Manvotional: Watch Yourself Go By

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 21, 2010 · 14 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals

Watch Yourself Go By

By: Strickland Gillilan

Just stand aside and watch yourself go by;
Think of yourself as “he” instead of “I.”
Note, closely as in other men you note
The bag-kneed trousers and the seedy coat.
Pick flaws; find fault; forget the man is you,
And strive to make your estimate ring true.
Confront yourself and look you in the eye-
Just stand aside and watch yourself go by.

Interpret all your motives just as though
You looked on one whose aims you did not know.
Let undisguised contempt surge through you when
You see you shirk, O commonest of men!
Despise your cowardice; condemn whate’er
You note of falseness in you anywhere.
Defend not one defect that shames your eye-
Just stand aside and watch yourself go by.

And then, with eyes unveiled to what you loathe,
To sins that with sweet charity you’d clothe,
Back to your self-walled tenement you’ll go
With tolerance for all who dwell below.
The faults of others then will dwarf and shrink,
Love’s chain grows stronger by one mighty link,
When you, with “he” as substituted for “I,”
Have stood aside and watched yourself go by.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gerard March 21, 2010 at 1:13 am

This has become my favorite website. I’m going to take a day to let myself go by.

2 PastorPeter March 21, 2010 at 8:54 am

Wonderful little verse. Thank you for sharing. Lovely.

3 Dave Richardson March 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Enjoyed the poem. The same rule applies to self examination as apply to confession to a priest: be brief, be blunt, be gone.

4 bostonhud March 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I’m a little bit confused- The point is to judge yourself as if you were someone you didnt know. Am I correct? And if so, why does the poet think this is a good idea? Thanks.

5 Brett McKay March 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm


Right-the point is to look at yourself like in the same way you look at strangers, which is to say with a critical eye. We tend to be very critical of others, but very indulgent with ourselves-it’s easy to see the fault in others, but not in ourselves. When you look at yourself the way someone else looks at you, you’ll realize that they would see a lot of faults. And this realization should make you treat others with more tolerance and humility-other people are human and imperfect and struggle just like you, and you should give others the same kind of love and understanding you give yourself. In a nutshell.

6 bostonhud March 21, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Thank you for the clarity.

Would another interpretation be that we should be a bit more hard on ourselves- humble ourselves as well?

7 Core March 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm


8 Brian Wingfield March 21, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Thanks for sharing! This certainly has an effect on our feelings of superiority.
Many thanks for your good work on the AOM.

9 Daniel March 22, 2010 at 7:56 am

Amazing! Nice find, Brett!

10 Tyler Logan March 24, 2010 at 4:42 am

Nice poem. Watch yourself go by, interesting. :)

11 Peter Hutchings March 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm

This is a great viewpoint. It is so difficult for us to find objectivity in today’s consumerist world where everything is for me right now.
So many of the religious moral belief systems allow their members to enter into a kind of moral ivory tower from which they look out upon the world and judge it and its inhabitants negatively. Finding fault with others has made us a nation of bloviating crybabies!
Taking responsibility for one’s self begins with a clear and objective appraisal through watching yourself go by.

12 McRyan March 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I am not sure who originally said this, however Stephen Covey is where I first heard that we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions, oh so true.

13 James P February 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm

This is a great poem….only question: when was it written?

14 Webb June 19, 2013 at 11:46 am

I read this last night in “The Best Loved Poems of the American People.” Just when I thought I had found a great poem that wasn’t on this site, a simple google search has this as the first result.

Well done. You know how to pick them. Would love to see more Manvotionals

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