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Finding Integrity and Grown-up Behavior In an Old Poem

Korbin Weber at Holy in the Daily
Korbin Weber doing the important job of growing up

Years ago my mother had me memorize certain poems with the hope they would inspire integrity and grown-up behavior. Memorizing poetry was a common tool in child rearing during my mother’s generation, slowly lost in mine, and pretty much nonexistent in most parents’ toolboxes today. However, I did pass my mother’s wisdom on to my children by requiring the same memory work from them that I had endured.

A memorized poem turns into a valuable asset when the Spirit Holy wants to bring a line or two to your attention in situations needing grown-up behavior. If, by Rudyard Kipling, is one such poem.

“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 imposters 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!

What memorized poem influences your life?


In Him together, Susan Gaddis

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Daniella

    This is one of my favorite poems… chock full of wisdom and good rules to live by. And this generation hasn’t completely lost it: my kids are currently memorizing “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” for the 4th of July!

    My mom had me memorize lots of silly poems (“My Little Shadow” comes to mind often as the kids follow me through my daily routines). I’m glad they weren’t all silly, though, because she taught me Psalm 91 when I was very young, and it is certainly hidden in my heart, surfacing at just the right time when I need a reminder of how near my God is to me!

  2. Jeanette Morris

    I memorized dozens of nursery rhymes and Bible verses and even some rather impressive selections such as the Gettysburg Address, the Preamble to the US Constitution, and my home phone number (Dickens 41365). Only baby boomers will understand the prefix as a word, I suppose. But to be serious, I grew up in a church that sang hymns. Part of my piano lessons included a song from the hymnal. Needless to say, I saw and sang those words hundred of times in my youth, and still know the words by heart–some all the verses–to many. Comes in real handy when the eyesight starts to dim, or when the desire to worship straight from the heart crosses with the opportunity to sing words that are ingrained into my soul. In my current place of service and care for my parents, I am often singing “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen In Me”…

  3. Melissa Chavez

    “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
    ~ John Donne

  4. Lilly Green

    I did a lot of memorizing, but not all were as inspiring as “If.” “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me / And what can be the use of him is more than I can see / He is very very like me . . . etc.” How about “The road was a ribbon of moonlight . . . and the highwayman came ridind, riding, riding / The highwayman came ridng up to the old inn door.” 🙂 In my one-room school in the country (yes, one-rrom!), we memorized prayers, Scripture, poems, and counties–lots of stuff. Amazing how it stays with you. Ontario countries: Renfrew, Pembroke, Lanark, Perth, Carelton, Ottawa, etc. 🙂

  5. Lilly Green

    Excuse typos!

  6. Susan Gaddis

    What a diversity of poetry! Ontario no less, Lilly. I think I’m doing well to know the name of my own county. But I do remember my childhood phone number-489-3794. I never knew when the line would be free as it was shared with the neighbors who lived out in the wilds with us. Woops–I’m telling my age again.

  7. Lilly Green

    And wasn’t it fun and sneaky to listen in on party-line calls. I still remember our number, too. Until my folks moved in with my sister, it was forever HE-2-2072 (HE = Hemlock), later to become 432-2072. Talk about old!

  8. Susan Gaddis

    It was fun and sneaky, Lilly. Guilty as charged! Party lines made country life interesting and are the reason gossip spread like wild fire.

  9. Melissa Chavez

    Party lines…that was right after cave drawings, right?

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