Tao Te Ching

Know That You Do Not Know

Lessons from the Tao Te Ching, Verse 71

Darren Stehle
2 min readNov 13, 2020



What you believe you know can be questioned.

What you are certain you know may be a mistake; a fault of logic.

Even what you think you know may be challenged with new information, a clearer perspective, a better understanding.

Knowing that you are right is arrogance.

Thinking that you know what you know with absolute certainty is based on the egotistical fear of being wrong, not smart enough, or unwilling to challenge your thinking.

When you know that you do not know, and when you know that you are ignorant, you accept with humility the clarity that comes from detachment.

Holding on to an idea or a way of thinking because it’s what you have always done does not make it right or valid.

Being attached to an idea because it is something you were taught to believe displays blindness for having never asked why you hold that belief to be true.

When you recognize that knowledge is based on asking questions and fluid viewpoints, you allow for the self-awareness of ignorance — therefore, you do not assume you are correct.

If you are the cause of a problem or at fault for your way of thinking — when you know that you do not know — you have the integrity to self-correct and rectify the situation.

Thus, knowledge is not power.

“Not-knowing is true knowledge.”*

Knowing that you do not know is power and freedom.

Listen to the expanded discussion of this article on the Think Queerly Podcast

*Mitchell, Stephen, translator. “Verse 71.” Tao Te Ching: a New English Version, HarperCollins, 1998.



Darren Stehle

Thinking Partnership Coach for Queer Change-Makers. I write about: actionable self-mastery; morals & ethics; LGBTQ+ rights & advocacy. DarrenStehle.com.