If You Can Keep Your Head ... A Poem for Strength When People Disappoint

Words have profound power in our lives. They heal, inspire, teach, convict, encourage or destroy, wound, discourage. deflate. But because I knew that words would speak to my children’s hearts even after I was not with them any more, I made it a habit to see that they memorized significant portions of scripture, poetry, quotations, so that their hearts would hear the words of truth their whole lives. And this is one of my favorite passages we all memorized together.

If you can keep your head when all about you   

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;   

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

~ Rudyard Kipling

This poem, IF, by Rudyard Kipling, is one that I made all of my children memorize--and we reviewed it over and over and over again.

I think this poem is an elongated version of a saying I repeated often: Right is always right even if no one is doing it, wrong is always wrong even if everyone is doing it.

We are called to have a different character, a constant one, one that reflects the very image of Jesus, and yet,

In this crazy world, and especially in this crazy Christian world,

there are many irrational, unloving, critical,

exhausted, weary, discouraged,

immature, mean-spirited, untrained people wandering around. How I have been embarrassed by supposed Christians, even in the past couple of weeks.

I have seen lately, in the lives of my children and friends, them being overcome by some very difficult situations and people who unwillingly become a tool in the hand of Satan to discourage and destroy--faith, heart, and the well-being of others.

And yet, for those of us who have lived long enough, we know that this is the common "tribulation" and stress that Jesus was referring to when he said, "In this world, you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world."

Sometimes we are surprised when the conflict and criticism is most fierce from those who say they believe in Christ. I always thought Christians would have a heart for my imperfect but passionate commitment to Christ and His kingdom. Yet, Christians have been some of my biggest critics. Surprise—even Christians are sinful. And even I am sinful.

And so, if we can keep our heads, know that love covers a multitude of sin, live in grace and know that we and everyone else we will ever know make mistakes on a regular basis,

and live in the liberating grace of the freedom and blessing we find in the abiding love of Jesus,

then we will always, always have peace and always have the ability to keep giving life as He did.

Overcoming evil with good, loving beyond measure, forgiving and being a peacemaker, living with practiced faith, again and again and again,

this is where we become more like Him, our very dear Savior,

and it is where we become true warriors who redeem.

I highly commend this poem, the entire poem be put into the minds and hearts of you and also your children, so that you may have grace in your soul to go to, for facing this world and conquering the challenges that come your way.