Notes politics Psychology

Law 22: Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 22: Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power

A man who had climbed upon a certain fig tree, was bending the boughs toward him and plucking the ripe fruit, which he then put into his mouth to destroy and gnaw with his hard teeth. The chestnut, seeing this, tossed its long branches and with tumultuous rustle exclaimed: “Oh Fig! How much less protected by nature you are than I. See how my sweet offspring are set in close array; first clothed in soft wrappers over which is the hard but softly lined husk. And not content with this much care, nature has also given us these sharp and close-set spines, so that the hand of man cannot hurt us.” Then the fig tree began to laugh, and after the laughter it said: “You know well that man is of such ingenuity that he will bereave even you of your children. But in your case he will do it by means of rods and stones; and when they are felled he will trample them with his feet or hit them with stones, so that your offspring will emerge from their armor crushed and maimed; while I am touched carefully by his hands, and never, like you, with roughness”  

Leonardo Davinci

Sometimes, surrender is the best strategy. If your enemy is stronger than you, it is best to withdraw from confrontation, and wait until you have the advantage.

Melos is a Mediterranean island that was first colonized by the Spartans. During the Peloponnesian war, the Melians refused to ally themselves with the Athenians. In 416 B.C, the Athenians tried to persuade the Melians to surrender and become an ally, before attacking them.


The Athenian delegation explained that the strong have no choice but to rule the weak and the weak have no choice but to accept their fate. They told the Melians that power was all that mattered and that justice would be decided by the one who has the ability to compel.

The Melians complained that this violated fair play, and that only the gods have the authority to make such decisions. They refused to surrender and insisted that the Spartans would defend them. But the Athenians pointed out that the Spartans were practical and would not take such a risk.

In response, the Melians spoke of honor and principles. These platitudes seemed silly to the pragmatic Athenians, who perfectly understood the foolishness of holding onto these ideals in the face of danger. But the Athenian delegation could not persuade the Melians despite their best efforts. Their offer was declined.

A few days later, Melos was overtaken by the Athenians in a difficult battle. The Spartans did not come to rescue the Melians. When the Melians finally surrendered, their men were killed, and their women and children were sold as slaves. The Athenians repopulated the island and only a few Melians survived.

No one helps the weak. The practical minded Athenians knew this, they knew that the Melians would fight alone. Weakness can be a strength if used properly. Had the Melians surrendered, they could have discovered a way to sabotage the Athenians. Fortunes change with times, and the mighty are eventually brought down. Instead, the Melians were impatient, and chose martyrdom.

Voltaire was living in exile in London at a time when anti-French sentiment was at its highest. One day walking through the streets. he found himself surrounded by an angry crowd. “Hang him. Hang the Frenchman,”they yelled. Voltaire calmly addressed the mob with the following words: “Men of England’ You wish to kill me because I am a Frenchman. Am I not punished enough in not being born an Englishman?” The crowd cheered his thoughtfill words, and escorted him safely back to his lodgings.

The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes

The Japanese were forced to engage in foreign trade in the 19th century if they wanted to remain independent. But they knew how to use their surrender as a strength. They copied foreign nations and repaired their shortcomings. Eventually they would play an instrumental role in global economics, and the world appreciated the benefits of maintaining peace with Japan. This protected the country from harm, and this success was possible only through initial surrender.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let them have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Jesus Christ, in Matthew 5:38-41

Read The 48 Laws of Power

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.