5 of Swords – Conflict

A man holding three swords – with two more lying at his feet – looks smugly over his shoulder at two men who are walking away from him, their bodies slouched. The jagged thunderbolt-like clouds in the back ground add to the atmosphere of hostility. Such a scene leaves no doubt that the 5 of Swords is about conflict. A person who receives this card in a reading is asked to consider all aspects of conflict – its cause, the attitude with which it is being addressed, and the consequences of such attitude and resulting actions.

Conflict arises when our self-interests are at odds with others. Thus, when we find ourselves engaged in conflict, the first thing we must do is determine whether our self-interest is a product of self-preservation or selfishness. Are we fighting and debating due to a necessity to assert our independence or to preserve justice? Or are we demanding more than our fair share?

If we are certain that our cause is just and the only way to uphold or values and dignity is to engage in conflict, then we must do so with great care. We need to be mindful of how we proceed, especially in situations where we are fighting to defend an unpopular opinion or to gain an outcome that would result in someone else’s loss. Understand that, even if we win the battle, we risk damaging social relations and isolating ourselves.

In addition to care, we must fight with integrity. The protagonist shown in the 5 of Swords appears arrogant and mean. It’s as though the thing he enjoys most is the act of defeating others and seeing his opponents’ humiliation. This attitude is shameful; arrogance is the crown of the petty.

Furthermore, it is unclear whether this person won fairly and honestly. Seeing that no one appears to be injured and the swords seem unscathed, it’s possible that the others have walked away from him because they sensed that no fair fight can be had. For the morally upright, even winning in such a scenario is a lost. Those of noble hearts and minds know that getting one’s way by cheating and causing unnecessary harm to others is not the same thing as winning.

Lastly, all wins are fragile unless peace can be maintained. If the environment is hostile, winning secures little more than temporary satisfaction. For just as we win against our opponents today, our victory can be taken away from us by someone else tomorrow. Thus, fight only when necessary and, even then, only for what we need. Be humble when we win and graceful when we lose. Most importantly, be farsighted; think not only of the immediate win, but how to maintain our gains afterwards in a truly sustainable manner.


Hexagram 6 – Dispute

The hexagram of Dispute shows Heaven above Water. Externally, one is strong but internally, one is filled with dangers arising from discontent. When people are dissatisfied and is convinced of their own strength and righteousness, dispute ensues.

The I Ching says holding firmly to our beliefs even if it results in dispute is good, but only up to a certain point. After making our own desires and point of view known, our focus should switch from arguing to seeking common grounds. To fight to the bitter end by refusing to let go of our sense of grievance will result in harm, not only to ourselves, but also the outcome we hope to achieve.

The best way to approach a dispute would be to avoid it altogether by thorough planning and consideration to all parties involved at the beginning of any endeavor. Good warriors can win wars but great warriors avoid it in the first place because they understand that complete victory is seldom possible. Finding ways to compromise isn’t cowardly; rather, it reflects courage and wisdom by valuing peace above self.

Six on line 1:

Work cannot be accomplished if the parties involved cannot get along. While it is important that opinions can be freely expressed, communication breaks down when everything becomes an argument. When working as a team, all members are responsible for making genuine efforts towards consensus. We all must learn to compromise on small matters; no great work is possible if we can’t even get past the small stuff.

Nine on line 2:

There are disputes that just can’t be won. Under such circumstances, the best thing to do is to retreat. Walk away from hostile environments and go where we can find support from our peers. Arguing is exhausting; let our friends and family remind us not everything has to be fought for.

Six on line 3:

Winning a dispute because of inherited powers or because we happen to be in favour of those who are powerful is not ideal. Such victories are not secure and cannot be relied upon. When we contend, our arguments should be based upon sound reasoning and a righteous cause. If we have these things on our side, we need not rely on powers or favours.

Nine on line 4:

There will be many times in our lives when we can’t win an argument simply because we are in the wrong. Being wrong does not make us stupid – stubbornly refusing to admit our errors is what makes us so. Being able to see beyond our own point of view and genuinely changing our hearts in order to adhere to truth will lead to both good fortune and wisdom.

Nine on line 5:

There are times when disputes are good. These are the times when we debate in order to gain a better understanding of others’ perspectives. The more we understand people who think differently from ourselves, the more likely peace can be achieved.

Line on line 6:

Engaging in dispute for winning’s sake is futile. If it’s a trophy that we seek, then we live in constant fear that the trophy can be taken away from us. There is no such thing as an everlasting win when we fight for our egos.



Fighting almost never result in perfect endings. More often, we lose something along the way even if we are declared the victors in the end. As such, it should be avoided whenever possible.

Unfortunately, there are times when we must fight to survive or to defend what is important to us. During such times, we must fight with integrity. When engaged in a fight, we must act with an intention of ending the conflict as quickly as possible and with the least amount of damage to all parties. Furthermore, we should not fight for the sake of winning but to achieve something worthy.