It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of the deeds could’ve 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 at the best knows in the end that triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. – Theodore Roosevelt “Man in the Arena” speech.
“The arena. The place that is surrounded by amphitheater seats for spectators to observe an event at ground level; a place of activity, debate, or conflict. A place where the cheap seats are easy to acquire and to participate in but to be near or on ground level will cost you dearly. Arenas always command grandeur, but an arena for us individually is any moment when or place where we risk showing up or being seen” says Brene Brown in her book Rising Strong. Arenas can be risking looking goofy at a new exercise class, being in love, tough parenting moments, or leading a ministry. If you are living life and participating you will find yourself in all kinds of arenas. We walk in and out of them on the daily if you are truly living and not just sitting on the sidelines. But what do we do when we find ourselves facedown on the arena floor?
Our “facedown” moments can be big ones like getting fired, your teenager sneaking out at night, or finding out about an affair; or they can be small ones like learning a child lied to you about eating all the candy in the jar, experiencing disappointment in ministry or your job, or getting a traffic ticket. It is true that you cannot innovate, learn, venture into a new relationship or create without failure of some sort. When you care enough and dare enough you will find disappointment and be facedown on the arena floor. But how do you pick yourself up off of that floor when the “shouldas” and “couldas” are racing through your mind while shame is heaping judgment on you? Why do some bounce back quickly while others take years to get off the floor?
It’s called resilience. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. The Bible is littered with scripture that points us to respond with resilience. Some examples are Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”, Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”, Micah 7:8 “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” are just a few. Saying that it takes resilience is easier said than it doing it on a lot of occasions.
What does it take to be a person of resilience? According to Brene Brown a researcher of vulnerability and whole hearted living in her book Rising Strong talks about the rising strong process, which take resilience. She says the goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives. She says the process begins with the Reckoning: walking into our story. This step is recognizing emotion, and getting curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave. You have to go beyond I am mad, angry, fearful, or sad. Which is really hard for a lot of people today. We just don’t have emotional vocabulary developed within us because it wasn’t taught to us. Most were taught to stuff their emotions versus exploring them and allowing yourself to feel them and recognize how they are affecting the way we think, react, live, and make judgments. To believe that emotions don’t need to have a place in our life is foolishness on our part. We serve an emotional God who gives us some specific directions about our emotions. He says in Ecclesiastes 3:4 “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”, Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” and Proverbs 15:13 “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” Even in John 11:35 it says “Jesus wept” showing that he gave place for emotions in his life. Recognizing what you are feeling and why is the first step in getting up off the arena floor.
The next step Brene Brown says that happens is what she calls the Rumbling: owning our story. Which is getting honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations and assumptions to determine what’s truth, what’s self protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more wholehearted lives. When the arena of life hits us sideways with a hard hit, it causes us all to have what Brown calls a stormy first draft. It’s that initial story that races through our head or the negative emotional fused story we tell our best friend after the incident has occurred. But owning our story is when you begin to dissect the stormy first draft and figure out what is truth, what are assumptions, and what is self-protection and begin to realize why you are feeling those different things. You rumble with it versus run from it. Process it with someone who you trust and own your own failure, own the unforgiveness that you are embracing, own the reasons why you are throwing up walls of self-protection versus running and relying on our Heavenly Father who says in Deuteronomy 20:4 “For the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” It’s allowing our Loving Papa to help bring clarity and healing to our struggle so we can live the wholeness and destiny he designed us for.
Once you have picked yourself up off the floor you can walk out the last step, which is what Brown calls the Revolution. When you get to this point she says we can write a new ending to our story based on the key learnings from our Rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.
This process she talks about reminds me of the process that Jesus walked to be able to rise again on the third day to provide a bridge between our Heavenly Father and us. It all started with the last supper with the knowledge of the one who was going to betray him – Judas – and knowing others were going to do the same. He is “facedown” in his arena reckoning with the Lord and walking into his story. As he is in the garden of Gethsemane he begins to rumble with the Lord with the way he feels. Then writes a whole new ending to the story with his crucifixion and rising on the third day. To put it simply, Jesus paved the way for us to walk this process out with greatness. To deny the process is to deny what He did for us on the cross. He gave us emotions not to rule us but to help us to see and to walk just like he did, to bring us to new levels in Him. Leading us from error to fullness. It’s a choice we have and need to make on the daily. Emotions are not unnecessary but quite the opposite. They make us a reflection of our Heavenly Father. It often takes just one brave person to change the trajectory of a family or any system.
Transformation Center Director