by Allison Ulrich
Have you ever thought about how you’ll be remembered? How have you impacted the world around you? Do you ever wonder what people really think about you? If your memorial service were to take place today, what would people say about you? Are you most concerned about your image or your legacy? Of course we wonder what people think about us, its only natural. In fact, let’s just be completely honest, most of us care…A LOT!
Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist who was originally known for inventing dynamite 150 years ago. His invention saved soldiers’ lives, but did so by allowing them to kill the “enemy” more effectively. When Alfred’s brother Ludvig died, various newspapers mistakenly published Alfred’s obituary instead. The title of one article heading read, “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” Talk about ouch! I mean like punch-in-the-stomach, can’t-breathe-for-a-whole-minute kind of ouch. As much as it grieved Alfred to read this, he was given a gift that day: a foreshadowing of his legacy with time to change it. After that, he used his vast wealth to fund the Nobel Peace Prize and that is what he is most well-known for to this day.
If you were to die today, what would people say about you? Would they say, “Such a shame, she was always so well put-together”? Image. Or rather, “She was beautiful on the inside and radiated the love of Christ.” Legacy. Would they say, “She was quiet and kept to herself but seemed nice enough”? Image. Or, “She was gentle and humble in love”? Legacy. Now, deep down (and be honest), which statement would you rather people say about you?
Would they even know the real you? We put our polished, best selves into cyberspace and count the number of “likes” we receive, constantly checking our phones to see if any more people have validated us. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t post photos of ourselves, our kids, our adorable dog, or our festive, front porch autumn display. I’m saying that it is wise to check the motivation, the heart’s intent behind it. Ask yourself, “Is my heart in line with God’s heart?”
Alfred’s change of heart and desire to change his legacy was motivated by fear of how he would be remembered. I’d like to think that Alfred had a true, raw conversation on his knees with Jesus that spurred the creation of such a wonderful thing as a prize for peace. But it could’ve been his image he was most concerned with. This is the difference between an altruistic desire to please God and a fear of being viewed as flawed by the public.
Why do I care so much what people think? I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to be all things to everyone. I never want to let anyone down and I absolutely DON’T want anyone to think poorly of me. I feel the need to be a great mom, killer wife, super-friend, planner of epic parties, one of the best in my career, and a mature Christian.
I can have a good heart, but if it fuels a giant ego, what’s that worth in the end? When I search my own soul, raw and uncovered, I want to care more about what God thinks of me than people- but does my life reflect that? Wanting to be all those things is fine but if it’s not my true legacy, they’re simply byproducts of my legacy. We have a common legacy: to make Christ known and to love others as He has loved us. In Ephesians 4: 1-2, Paul says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (NIV).
Love is the key. 1 John 4:11-12 says, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (NIV). Love applies to ALL aspects of life and every relationship.
Post away- but not with the motivation to elevate yourself. Rather, empower fellow women. Do a quick heart check and ask yourself if this fits into God’s legacy of love or only reinforces YOUR image. Before you get out bed for the day, pray. Pray that God would give you love for others- because he most certainly will. When you pull into your parking spot at work, before you get out of your car, pray to do your job well. Not just to earn employee of the month but to glorify God Himself. Ask God to give you more love as a mom or grandma and watch what He’ll do. Step out in faith and love and do what you know God has called you to do.
I have to say that writing this blog was a stretch for me. I’ve never done anything like it. When I first agreed, I was worried about my image. I feared people wouldn’t think I’m smart enough, wise enough, entertaining enough, etc. What I’ve come to realize is that it doesn’t matter! Heck, if I’m terrible at this then other people reading will only feel better about themselves, right? It’s worth setting aside my fears and risking a trashed image to share with other women what God has been speaking into my life. If God speaks to one person who takes the time to read this, it’s worth it. It’s out of love for my sisters and a honest heart check of my own that God is cultivating part of my personal legacy.
Our legacies look different, but each is beautiful. Live a life of love and watch your legacy unfold until you stand before your heavenly Father and hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”