“Adulation and condemnation are both imposters.”
In 1895, the Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling composed the poem “If-,” which later went on to become one of the most popular poems in Great Britain.
In it, he etched the famous words:
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.
If you’re aware of the full poem, and reading it not through a 19th Century lens but a 21st Century lens, you’ll know that its strength is the inspiration of reality upon all the tests of life; that if we respond with poise no matter what happens then we’ll have proven ourselves to be everything we can be.
Whether it’s triumph or disaster, we’re to respond the same. Now, we can all appreciate the merit in the idea, but implementing this advice in loss would seem almost the impossible concept — yet, because Kipling has envisioned it, and the fact that we can resonate with its truth, we know the idea is possible and therefore, for our own sakes and for the sakes of those we care about, we ought to endeavor to go that way.
Now, here’s a but . . .
I’ve completely skipped over the idea of how to respond to triumph, i.e., in the same way as the response to a disaster. Such an idea is unconscionable. Basically nobody laments victory. Just as nobody celebrates loss.
The celebration of victory leads to the need of relinquishing that glory when all the excitement dies down, just as the lament of loss necessitates an evening of recovery eventually.
The quote above by Karl Faase reminded me of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, and the wisdom is of a similar nuance.
We’re to have the same zeal for poise in the ‘triumph’ of adulation as we are during the ‘disaster’ of condemnation. This brings the extremities of typical response back to the midpoint on a continuum.
We’re not as some people think we are, and we’re not as bad as others might think.
This is about holding a kind of philosophy of oneself that is beyond both effects for people’s critique and applause. It doesn’t treat the person delivering either as the imposter, but it sees what the typical responses reveal in the heart — that I’m better than I am or worse than I am; both are lies.
The response that meets disaster and condemnation the same as triumph and adulation is the spirit of Christ. This spirit knows that pride is as much a foe as self-deprecation. While they may be expected responses, neither are helpful.
We’re invited into something better.
That ‘better’ is the prayer of the heart that anticipates there are highs and lows in life; that if a low can be met with the realism that “this won’t crush me,” then the high can be met with an equally poised, “this too shall pass.”
And it just may be that when we’re condemned, we might hold out hope that we might win back that one through the grace of Christ, that hurt won’t be redoubled on hurt. And hazard to say, it could also mean that we won’t meet condemnation with condemnation.
We would never consider those who always admire us as foes, but their constant adulation is actually not healthy for us.
It’s often those who carry some resistance and who may be critical that may share the same goal, and as iron sharpens iron, we’re wise to humbly consider the kernel of truth in their critique. Hard as that is for any of us, it’s not impossible.
Remember, as the peacemakers say, “Conflict is an opportunity.”
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework