A fathers lesson

When we look back into the past there is so much that people have done to us and we have done to other people. But what changes you is by looking at the past and seeing how you can change the future.

Firstly before we get into that is something that went through my mind on a daily basis.

My father made me memorize this poem because it explained the virtues of a man. It didn’t make sense to me at the time but it does now.

The poem is IF by Rudyard Kipling.

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!
My father spent a long time explaining the meaning behind the poem.  My father’s interpretation of the poem is that it is a didactic poem.
The author of the poem is trying to teach lessons about life. The speaker in the poem is instructing his son on what to do and not do to obtain or inherit the earth while he becomes a man.

The speaker uses seemingly contradictions of ideas, yet the paradox of ideas works:

Kipling creates a paradox (the combination of mutually exclusive ideas that, while seemingly contradictory, serve to make a point in their contradiction) that is characteristic of the tone of the entire poem.

If the son can have self-control along with his self-confidence, he will be the wiser and inherit the earth. If the son can have patients and “If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,” then you will inherit the earth. If the son can rise above the fact of losing it all and having to begin again, then the son can inherit the earth:

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:

If the son can hold on when all in him says to let go, then the son can inherit the earth:

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!”

Truly, the poem “If” is a lesson about what is important in life. It teaches the son that there are some things worth fighting for. It teaches the son that self-control and the will to hold on will make him a winner.

If the son can learn to be humble in all walks of life, he will inherit the earth and become a man. If the son can learn to not allow friends nor foes to hurt him, he will be a strong man:

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!

No doubt, Kipling’s message is to learn to make the best out of life. Having all of the qualities and characteristics mentioned in the poem will make a man out the son and he shall inherit the earth.

Truly, the overall theme is one of manhood and leadership. The speaker is teaching his son what it takes to become a man. He also emphasises that his son will inherit the earth if he learns the valuable instruction of the poem.

Perhaps I didn’t really listen to my father when growing up but as I read the poem now I can see where he was trying to steer me.

Maybe if I had listened to him a little more I wouldn’t have been in so much trouble growing up.