If IV

Here we’ve come to it, the finale of our “If” series. Kipling sums up his poem of exhortation to his son in this final stanza.


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!


Before we discuss this last part of If let’s look over the previous three stanzas.

underfire

Source – captainsjournal.com

In the first stanza he tells us to keep a clear head, to continue doing what we need to despite what others say about us or to us. In addition, we need to watch that we don’t misstep by putting on airs and offending others with arrogance.

daydream

Source – telegraph.uk

In the second stanza he says that you need to be careful about letting your dreams and thoughts dominate your real world. He cautions about your words and work, and how they may not always be held as pure as you would hope. Even when those words are twisted, and the work is destroyed, keep heart and stand fast.

race

Source – thewellnessbucket.com

In the third stanza he commends taking healthy risk with your money, to chance it all in one shot of “Pitch and toss.” If you lose keep it to yourself and move on. Endure the difficult situations no matter how hard, how much, they hurt, push forward as long as you have the will.

Solomon's court

Source – wikipedia

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch

This is line I will always remember from this poem. If you look at the politicians of today, you can see the application of these lines. People that spend too much time with the masses lose their uniqueness. The bourgeoisie king, Louis Philippe, did nothing to distinguish himself as king. He treated himself as the common people with a bowler hat and umbrella. This may sound like a good idea; but it had disastrous consequences, leading to the abdication of Louis Philippe in 1848.
Here is the reversal though, one cannot spend too much time with the kings so that they lose their “common touch.” I find there are few things sadder than when a person becomes so wrapped up with their world that they loose connections with the real people that made their power possible: An aliment that afflicts many CEOs and politicians alike.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
It is easy to imagine an enemy wounding you, but what about a friend? Sometimes the most constant injuries come from our closest friends. To a degree, that’s good; but you need to keep yourself hardened enough that you don’t let it bug you. Thin skin leaves you bleeding often.

If all men count with you, but none too much;
You want people to like you, you want them to consider you one of them, but not to be indistinguishable. Kipling was a part of a society that believed in classes, and recognized a difference between the great and the normal, you cannot become great if you are simply “one of the group,” with no qualities of your own.

run

Source – blog.sourcemetrics.com

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run

Time is the one thing we can’t make more of, and it’s constantly draining away. We don’t have to look at that as a negative, but you need to put the full effort into every minute, making every one worthwhile.

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

Here it is, what everything Kipling wrote led up to! The prize for succeeding in every trial, conquering every “If” that presents itself. When you pass the tests that life presents, yours is the earth. Your character has been proven beyond doubt. When you reach that point, as a man or a woman, you can do whatever you put your hands to. For Kipling, this was his admonition to his son, to tackle the “If’s” and prove his manhood by conquering them as a man should.

Here it is, we have conquered the If in our own little way. What are you going to do about conquering the “If’s” in your life?  Feel free to leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

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