Have You Ever Wondered?
Have you ever wondered how your life will be remembered once it is over? What will be the legacy we leave behind?
St. Augustine wrote that thinking and reflecting on legacy is so important because it helps us think maturely about life. It helps us to reflect and reconsider who it is we most desire to please.
Who is the person you can become?
I do not think we realize how the issue of legacy can change the course of our lives if we are only willing to step back and ask two related questions: How do I want to be remembered? And What do I want my life to have been about once it is over?
Peter Drucker, who is considered the greatest business consultant to ever live, said that thinking about his legacy early in life is what shaped him so profoundly as an adult.
When I was thirteen, I had an inspiring teacher of religion, who one day went right through the class of boys asking each one, “What do you want to be remembered for?”
None of us, of course could give an answer. So, he chuckled and said,
“I didn’t expect you to be able to answer it. But if you can’t answer it by the time you’re fifty, you will have wasted your life.”
We eventually had a sixtieth reunion of that high school class. Most of us were still alive, but we hadn’t seen each other since we graduated, and so the talk at first was a little stilted. Then one of the fellows asked, “Do you remember Father Pfliegler and that question?” We all remembered it. And each one said it had made all the difference to him, although they didn’t really understand that until they were in their forties.
I’m always asking that question: What do you want to be remembered for? It is a question that induces you to renew yourself, because it pushes you to see yourself as a different person – the person you can become.
If you can’t answer it by the time you’re fifty, you will have wasted your life
Drucker is saying that once we begin to reflect on how we want to be remembered, it will impact our entire perspective. As we begin to focus on the type of people we are becoming and how our lives are contributing to the lives of others, it will change the way we measure our lives as people. Once it finally dawns on us that we will not be remembered for what we have accomplished or what we have achieved or how much money we have made, we acquire the ability to change in a fundamental way. I think this is what enabled Drucker to turn down Goldman Sachs when he was offered the position to become their chief economist. It was a position that would have paid him a huge salary and thrust him into the international limelight to new heights of fame and glory. But Drucker had a very healthy identity – he knew what he wanted his life to be about, and so he turned them down.
It can make us miserable and contemptible or purposeful and joyful
I was reading recently about Charles Dickens and his famous short novel A Christmas Carol. It was written in 1843 and apparently Dickens was trying to show us how to live a purposeful life and make a difference in the lives of others.
Ebenezer Scrooge’s entire life was focused on money and wealth. He cared more about it than anything else in life. In the process, it made him a miserable person that everyone had contempt for. However, as the narrative ends, Scrooge’s life is transformed and he becomes focused on using his wealth to benefit the lives of others. His life is now full of joyful purpose, and though this is a work of fiction, how do you think Scrooge would be remembered once his life ended?
I believe as the years go by, we all have a yearning that our earthly lives and endeavors will have some type of permanence that will live on after we are gone.
However, in order for this to happen, it requires us to be investing in the lives of people. All around us there are those who are struggling physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Unfortunately today, so many of us do not want to be troubled by the troubles of other people. We do not want our lives to be personally disturbed.
But we must remember that God’s priority is people, because people have eternal value. I am reminded of Max Anders words:
“Everything God does is eternally significant. When we are submissive to what He is seeking to accomplish (through us), we find ourselves participating in the eternal.”
This is the key to a lasting legacy and living with a real sense of meaning, knowing that we are participating in the eternal purposes of God.