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Man in the Arena

I’ve kind of had my rear end kicked by life over the past few days. I’ve had what feels like an unreasonable amount of criticism pouring in from all quarters, pecking away at my good vibes around my service work. I’ve begun to feel a bit like Elphaba in “Wicked”, lamenting that no good deed goes unpunished. My unfolding persecution complex sent me scurrying back to something that always lifts me up – the wonderfully honest work of Brené Brown and Theodore Roosevelt.

It’s an interesting world in which the presentation of a modern day qualitative researcher on vulnerability and creativity collaborates actively with a speech given on April 23, 1910 by the 26th president of the United States. But it turns out that Brené Brown has had her rear end kicked by life a time or two, and on a much grander public scale than I can even imagine. Brené found her anchor in this quote from Roosevelt’s speech:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I know that I need to develop a much thicker skin in order to be ready for ministry. Part of that thick skin, I think, has to do with realizing that living life out loud means that I AM going to have my butt kicked now and then. As a creative (a songwriter, a musician, a designer, a writer), I lay my heart out in public every day. There will be some people who step on it. It’s inevitable. But I have to follow Brené’s wise example here – if you’re not in the arena with me, putting something of yourself on the line, I can’t get too wrapped up in your opinion. The worst that can happen to me is not risking the rejection of someone who strikes out, not realizing how hurtful those words can be. The worst thing for me would be to hold back a portion of myself out of fear, to find myself among those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. If I fail, WHEN I fail, I will do so while daring greatly.

(With big thanks and liberal credit going to Brené Brown and President Theodore Roosevelt)

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