This first stanza from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” speaks to a concept that has been romanticized through the ages and idealized, perhaps almost to the point of practical obsolescence: honor. The actions we take reflect our personal belief systems, insecurities, strengths, and flaws. Yet, those same actions, when immersed in the waters of perseverance, wisdom, dignity, compassion, and humility can transform us into influential figures able to deeply impact those around us.
The ways in which we can realize such a transformation are not secrets. Work hard. Speak the truth. Admit when you are wrong. Treat others with respect. Such tenants and many others have been present for millennia, but admittedly, it can be far easier to discuss elements that lead to upright moral character and conceptualizations of virtue than to actually embody them.
There is something profound about being able to center yourself internally, so that you are firmly grounded in the knowledge of who you are and what beliefs you represent. I have come to think that if “trying” admits the significant possibility of failure then I shall instead speak of “doing my best.” If I am honestly doing my best, then the likelihood of failure is reduced and it becomes a game of striving to reach ever greater heights. Also, it gives me a measure by which I am able to hold myself accountable and tangibly see areas in which I can improve myself.
These acts of modest self improvement will certainly be of benefit to my community and my social circles, but they will also allow me to hopefully one day meet the best version of myself simply by looking into the mirror.
Kipling, R. (1943). If. Retrieved from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46473/if—