Three examples from history:
1. Richard Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, one of only 44 individuals in history to achieve this office. His career was one that few can match. However, his legacy is not his political career or his contributions to society. Nixon resigned from office in disgrace and will forever be known for embarrassing his country by his illegal actions as President.
2. Pete Rose is not in Baseball’s Hall of Fame despite having more hits, at bats, singles, games played, and times on base than any player in the history of the game. Rose’s legacy is not his great career as a baseball player. He is now known as the greatest player in history NOT in the Hall of Fame. Rose bet on baseball games. Thus, he has been banned from anything related to the game. His legacy is his gambling, not his ability or his contributions to baseball.
3. Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite and he held 355 patents. In 1888 Alfred’s brother Ludwig died while visiting Cannes and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred’s obituary. It condemned him for his invention of dynamite and is said to have brought about his decision to leave a better legacy after his death. The obituary stated, Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”) and went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Alfred (who never had a wife or children) was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. On November 27, 1895, at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, Nobel signed his last will and testament and set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality.
You can see from these examples that an individual’s legacy is often determined by a single act or a very brief time in their lives. Despite all that these three individuals did in their discipline over the course of most of their lives, they are remembered for a few simple actions (good for Nobel; not so good for Nixon and Rose).
In other words, how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered as that individual that did one truly great thing (or stupid thing), or as one that lived and worked consistently, enjoyed many friends, laughed often, loved family, and served others cheerfully. Someone once said, “Trust may take a lifetime to earn, but it can be destroyed in one brief moment.” Why take a chance of destroying that which you have worked so hard and long to earn?
Have a stunning day!
(a) Concepts borrowed from a sermon by Dr. Steve Dighton given at First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Missouri, on April 17, 2016.