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Success, Failure Or Nothing - Are You a "Player"?

Steve Wickham

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The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt was famous not only for his 1901-09 Presidential tenure and the fact he was the first President who rode in an automobile and submarine, but also for his “credit belongs to man who is actually in the arena" quote. A man known for his vast range of interests and achievements[1] left us this tremendously motivating legacy. . . the full quote is:

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat. "

Players are those who actually enter the arena. They boldly try, and fail. They succeed too, but only after much toil and often much failure. We shall see, ‘playing’ in life involves inherent risk; we don't get results without risk. And we've all heard of the financial term, ‘risk versus return’ - what we don't risk, we can't possibly get a return on. The same principle holds in virtuous vs. vice continuum of life.

The main point is there are good players and bad players. It's no good being a player if you're playing for the wrong team. The good player is represented by the Roosevelt quote - the bad player is not. The good player is courageous in his or her risk taking, but not foolishly so. They take calculated risks, which uphold good values, not stupid ones that show disregard for people and situations. Good players have integrity and choose worthy causes to spend themselves on. They're often not driven by achievement whereas the bad player is - they have to win for the sake of winning. The good player plays for the sport and winning is secondary. A battle lost (i. e. failure or momentary embarrassment) is worth it if the war (i. e.completing a life of integrity) is still up for grabs. The good player doesn't mind a loss and they take it well - in fact, they can often turn a loss into something good. The bad player is more likely to break the law in his playing; the good player never generally would.

What is the game? What is the arena? It's life. It's no dress-rehearsal. Jesus told the story of the parable of the talents, where a man gave three of his servant's ten talents, five talents, and one talent, respectively. The first two invested and were able to give their master a return with interest, whilst the servant having only one talent simply ‘hid the talent in the ground, ’ as he was scared of his master. He was chastised for being a ‘wicked, lazy servant. ’ Jesus’ moral is this: “For everyone who has [much] will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have [much], even what he has will be taken from him. "[2] There is a parallel here that only those who prove trustworthy with a little will be given more. This is a lesson in diligence based in the faithfulness of trust. The servants had a strict master; the last servant should have been hyper-aware of this (in fact, the Biblical record shows he was) and made sure he did what he could to please his master. Excuses are not acceptable.

We can't expect to be given promotions and further opportunities if we're not already diligently doing the job - ‘playing’ as planned and delivering innovative solutions to those of our ‘masters. ’ And it's only when we've proved ourselves faithful, and beyond, via our performance, attitudes, and abilities, that we stand to get those extra opportunities - and, in their right time.

Another way to look at this is via life's rewards. Those who play well (I mean, faithfully) can easily become ‘inebriated’ in their loving relationships and earn good all their lives - that is, intoxicating joy. Countering this position is the player who plays unfaithfully - their ‘reward’ is also inebriation - but the kind that loses both the love of a partner (like in an affair) and wisdom. It's the ‘falling-over-drunk-in-public’ kind of intoxication that generally leads to shame and disgrace. [3] A reputation gone in this way is not recovered quickly, and in some cases may never be reclaimed.

Do we have capital? Are we in a position to invest? The mere fact that we breathe and own (for a time) our bodies gives testament to the fact we have a capability - we must play, and play well. We have all our childhoods and the rest of our adult lives to learn how to play, and learn, and grow; all for God's glory. For this reason, we hope for good models and mentors; people who will, for a time, invest in our lives positively and teach us how to be good, faithful players.

Are you a good player? Are you someone who gives his or her best with the best intentions? And, are you actually in the arena?

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Source: http://en.
[2] See Matthew 25:29 (NIV).
[3] See Proverbs 5:15-23 which describes the outcomes of life and death for both good and bad (faithful and unfaithful) decisions and living.

Steve Wickham is a safety and health professional (BSc) and a qualified lay Christian minister (GradDipDiv). His key passion is work / life balance and re-creating value for living, and an exploration of the person within us.


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