In Kipling's poem IF, there is this line:

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you

To achieve that, it seems you would have to be so closed off, insulated, and emotionally barricaded that you really couldn't have meaningful relationships at all. Almost necessarily, close friends can hurt you, else they wouldn't be close friends. Is this really what Kipling is advocating?

3 Answers 3


This really depends on how you interpret "harm".

I found a site that interprets the poem a small section at a time. For that line it says:

We should build ourselves strong enough, mentally and physically, so that neither enemies nor loving friends can hurt us. Moreover, we should develop healthy relationship with everyone around us, and should not allow anyone to harm us.

So, on the physical spectrum that would mean making yourself capable of defending your person from physical harm. So, that seems simple enough.

Now, where I think it gets more complicated is with the mental/emotional side. There's plenty of room between making oneself an island, barricading others out and being "adult" enough to take criticism without taking it personally. In my interpretation, the latter is what Kipling is talking about.

I know that I struggle with openly listening to others talk about my faults and what I should improve on. It's so much easier to argue or shut them down or push them out of my life. Being an adult, according to Kipling, involves being able to listen to those statements without being hurt by them and having it impact your relationship with the other person. Letting others be honest with you and accepting it.

There's no indication that one has to accept what is said or change oneself - only that you're open to it.


Joseph Rudyard Kipling (… 30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)[1] was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in India, which inspired much of his work. (From Wikipedia)

Kipling, in the poem IF, seems to me to be advocating for the qualities of some highly idealized Man, perhaps made up of some of the “higher Men” that have lived. If this is the case, then this line reminds me of Buddha, and his teaching of the overcoming of emotions, in the attempt to escape the Wheel of Life. Kipling would have encountered the paradoxes involved in The Buddha’s teachings, and he seems to include some of these in his poem, which ones seem to trouble the person asking the question about this line. If I am right, then Kipling may be stating in this line that the type of Uberman he is visualizing must also deal with the paradoxes involved with being such an idealized type of being.


We should take the hatred in a positive way and learn something from it.We should remain calm and patient in these types of situation

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