Teddy Roosevelt once said, “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 strive 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 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.”
This inspirational quote forgets one thing though- next to the man who failed daring greatly, is a person who did not fail; who strove to do great deeds and succeeded. Why were his deeds so much better than the man that failed? Further than that, who was the judge of these great deeds? Why was their word given the final say? Are you really just the first loser to someone better?
Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the triumph of your deeds should not be determined by the accolades or recognition you receive.
People are not equal.
Yes, we all have God-given rights, but we, as unique individuals can never be equals. That is both an ignorant and naïve view that attempts to justify why some people succeed and fail. It is trying to force people to conform to a standard of comparison hidden behind a noble and impassioned cry of justice.
We all have different gifts and to say that my gift of playing piano by ear is equal to someone who is tone-deaf is ludicrous. To measure my music talent on the same scale as a dancer is wrong. They are not artistic equals!
However, this does not mean my music is better than dancing.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” The credit belongs to you who are trying, who are challenging yourself.
Do not let just anyone have the privilege of defining the value of what you do.
You are a unique person. You can do things your own way and they might be terrible or amazing. Either way, there is only one person who decides whether you triumph or fail- you.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Do your actions result love for yourself and others? Do they bring joy and peace? Do you show kindness and goodness to all people? Are you faithful in your commitments? Are your actions gentle? Do you exercise self-control in your interactions and decisions?
This is the measure for your deeds. Not the critic. Not the other man in the arena who seemingly did not fail. Not the judges who did not see the true value of your deeds.
Whether you succeed or fail, do not be a cold or timid soul who refrains from doing deeds of great worth because of fear.
Innately, I am a cold and timid soul. I hate being rejected, being told that my best isn’t good enough, especially when I know that what I offered had value. Fear of failure keeps so many from trying.
But only they can be the true judge of whether they actually failed.
I may be a cold and timid soul, but I’m slowly but surely getting warmer and bolder. This week I failed. I got rejected. I bled ink. I was mad and slightly bitter.
Then the next day came. I woke up and remembered that what I had written was worth it. What I had offered was good. It had value. Being rejected was ok. I wasn’t beaten. I just bled a little in that arena of those who are constantly failing and succeeding. The bleeding hurt, but next time, the value might be seen. Next time, it might not, and I will bleed some more.
But there will be a next time.
The value of what I do, the value of who I am is not to be determined by men. My value is validated by the Lord Himself, who said “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). He knows the exact number of hairs I have on my head. He has the grains of sand counted and the stars in the sky numbered, yet God knows me and values me.
You, valuable one who is loved by God, have great worth. And so do your deeds, no matter who judges them or compares them.
Keep fighting in that arena where great deeds come to light. But if you fail while daring greatly, remember that you did not truly fail.