The One In the Arena (365 Days of Spirited Living — DAY 348)
“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…”
— Theodore Roosevelt
There are two types of people in the world: spectators and participators. Each group of people can be characterized by two traits. Spectators are those who sit on their hands and wait for the world to change while complaining and grumbling about unfavorable conditions. Participators are those who channel their energy and ability to make some difference around them; they willingly take the hits and blows because they know what they’re fighting for matters. Spectators have no clue as to what it feels like to win or lose. Participators know the feeling of both and that pushes them to keep fighting.
The world is filled with a multiplicity of people in the first category, but many dear and courageous souls are lacking from the second. It is a beautiful hypothetical thought to imagine if every single person in the world actually got just a little bit of courage and got into the arena and fought for something in this life. How many more solutions to problems would be discovered? How much more love would be on display toward each other? There’d be far less critics and far more people seeking to understand.
All of us would know then what it feels like to be battered, bruised, and beaten. But we would also know what it is like to stand, sacrifice and shine. We have enough people fighting for themselves and not enough people fighting for the causes and issues that affect others. It is much more difficult to put your neck or your hand or voice out there on behalf of those who can’t fight, don’t have the courage to get into any arena and don’t even know where to begin if they did. To be less concerned about ourselves and more concerned about the welfare of those around us, whether we know them or not, whether we agree with them or not, whether we even understand them or not, is what it means to be courageous.
Being in the arena means stepping out of your comfort zone. It means facing enemies and critics. It also means painful losses and overwhelming victories. Victory, however, comes in long increments. It is more likely that we come face to face with failure and error more often than we do triumph. But victories accumulate the longer you stay in the arena. No one is more comfortable and at ease in mediocrity than those who sit on the sidelines. It’s not their life on the line; how could they be any other way. It’s easy to judge a book by its cover when you’re not the one who wrote it. The anger seemingly rolls right off a painted spectator’s lips when a ball player makes a bad throw or bad catch or a coach makes a bad call. But you’re not the one with the ball.
When your name and reputation, image and life are not on the line, you can sit with folded arms and a smug attitude, point fingers and blame, claw away at other people’s ability and acumen. Bench warmers, there are plenty lots of them. They don’t know the difference between dust and sweat and blood. To them, it is all the same. And they rarely know what it is like to do a good deed or to strive and work hard and then stumble. Because we learn by doing, not by talking and criticizing but by putting feet to beliefs and perceptions and thoughts, turning mere words into deeds and criticisms into opportunities to do something.
There are plenty of issues in the world awaiting solutions. There are also too many people in the world who do not have a right to sit on their hands but do have a right to get in the arena in some shape or form. For children without homes or families, for abandoned infants, for refugees who have no comfort in country, for adolescents who suffer from heart disease, cancer, leukemia, and a host of other diseases, for people who feel disenfranchised, mistreated and discriminated against, for nations in which hate is the common denominator, for the poor, for the heartbroken, for the misunderstood, for the disabled, for the incapable, for the weak, for the widowed — get in the arena for something, for someone.
You don’t have a right to complain; you do have a right to get out there and do battle. There are enough cynics and critics. There are also enough battles to fight to keep us all busy, to keep us all in the arena, to keep us all spending our time and energy in worthy cases, to keep us all trying, failing, and succeeding, to keep us all knowing what it feels like to take a hit and to keep on going, to keep on daring greatly. It is what gives life meaning. Being willing to sacrifice for someone, for something, no matter the cost is grim and glorious, brutal and beautiful.
“…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…”
— Theodore Roosevelt