally, and does not put the guilt on the other party.
The virtuous man is for patching up; the vicious is for fixing guilt.
But “the way of Heaven is impartial; it sides only with the good man.”
(Tao Teh King 79)
Patching up a great hatred is sure to leave some hatred behind. How can this be regarded as satisfactory? Mabry: “When enemies are reconciled, some resentment invariably remains. How can this be healed?” Blackney: “How can you think it is good to settle a grievance too great to ignore, when the settlement surely evokes other piques?” It is certainly true that wherever passion and moral violence have resulted in wrongdoing, any correction of the situation is certain to create hatred and resentment in the guilty wrongdoers. It is unavoidable and cannot be left open to question.
This question asked by Lao Tzu is actually a test question. There are those who try to frighten off others from doing the right because it might “hurt” someone or “make trouble” or “make things worse.” I grew up with this moral cowardice that is also bullying of the virtuous. This is in the class of the “Well, which is worse…?” question intended to present far-fetched consequences of doing right that to the foolish may appear as much worse than fulfilling one’s moral obligations. The askers of these kind of questions are reprehensible in the extreme, confusers and destroyers of those they influence. “But what would you do if…?” they love to challenge others. They are the kind of people that when I was very young had come up with the assertion that there is no black or white, just shades of gray. Fiddlesticks!
As a man once told me, behind a big front there is a big back. Like the fox without a tail they are attempting to hide their own culpability, terrified that someone will see them for what they truly are. Of course their favorite is the “judge not lest ye be judged” challenge. But oh, how they judge and hate those that “judge.” If there is anyone in the world that should be avoided it is these moral cowards whose guilt has forced them into such modes of hateful defense. Hating themselves they hate others, including those that would agree with them that nothing should be done if offense and complaint would be the result.
Wisdom and truth, however, say this: “Different is the good, and different, indeed, is the pleasant. These two, with different purposes, bind a man. Of these two, it is well for him who takes hold of the good; but he who chooses the pleasant, fails of his aim. Both the good and the pleasant approach a man. The wise man, pondering over them, discriminates. The wise chooses the good in preference to the pleasant. The simple-minded, for the sake of worldly well-being, prefers the pleasant” (Katha Upanishad 1:2:1-2).
Therefore the Sage holds the left tally, and does not put the guilt on the other party. Legge: “Therefore (to guard against this), the sage keeps the left-hand portion of the record of the engagement, and does not insist on the (speedy) fulfilment of it by the other party.” Chan: “Therefore the sage keeps the left-hand portion (obligation) of a contract and does not blame the other party.” The wise man’s response in Mabry’s translation asks: “How can this be healed?” Certainly rectification is the goal and not inciting more conflict. As the saying goes, it often is not what we do but the way in which we do it. So although facts must be faced, every reasonable attempt must be made to avoid genuine injury to anyone while acknowledging that the blustering of the guilty and resentful cannot be avoided no matter what is or is not done in the matter.
The virtuous man is for patching up; the vicious is for fixing guilt. Chan: “Virtuous people attend to their left-hand portions, While those without virtue attend to other people’s mistakes.” Byrn: “A virtuous person will do the right thing, and persons with no virtue will take advantage of others.” Blackney: “The virtuous man promotes agreement; the vicious man allots the blame.” There is no avoiding that the good will cooperate and attempt to set everything right while the bad will assign guilt and make personal attacks on the guiltless. That is their (very revealing) choice. They must be free to do so and the good must be free to act as is right: good, though unpleasant to those in the actual wrong.
There are people who are always jumping at the chance to declare their innocence. I knew an entire family who no matter how small or insignificant something was, would have a race with one another in exclaiming: “It’s not my fault!” T. H. White in The Elephant and the Kangaroo writes about people who were so far gone down that path that they would even say: “It’s not my fault; I did it.” Sociopaths especially assign blame on others for their own actions and words. A little boy in the previously-mentioned family liked to excuse himself by declaring: “Well, he/she made me mad!” And it was accepted as an excuse.
But “the way of Heaven is impartial; it sides only with the good man.” Byrn: “The Tao does not choose sides, the good person receives from the Tao because he is on its side.” There is a Vedic hymn that begins Ritam cha Satyam: Right and Truth.
Heaven is impartial because it needs nothing and has no interest at all. Order and Truth are its very nature, so it is always favorable to the orderly and the truthful. The purpose of the universe is evolution and those that are evolving find themselves in harmony with it and are blessed. It is not that the Tao is on our side, but that we are on the Tao’s side, as Byrn renders it. We are for the Tao and the Tao is for us. A perfect and fruitful partnership, indeed.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: The Small Utopia