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"If" is a father giving advice to his son about how to behave in situations the son will face in the future so as to gain the respect of others and the self-respect that the father wishes for his boy.
The advice is delivered as a whole series of scenarios presented with the usual, common reaction that is generally not positive or constructive, contrasted with the preferred or recommended course of action which may be more difficult but will show more character. In all cases, the father encourages the son to make allowances for the weaknesses of others and to not judge them poorly when they follow the easier course of action.
The poem concludes with the father assuring his son that "If" the son succeeds in following the advice presented as he lives his life, he will gain the respect of others, possessions of "the Earth and everything that's in it," and - most importantly in the father's view, because it would be the best, most positive and fullest realization of the phrase - "you'll be a Man, my son!"
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