Monday, July 5, 2010

"If" by Rudyard Kipling (Part 3)

I love the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling . . . thirty-two lines of wisdom that provide possibly the best instruction in manliness (why not womanliness, too?) written by a father to his son. The father concludes that if  his son will assimilate this good advice into his conduct, then

"Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!"
Today we're looking at the next four lines, as follows:

"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."
Let's flesh this out with some biblical wisdom.
Wait? Who likes to wait? Certainly in our era of instant gratification, most moderns find waiting tedious at best.  Waiting can actually be a good thing:
  • it gives us time to clear our head and plot a course of action that will work. Rather than simply having a knee-jerk reaction, we can be purposeful, and
  • it gives us time to renew our strength so that when we must act, we will have the power to do so.
Knowing that waiting can be a good thing and yet not chafing against it--not being tired by waiting--is a mark of maturity and a sign of manhood. Waiting on the Lord is a sign of wisdom: those who do gain renewed strength and stamina.
Who likes being lied about? We get in enough trouble on our own without having people lie about us, don't we? We want others to have a good opinion of us and we resent it when someone distorts our image. The temptation is to strike back--perhaps even lie about the other person to make him look bad. The mature person does not sink to this level.

When people lie about you, they either are guilty of passing on inaccurate information they've heard (gossip, slander) or they are purposely bearing false witness against you. Either way, they are sinning against God's commandments and come under His judgment. Understanding that God leaves no unconfessed sin unpunished, allows you to "take the high road" and wait for God to take appropriate action even when the lie stings.
Who likes being hated? We are social beings. God made us that way from the beginning, noting that it was not good that man should be alone. As social beings, we've learned that life works best when everyone tries to get along. Occasionally, an event or personality conflict will lead to hatred expressed toward another human being. Perhaps you have felt the oppressive hatred of someone else.

You can counter this hatred by:
  • hating them back, thereby stirring the pot and making things worse, or by
  • committing yourself to God who knows the facts and who judges righteously.
Committing yourself to God is a sign of maturity and, once again, involves waiting for God to act at the proper time.

Taking the high road in all these instances could lead to a sense of superiority:
"Too bad others can't be as mature as I am." 
But this verse ends with the admonition to be humble:  
"don't look too good, nor talk too wise."

Who likes to be humble? Being humble goes against the grain. From childhood many of us developed a desire to be noticed. "Hey, look at me!" We loved it when our parents stopped everything to notice and applaud any little thing we did. 

Trouble is, some of us never grew up.

When Jesus came into the world to save the likes of you and me, He humbled Himself. And we, His followers, are told to have the mind of Christ, to let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit but in lowliness of mind let each of us esteem others better than himself.

Being humble is a sign of maturity and confidence in the goodness of God, waiting on Him to lift us up in due season.

If you can do all these things--all of which involve waiting on God--you will have accomplished the third of many challenges this earthly father has put to his son. Keep it up and you are on your way to being a man, or woman, the Father can be proud of.

Tomorrow we'll look at dreams and thoughts . . . .

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