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Comparison of Daoism and Confucianism

Wuwei is one of the central concepts in Daoist teachings and describes the proper way of living. Literally translated to “effortless action” or “action without strain,” it refers to doing things without needless over-complication and exertion (Molloy, 2020, p. 209). As such, it is directly related to being in harmony with Heaven. Daoism prompts people to live in accordance with nature and avoid artifice. It uses the examples of the natural world to demonstrate how its creatures exist in accordance with heavenly order and stresses that humans should aim for the same harmony. This is where its major difference with Confucianism is because the latter interprets the heavenly order in social rather than natural terms. According to Confucius, the proper way of pursuing harmony is by maintaining social relations, such as those within the family or the polity (Molloy, 2020). Consequently, Confucianism puts a strong emphasis on formal education for training in virtue, while Daoism rejects it because it goes against effortlessness and spontaneity (Molloy, 2020). Thus, while both teachings stress following the correct path – or Dao – they assign different meanings to it.

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As a registered nurse, one would have to say that Daoist principles are more applicable in professional life. Firstly, the idea of living in harmony with oneself and not overexerting one’s organism in pursuit of worldly goals aligns closely with the goals of healthcare (Molloy, 2020). Secondly, sharing the Daoist worldview seems to be beneficial to mental health and stability as well. Chang et al. (2021) note that Daoist healthcare workers were less likely to experience mental distress during the days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, Daoism may also be useful in preventing professional burnout, which is a considerable risk in nursing.


Chang, M.-C., Chen, P-F., Lee, T.-H., Lin, C.-C., Chiang, K.-T., Tsai, M-F., Kuo, H.-F., & Lung, T-W. (2021). The effect of religion on psychological resilience in healthcare workers during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 628894. Web.

Molloy., M. (2020). Experiencing the world’s religions (8th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

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