The Character of - If


When I was a small child of eleven years old, before the internet became available, I came across a poem called ‘If’ written by Rudyard Kipling in 1895. Even though it is a poem that pertains to any age group, I considered it at the time to being applicable to those that had experienced much in life. My life’s experiences were still few at such a young age, but I felt compelled to buy this poem written on a poster, and I kept it in my ‘treasure’ box.

Over the years when the challenges of life left me feeling unsure or battle weary, I would pull out this poster, and ponder on the words and messages contained within. It would always amaze me that no matter the situation, I could not only find comfort and inspiration from the words, but also renewed ‘strength of purpose’ for life in general. Everyone will find their own interpretation from this poem, but I believe most people will agree that it also contains a blue print for that good old fashioned quality, called – character!


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
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:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

– Rudyard Kipling

© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.