Listed below are four ideas on building a legacy. In our small group on Sunday night with the 11th-12th grade guys, I asked this question: What do you want to be known for? Ultimately we will all be known for something. People we know, or those who have maybe heard of us, will hear our name and think of a certain aspect of our lives. What do we want to be known for?
Merriam-Webster defines legacy as: “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” Each day we live, we leave something in the past. What you ate for breakfast this morning is now a part of your past. Whatever decisions and choices we made yesterday have become a part of our legacy. Here are the four ideas I have about building a legacy that matters:
1. Be intentional – The sad reality is that we can accidentally and unintentionally, almost unconsciously, develop a legacy. Most of the time this accidental legacy will not end up being a positive thing. We can accidentally build a legacy by not considering our actions on a daily basis, just kind of going through the motions of life, and not living with purpose. But, when we are intentional, we can basically choose how people will remember us. When we live with purpose, we get to determine the defining characteristics in our lives because we have chosen to live in that way. We can never be perfect, and we can’t always choose what exactly people remember us by, but as we live intentionally we increase our chances of becoming the person we have always wanted to be.
2. Keep your eyes forward – Building a legacy is built on past decisions and choices, but we cannot live in the past. If we have not built a good legacy up until this point in our lives, then focusing on the past will just be a sad endeavor. Instead, keep your eyes forward, focus on the decisions you can make right now, today, that will rebuild the foundation of your legacy. Intentionally choose to live in the present, looking toward the future, knowing the choices you make today can one day bring you to a place in the future where you look back at your life and can say with confidence that you lived well, positively impacted the lives of other people, and loved and served others over yourself.
3. Consistently consistent – The easiest way to build a legacy is to do the right things habitually. Think about who/what you want to become, or how you want to be remembered. Then, think about what actions and attitudes and decisions will get you to that point. Now, do those things over and over, day in and day out, whether you feel like doing them or not. Consistency is the key to developing a strong legacy. Consistency increases trustworthiness and reliability, and people know they can count on you in a real way.
4. Avoid shortcuts – Shortcuts are very tempting. I look for shortcuts on my drive to most places, because I want to get there as quickly as possible. But sometimes when using those shortcuts, they backfire and end up taking longer than the normal route would have. In building your legacy, avoid all shortcuts. They are not quick routes to success or to where you want to go. Often shortcuts in life necessitate a sketchy decision or a “grey area.” Intentionally avoid shortcuts because they can tarnish a legacy. Instead, consistently and intentionally choose the right things and your legacy has a good chance of becoming what you would like it to.
Lastly, our legacy is ultimately not for ourselves. All of the things I have written above are best done when the focus is not on self but in considering: “What kind of legacy can I leave that will draw people to Christ, that will reveal how real and true He is, and that will be a positive impact on the kingdom of God when I leave this earth?” Thinking of this question will help direct and guide our steps as we seek to imitate Jesus Christ.
Two passages of Scripture deal very clearly with our actions and the result of our actions (our legacy). The first is Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The second is 1 Peter 2:12, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
Live purposefully in such a way that brings glory to our Father in heaven. If you choose to live with God’s purpose as your central focus, you will almost guarantee a legacy that will reveal the love and salvation of Jesus Christ to everyone who knows or hears of you.
What kind of legacy are you leaving right now?