Chapter 58 Transformation according to circumstances

其政悶悶,其民淳淳;其政察察,其民缺缺。禍兮福之所倚,福兮禍之所伏。孰知其極?其無正。正復為奇,善復為妖。人之迷,其日固久。是以聖人方而不割,廉而不劌,直而不肆,光而不燿。

1. The government that seems the most unwise, Oft goodness to the people best supplies; That which is meddling, touching everything, Will work but ill, and disappointment bring.

Misery! — happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness! — misery lurks beneath it! Who knows what either will come to in the end?

2. Shall we then dispense with correction? The (method of) correction shall by a turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn become evil. The delusion of the people (on this point) has indeed subsisted for a long time.

3. Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with its angles); (like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness). He is straightforward, but allows himself no license; he is bright, but does not dazzle.

Derek Lin
When governing is lackluster
The people are simple and honest
When governing is scrutinizing
The people are shrewd and crafty

Misfortune is what fortune depends upon
Fortune is where misfortune hides beneath
Who knows their ultimate end?
They have no determined outcome
Rightness reverts to become strange
Goodness reverts to become wicked
The confusion of people
has lasted many long days

Therefore the sages are:
Righteous without being scathing
Incorruptible without being piercing
Straightforward without being ruthless
Illuminated without being flashy

Peter Merel

When government is lazy and informal
The people are kind and honest;
When government is efficient and severe
The people are discontented and deceitful.
Good fortune follows upon disaster;
Disaster lurks within good fortune;
Who can say how things will end?
Perhaps there is no end.
Honesty is ever deceived;
Kindness is ever seduced;
Men have been like this for a long time.
So the sage is firm but not cutting,
Pointed but not piercing,
Straight but not rigid,
Bright but not blinding.