Your character defines your legacy

March 13, 2022

What will your legacy be?

There comes a point in everyman’s life where he thinks of his legacy and what he leaves behind. It happens when he realises that there is less time ahead than what has gone before. If he is lucky, he will have had 4,000 weeks on this earth and every week flies by quicker than the last.

As we survey our lives and look around at our empire, or lack of it, we are struck at the relentless passage of time and missed opportunities. “If only we had done this or that” is a typical refrain. It feels like a race against time, against our colleagues and neighbours. Most are dissatisfied with their progress, but are we measuring the right things?

Legacy is not what you think

Many men think of legacy in terms of what they accumulated, but really, it is our character and actions that echo into the future. How you lived, how much you sacrificed, and the way you treated people along the journey.

Despite what you hear or feel, the great news is your value is not determined by how much you own or how important you are. Thank goodness, as most of us are just ordinary, broken people trying to make it through the day. Without faith, our worth is hard to contextualise, but Christianity stands out uniquely among religions for bringing us the concept whether, prince or pauper, God loves us equally and the opportunity for salvation is the same. Your money, intelligence, attempts at good works or connections have no bearing. Indeed, once you come to faith - it quickly becomes clear that the strictures and mores of this world are imprisoning and conflicting. The lie: we are only as good as our social status or wealth and this causes many to struggle and most to lose hope.

I have been thinking about this considerably, over the last several years, wondering how to reconcile my deep need for meaning, making progress and my faith. Can I do it without consumption and materialism? My conclusion is that today’s battle rages fiercest over my character and my actions (even when no one is watching). If I can succeed here, the rest will fall into place.

Focus on what you are good at

It took me well into my 40s to realise that the idealised version of myself could never exist. So what should I do, give up? No way! I have resolved to strengthen my weak points sufficiently and focus on my strengths. It is unnecessary to list my flaws; I keenly feel them. You will too.

For too many years, I fixated on these “flaws”, thinking that if I could just be more like this or that person, I would be a more worthy individual. I now realise that I can only be me. I should make strides to improve in every area, but my focus has moved to my strengths. While I frequently miss the mark, I do just enough to stay on top of my blind spots, but the more I target what I’m good at, the easier life seems to flow. In my case, I’m not a lover of routine and a little disorganised, but I have found systems and software to support me and I now put my energy behind ideas, communicating and getting things and people into action.

Your character is developed as you “ride your own ride”. By taking the brakes off and hitting the difficulties of life head on with your strongest foot forward. In the past, I have talked about the red zone, the unknown zone. Operating in this zone is where meaning is found. Using your strengths, which are the sharpest tools in your armoury, will allow you to make the most progress and impact in life. You were born for this. Each of us has our part to play in the battle of life, Just as there is an army, navy, marine corps and airforce so you must call your strengths forth whatever they be, leading, caring, coaching, planning..... and fight in the “battle-space” in which you are put.

How will people think of you when you are gone?

The measure of your legacy will not be in how much money you leave behind but in territory you took in people’s hearts through applying your God-given talents to the problems affecting the lives of those who rely on you. When you are gone, will they think, “good riddance”, or will they feel glad that you shared a life with them, that you made them feel valued and involved?

"The measure of your legacy will not be in how much money you leave behind but in territory you took in people’s hearts."

Parting shot.

Legacy is like happiness, not an end in itself, but the result of successfully living out a noble philosophy for life.. We think we shape it but the poem by Shelly, “Ozymandias” reminds us that even the strongest have tried and failed. When a traveller stumbles across on old crumbling statue of the Pharoah, he finds the words on the pedestal, “Look upon my works ye mighty and despair.” Yet when he looks around, all he can see is decay and a sandy desert. The chances are your memory won’t go beyond your great-grandchildren, but how you lived will shape their lives and beyond. No man is an island. In the short term, though, your legacy will be measured by how people feel in their gut about you when you have gone. What size of hole will you leave in their hearts? What noble things did you stand for? And what sense of mission did you leave?

The question to be answered: Are people running into the breach to take your place and carry on the fight?

Attribution for photo above - click here