Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Legacy - what will we leave?

Continuing with my previous post on leadership and Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples (Vol. 1, "The Birth of Britain", Dodd, Mead & Company, New York 1956, pg. 242-243), Sir Churchill writes a chapter on the birth of the famous Magna Carta. He begins this chapter with King Richard the Lionheart and the next heir King John of England.

"Richard had embodied the virtues which men admire in the lion, but there is no animal in nature that combines the contradictory qualities of John... Moreover, when the long tally is added it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns; for it was through the union of many forces against him that the most famous milestone of our rights and freedom [the Magna Carta] was in fact set up."

As I read this chapter I began to reflect back on my 50+ years. What will be my legacy, my "long tally is added it will be seen that..."? Will I be remembered as King Richard who "embodied the virtues which men admire" or as King John who is remembered for the vices of his reign? These are terribly difficult questions that one asks of oneself demanding an answer! If only I knew this when I was in my 20s.

I have learned to ask myself these profound questions and whether I have the ability to change. Change is a good thing, but one must change for the better. So the obvious next daunting question is, "What is the better?"

A life lived in selfishness is not "the better" as evidenced by King John of England and the remembrance of his life. Selfishness is characterized by such synonyms as egotistic, greedy, piggish, covetous, hording, mean, uncharitable, etc. Throughout history and numerous books written on selfish people, the recurring theme is a life ending in misery.

If misery and being remembered for one's vice is the result of selfishness, then the opposite must be "the better". What lifestyle, what worldview, what standard for one's life has been recorded time-and-time again as honorable? Well the word "honorable" says it all. The only lifestyle, worldview, standard that is consistently honorable and recorded over time is one based on the New Testament (notice I did not name a specific religion). Only the teachings of the New Testament decry the excesses of selfishness and extol the virtue of self-less-ness.

A life based on honor "is the better". Now I must change and do the right thing regardless of the situation. I am learning to become more honorable by spending time in the Word of God and attempting to live it out in my remaining years.

"All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." - 1 Corinthians 10:23

What will be your Legacy?

Better to have learned this at 52 instead of 62.
Eagle Driver
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