IF by Rudyard Kipling

Those of you who know me know that I have 3 boys; Cole is 6, Gray is 5, and Westy is 3.

A few weeks ago I bought them a new book by Conn and Hal Iggulden called The Dangerous Book for Boys. We have been reading about the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the 7 Wonders of the Modern World, the 5 Most Famous Battles in History, How to Build a Treehouse, How to Tie a Knot…. You get the picture.

So, one of the chapters is The 7 Poems Every Boy Should Know. And of course one of the 7 poems is IF by Rudyard Kipling (see below). We have read that poem before and we always enjoy it but one evening last week as we read it I was going through an unusually difficult week and some of the ideas of ups and downs and trials of life were more meaningful to me. And as I read I thought about why we read these kinds of poems and stories to our boys – stories of overcoming adversity and being strong in difficult situations – in a society where everyone is striving for happiness and money and easy street. Well, as humans we read these poems because we are realists and we know that life is hard and that we have to prepare our children to go out into a difficult world and face the evil giants and make our way.

But as Christians we read these poems for a much a deeper reason. Yes, we read these poems because it is a difficult world – a fallen world – and we must face it and have courage. But as Christians our end goals is not simply to overcome the difficult world in order to achieve security and happiness. But on this earth, our goal is to “Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever” and if all we ever do in this world is live happy easy lives we probably won’t learn as much as we could or should, we probably won’t grow in our faith the way we could or should, and in short, we will live much less meaningful lives than what God has for us.

So, enjoy this poem for what it is, one of 7 Poems Every Boy Should Know. But when you read it remember that we don’t strive to have courage and be strong just to make it to the end because in many ways as humans – and as Christians – the journey of becoming who God wants us to be is just as important as what we achieve in the end.

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

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