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One of my favorite quotes was said by Theodore Roosevelt in his “Man In The Arena” speech from his visit to the Sorbonne in 1910.

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.”

In fact, it’s included in Heart Sisters and I plan to work it in to any book I write in the future because I love it that much.

Recently, I’ve discovered shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown. She also loves this quote and  does a whole teaching on this very topic here.

And like Brene points out, I’ve always thought we shouldn’t really listen to criticism that comes from people who aren’t in the arena.

However, Jason and I were talking about this during the weekend while standing in the kitchen with dogs and children running around and lunch cooking and me unloading the dishwasher and him checking the weather because that’s how it works in our house. Something tells me you might know about this, too.

“Yeah but how do we know who’s in the arena?” my beloved asked.

Good point.

How do we know who’s in the arena?

After thinking pondering this for a while, I arrived here: the people in the arena are different for everyone. And we might have people in one arena that aren’t in others.

For example, the people in my husband’s arena would be fellow dentists and others in the tooth world. He’s also into hiking – so he would have people in that arena, too. And he’s the president of the school board where our children attend so he would have people in this arena as well.

It’s easy to look at a situation and proclaim what we would do or how the person is doing it wrong and they should do _____ instead. I know I’m guilty.

But the thing is . . . Unless we’ve been in that particular arena, we don’t really know. We’re nothing but an armchair quarterback.

The strong man will always stumble. There will always be things we could have done better. We will err. And err again. And again. We will fail. And fail again. And again.

However, if we listen to everyone’s opinion, if we give more value to the haters who are going to hate, if we listen to the loud, clanging gong more than we listen to the soft, steady whispers, then we very well could derail ourselves from a really great mission.

King David had critics. Paul had critics. Mary Magdalene, bless her, had several.

Jesus had critics. Still does.

Those in your arenas will deliver criticism because they love you – not because they are threatened by you. They’ll have an authentic desire to see you succeed, to see you make it, to see you get to the summit of the mountain.

They won’t ever send you hate mail or snarky email messages or utter passive aggressive “suggestions.”

And you’ll recognize them because their faces will also be caked with dust, sweat and blood.

Those are the ones to hear.

Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

– Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)






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