We All Have A Mixed Legacy

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Recently a prominent American archbishop passed away. The headline of his obituary said that he left behind a “mixed legacy.” The obit went on to recall the archbishop’s accomplishments along with what the article deemed to be his missteps and failures.
In reflecting on the headline, it occurred to me that everyone in a leadership role leaves behind a “mixed legacy.” What pope or president, congressman or senator, governor or bishop, will not have an imperfect report card when their tenure is over? Even now I can predict some of the adjectives that will be used to describe me and my ministry, and I can assure you, they’re not all pretty!
But having a mixed legacy isn’t the fate of public figures alone. You, too, when the story of your life is written, will have a mixed legacy. There will be some virtues and vices, some successes and failures, some wins and losses. Here, an examination of conscience might be helpful.
On the negative side of the ledger, can you recognize and acknowledge the times when you committed sins, offended God and hurt others; times when you disappointed yourself and failed to live up to your own expectations; situations when you made bad decisions, and would love to go back and do it all over again? Sometimes our words and deeds cause us to blush with shame and embarrassment, don’t they?
But, you should also remember the positive elements of your story. Think of the times when your faith and hope were strong, even in trying times; of the many occasions when you went out of your way to help someone else in need – a family member, a friend, or even a total stranger; of the times you made good and wise decisions, when you did the right thing, even though it was really hard. Of these moments, you can be justly proud!
The Bible tells us that at the end our lives, “God will repay everyone according to his works.” (Rom 2:6) And the Book of Revelation reminds us that when the “book of life” is opened the “dead will be judged according to their deeds.” (20:12)
Let’s face it, we all have a “mixed legacy.” In the game of life, the goal is to have a winning record when the season’s over.
Something to think about: What can you do, right now, to improve your legacy?


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