Horseshoe Bend Grand Canyon

Strength battles Softness—and loses

This entry is part 25 of 33 in the series 99: a journey
A head-and-shoulders picture of Andrew Chirch with water in the background

I’m Andrew Chirch, an Interfaith advisor and coach. 99 is a special weekly podcast series where we meet for 9 minutes to regroup, re-center ourselves, and prepare for the work ahead.

Subscribe here to listen on your favorite podcast app, or you can use the player at the top of this post. A transcript is below.

Do you ever get frustrated because…. well… you have so much… you have all the tools you need, on paper, but in spite of your best efforts, it’s just NOT WORKING!

Today’s episode of 99 is about slowing down and letting things happen when they want to happen. 

You may recognize this message in different forms:

The greatest gift might be the prayer that goes unanswered.

Go with the flow.

Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. 

If you’re like me, you probably have goals. Or at least hopes or aspirations. 

What are those about? – Sometimes they’re like visions of what the world could be like if only this or that thing happened. 

Sometimes, they give us hope and help make sense of our lives – why we spend our time doing this or that. After all, if I don’t have a goal, why do anything at all? 

Alright, so you’re on the path to your goal, everything is moving along according to plan, things are coming together, and then…. POW. Life happens to you out of nowhere. 

What’s that about? 

So much comes up when those “life happens” moments show up for me. (or is it “at” me?) 

I don’t have time for this! 

I’m a good person… why does this have to happen to me? 


Times like this are when I wish life came with an operator’s manual! 

Well, my friend. It does. The hardest part may be choosing the one that works best for you. There are at least a few dozen.

Here’s an entry from one that speaks to our problem:

Verse 43 of the Tao Te Ching says:

The softest thing in the world

Will overcome the hardest.

Non-being can enter where there is no space.

Therefore I know the benefit of unattached action.

The wordless teaching and unattached action

Are rarely seen.

What in the world does THAT mean?!

I find The Tao is a little like tea. It needs to steep for awhile. 

Just take the one sentence – “the softest thing in the world will overcome the hardest.”

Which are you trying to be? 

In my life, when I’m in full-on goal mode, I’m trying to be the hammer –  the motivated, unstoppable force that’s going to change the world!

I’m trying to be the rock. Solid, and immovable. 


Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? Or seen pictures of it? 

The Grand Canyon is one of the wonders of the world and it’s basically rock that’s been worn away by water. 

Hardness that’s been shaped and molded by softness. 

Notice I didn’t say give up. I didn’t say, “don’t try” or “be lazy.” But at the same time, life is not meant to be a constant battle. You know what I mean, because sometimes, maybe every once in a while – or maybe that one special time everything just flowed. You were in the zone, you knew what to say, what to do, things just worked. You felt supported and alive. 

Getting back to the Tao Te Ching, that “go with the flow” thing, it’s real. So many traditions teach us that the Universe or God or Karma sort of has a natural course that wants to happen. Think of it like swimming in a river or a current. Sometimes the water is still and I can go wherever we want with ease. It seems like I’m in complete control… I can move and glide…. 🙂

But when the current picks up it’s a different story. Now the water shows its real power – which is beyond anything I can do. That’s what life is like too. I can choose to fight against the current – it’ll cost me a HUGE amount of energy and strength and for a time, I can hold my position against the water – maybe even swim upstream a little – but only for a time. 

If life wants me downstream, though, I’m going there. Period. End of story. Really the only choice I have is how I arrive. I can wash up on the side broken and bruised and exhausted from fighting. Or – I can choose to go with the flow. Flip over on my back, use my strength to steer the best I can and try to stay away from the big hazards, mostly just enjoying the view and saving my strength for when it matters again. 

Remember who you are. 

Remember what’s really important to you. 

Practice letting go of the rest – at least letting go of the illusion that you have control over what’s happening. 

Show up. Work hard to be right there IN IT… fully present to whatever is happening. 

Do the best you can with what you have and don’t forget to enjoy the view because you won’t always have it. 

You can be a rock, but rocks sink.

Be the water instead. 

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