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in: A Man's Life, Manvotionals

September 6, 2008 Last updated: September 21, 2015

Manvotional: “If” by Rudyard Kipling

painting man reading in bed if rudyard kipling

Editor’s Note: Great men before us have penned poems, letters, and essays on what it means to be a man. We want to share with you some of these writings each Sunday in a series called Manvotionals. Each Sunday, we’ll post a short poem, essay, or letter that inspires men to be better men. We’ll look at writings from great men like Shakespeare, Aristotle, and Churchill to see what they said about being men of virtue, honor, and valor. So each week we invite you to grab a mug of coffee, pull up a chair, and immerse yourself in the lost art of manliness.

How do you know when you become a man? Is it when you win your first fight? When you get married? Have kids? “If,” written by manly writer Rudyard Kipling, is an amazingly insightful poem on the attributes of what makes a man a man. Becoming a man isn’t just one event, but rather a series of attributes developed over a lifetime. If only more men desired to obtain these characteristics, the world would be a much better place.


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 all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath 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!