”If” by Rudyard Kipling presents timeless wisdom given by a father to his son. The poem’s appeal comes from the sincere and warm advice that can apply to anyone’s life. Essentially the poem is a blue print for living a life of humility, integrity, and authenticity. Frequently quoted, the poem begins with these two valued lines:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
Each stanza has a specific type of wisdom to inspire the reader.
Do not give into anger or bitterness.
A person must trust himself but listen and allow room for growth.
Show patience; do not lie or hate. Never brag about your worth or wisdom.
Dream but live in reality.
Think but work as well.
Winning and losing are short-lived. They are not reality and must be valued as such.
Understand that people will not always appreciate your words
Some will try to tear down what you have created; then, you must be able to rebuild your life despite the difficulties.
Sometimes it is worth it in life to take chances and risk everything.
Loss and starting over are a part of life. If there are losses, it is not necessary to talk about it.
Despite weariness and fatigue and age, a person must still uphold his end of the bargain and take responsibility for his actions by never giving up. Persevere.
A man must be able to communicate with anyone whether it is aristocracy or the common man.
Do not allow people whomever they are to hurt you.
All men should matter, but yours is the final say.
Be able to give everything you have so that no one can say that you did not try your hardest.
Make every minute count.
If you live like this, you will inherit the earth and whatever is in it that you desire.
More importantly, people will say of you: This is a man!
The poem is tied together with the repetition of the word “If” and provides the thought provoking messages with each eight line stanza.
Summarized briefly, remain humble, avoid extremes, and enjoy life. Rise above the arguments and find goodness in even the most difficult circumstances. Kipling wanted the reader to think about all the possibilities of life and make the right decisions in each instance.
The poem challenges the reader, whether man or woman, to throw aside the childish ways of handling life. He asks the reader to see the difference between the selfishness of youth and the goals and ambitions of the adult.
Kipling’s poem should be appreciated by even those who do like poetry. This is a poem for the ages!