Even with attentive families, supportive churches and other communities, sometimes a disconnect occurs and life veers off course.

One of the first poems to draw me into the work of Emily Dickinson many years ago was “Growth of Man — like Growth of Nature —” because it says how to hold on in times of trouble and confusion.

If I want to achieve personal goals, love more selflessly, improve my earning power, become more responsible, or whatever I need, to be the best person I can be, what do I need to do? 

Growth of Man — like Growth of Nature — 

Gravitates within — 

Atmosphere, and Sun endorse it — 

But it stir — alone — 


Each — its difficult Ideal

Must achieve — Itself — 

Through the solitary prowess

Of a Silent Life — 


Effort — is the sole condition — 

Patience of Itself — 

Patience of opposing forces — 

And intact Belief — 


Looking on —  is the Department

Of its Audience — 

But Transaction — is assisted

By no Countenance — 

The first stanza reminds me that no matter what is going on, good or bad, I must accept my aloneness if I am to “grow.” Then, it says to get clear about what I would look like if I was perfect, a “difficult Ideal”. Repeating the theme of established solitude as a prerequisite for personal progress, the second stanza moves into the third, having established the building blocks.  “Effort” is one more layer of the conditions I must have before another one, patience. Not patience toward others, but of myself, which re-emphasizes the fact that this is an inside job. Inside my own mind and heart. 

The big one, the most important building block I need for improving myself and learning to be my best is at the end of the third stanza: “intact Belief” in my ideal and in the conditions laid out in the poem.  Whatever else others have to contribute, they are simply onlookers in the drama of personal growth.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way