Thinking About Your Whole Legacy - Even the Not-So-Nice!

By Lance Woodbury on January 29, 2019


Davon and Bill have both pointed to some positive aspects of legacy. Favorable remembrances, financial inheritances, a parental blessing—all of these things resonate very powerfully with us. But what we leave behind can cut both ways. While Bill reflects on the positive aspects of Jacob’s blessing of Judah, that same chapter also contains some very tough messages for three other sons of Jacob: Reuben, Simeon and Levi. In our day, too, legacy is a mixed bag. Consider whether your family has….

• A legacy of not dealing with difficult family issues and leaving them to fester far into the future among the children. In short, the passing of conflict (in addition to assets) from one generation to the next.
• Or, a legacy of dealing with conflict in a way that further breaks the family apart. I frequently see family members “withhold” time with the grandkids, boycott significant life milestones (weddings and other celebrations), or create intentional hostility in public and private gatherings. Anger can have generational consequences.
• A legacy of non-existent, or primarily negative, feedback and interaction that leaves your children feeling like they have never pleased you, have never met your standards, or even that that they were a disappointment to you.
• A legacy of physical, emotional or even substance abuse that gets repeated in future generations.
• A legacy of “equality” that sets up conflict among siblings. An example would be leaving future generations with undivided ownership interests in land or with common ownership in operating companies when not everyone is involved in the business without a process to resolve differences that will likely arise.
• A legacy that doesn’t reflect the unique contributions of family members. In modern times that might be a legacy that favors leadership by sons when perhaps the daughters are more qualified, or a legacy that favors older siblings when younger family members have made a bigger contribution.

As you consider your legacy, think about how some of the less desirable aspects of your style, your approach to problems, some of your blind spots, or your less-than-positive interaction with others might get transferred to the next generation. Take some time to reflect on, and perhaps change, the whole of your legacy.