“After settling a great dispute
There must be remaining resentments
How can this be considered good?
Therefore, the sage holds the left part of the contract
But does not demand payment from the other person
Those who have virtue hold the contract
Those without virtue hold the collections
The Heavenly Tao has no favorites
It constantly gives to the kind people”TTC 79 (Lin)
In Derek Lin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, he notes in this chapter that the holding of the contract is about the way agreements were made in Lao Tzu’s time. They would write a contract on the left piece of wood and the collection agreement on the right.
When it was time for payment, the collection agreement was brought to the party’s door that needed to pay.
So, what Lao Tzu is saying is that regardless of payment or not, the virtuous hold to the left contract, meaning they give without thought of repayment.
Like the Tao of Heaven, which gives without thought of what it is getting in return, giving freely of oneself is the way of the Tao.
Only doing things to get something in return is to be without virtue.
When I really feel this in my life is when I begin to do things without motive, without some contrived end in mind. I can be of service to another human being without thinking, “maybe this will make me look good, or that it will advance my career.” Instead, I am of service because service is what I want to do. It no longer is a means to an end but instead becomes an end in itself.