The Wisdom of the I Ching

41. Holding Back

When the time is not favorable for advancing, a man should hold back. Nature itself has an ebb and flow in its supportive forces, and a man should recognize these movements and not try to go beyond the bounds of what is possible at any given time. To push ahead when resources are not sufficient only exhausts the small reserves of energy that now exist and creates instability and indirection. This leads to a lack of accomplishment. Such a time as this calls for economy and simplicity, both of which establish a base from which solid advancement may occur later on. Holding Back may may be viewed as an embarrassing lack of courage, but to think so would be a mistake. A man should turn his attention to the development of inner substance, not to flashy exhibition, and Holding Back gives him enough pause to concentrate on the development of that substance and enough strength to attend to present necessities.

A man is often led by strong emotional feelings, whether of anger or indignation, to make a point or to clarify an issue. But following such inclinations at an unfavorable time promises little postive gain. Instead, it results in a wasting of effort and resources in the hope of the most fleeting of chances for successful accomplishment. This is an unnecessary waste, especially at a time when resources are thin. Therefore, Holding Back is suitable for the time and permits an emphasis on things that really matter, such as the development of one's character.

The Lines
1. [9] It is noble and good to help those in need, but it ceases to be so if you injure yourself by giving too much or you injure the other person by depleting their self-reliance. This requires careful consideration to strike the right balance.

2. [9] To give beyond your capacity is no virtue. To destroy yourself to benefit someone else is to do injury to a highly deserving person--yourself! Such over-giving does more harm than good, even to the recipient.

3. [6] A beneficial relationship is on a one-to-one basis and does not involve a third person. To bring in a another person (or a group of persons) is to destroy the intimate bonds of confidentiality. Communication on personal matters should be conducted privately, when a person is alone.

4. [6] Potential friends and companions are often turned away by a man's faults. If he makes a conscious effort to overcome these, it will make it easier for others to associate with him. Pleasant manners attract pleasant people.

5. [6] There are times when the forces of nature move in a favorable direction. Such times are beyond the control of man. When fate decrees good fortune, no opposition to it can be sustained.

6. [9] A man who works for the benefit of all mankind attracts the blessings of Heaven. His efforts draw to him favorable circumstances and helpful people. Every gain he receives is a gain for everyone else.


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