To Retreat Is to Advance

Scholars seek to expand their knowledge every day. Businesspeople want to make constant profits. No matter their profession, people want to make constant progress. But when dealing with others and handling our affairs, we often need to retreat in order to advance. The following is a poem that describes this philosophy: “As I plant the green seedlings in the field with my hands, I see the sky’s reflection in the water. Having a pure body and mind is the Way, because retreating is how I advance.”

Some pursue fame and fortune relentlessly. They are blind to the pitfalls that lay before them, in which they may fall into. They don’t see the wall in front of them, in which they may run into. But if we understand that retreating is another way to progress, we can simply turn around and take another route. We will find that the world is far more spacious than before. As the saying goes, “By taking one step back, the horizon becomes wider and more open.”

For a person to make their mark in this world, they must be humble and respectful. If they wish to establish a successful career, they should learn to retreat in order to advance. An engine makes use of power when overcoming inertia and pushing forward. Gas becomes more powerful when compressed before releasing. In battle, troops sometimes need to reroute and retreat in order to win. Oftentimes, we need to bow our heads and bend out backs to succeed in what we do.

There is a Chinese saying, “Turn around to find the shore.” It means that to retreat is often the way to advance. Since ancient times, the sages and the capable often retreated from their official positions to wait for the right opportunity to rise. Some of them went into seclusion to wait for the emergence of a wise ruler. Many placed great importance on the need to conceal their abilities and bide their time. Others waited for opportune conditions before they made a move. The honorable and learned figures in history understood the high value of retreating.

There are numerous examples in Chinese history where those who gave up the chances to advance to high positions earned themselves even greater reputation and honor later. They proved that by retreating, they were not left empty-handed, but instead gained much more in the end. In retreating, they achieved greater success.

To advance by retreating is one of the best philosophies to uphold in life. We all pursue a fulfilling life, but if we blindly rush ahead, not knowing when to back off, then we only enjoy half a world. By understanding the philosophy of “to retreat is to advance,” we can elevate and uplift ourselves to living life to the fullest. We should all take joy in retreating.