How To Leave A Legacy By J. William DeMarco

Several years ago, the family invaded the Epcot Center.  We all fell silent as we entered the park and fell upon a new feature, giant slabs of black granite all over – tons and tons of granite – and a big sign that says “Leave Your Legacy”.  For a fee, a Disney cast member will take your picture and transfer it onto these granite rocks, so that for all of time your picture will be viewed by all who enter.  And hundreds if not thousands of people have already put their little, tiny picture on these big granite stones…. Hey leaving a legacy is easy!  Image

But…what is a legacy?  Is it something in stone?  No…It is something immaterial … a style … a philosophy that is passed from one generation to another…

Why do we feel the need to leave a legacy?  Because deep down…everybody wants to feel like their life counts, that their life matters, that we’ve left our mark while we pass through this life.

I have to ponder….what is my legacy and how do I hand down this philosophy and model something for my boys to look to…. How do I pass my “sword” to them…. When the time comes….

The Bible has a lot to say about it.
Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good life gets passed on to the grandchildren.”  
Psalm 112 says, “A righteous man will be remembered forever.”

For me and my life, I believe there are four qualities you can find in people who are respected and if you want to build a lasting legacy you need to build your life around these four KNIGHTLY character qualities.  Parents, we are responsible to pass on these qualities to our kids so that they too may pass on a legacy from generation to generation.


For the past thirty years Gallup Poll does an annual “Most Admired Men” list in America.  While presidents and politicians, celebrities, and athletes have come and gone, one man has been on that list every year for the last thirty years –  either number one, number two or number three.  His name…  Billy Graham.  Why is Billy Graham’s name on the list of the most admired men in America for over thirty years?  Because there are very few people in America who live with rock-steady integrity – what you see is what you get.

What is integrity?  Integrity is composed of three different activities – telling the truthkeeping your word and practicing what you say you believe.  
Proverbs 17:7 MSG says, We don’t expect eloquence from fools, nor do we expect lies from our leaders.
All leadership is built on one thing…TRUST.
You don’t follow somebody you don’t trust.  And all trust is built on truth.  You don’t follow somebody who doesn’t tell you the truth.  So if you want to be a leader…a knight, the king of the house, a father… you…we…. have to learn to speak the truth.  If you don’t tell the truth nobody trusts you and if nobody trusts you, nobody’s going to follow you…. And the legacy ends right there….
The legacies starting point is a foundation of integrity.
Proverbs 25:14 “Like billowing clouds that bring no rain is the person who talks big but never produces.”  Have you ever failed to keep a promise?  I think of some things I have said and heard recently.
I’ll return it as soon as I’m done with it.

I won’t tell anyone what you’ve told me.

I’ll be home at 1800…. No six p.m., babe.

We can play that… this weekend, son.

We’ll do it when things in the Ops Group settle down.

If we want to be people/parents/dads of lasting legacy, we’ve got to keep our word.  Studies have shown that the number one cause of resentment in children is parents who don’t keep their promises.  We make promises to our kids and then we break them.  Why?…Too busy — too tired — you don’t feel like you’ve got the energy to do it, (try Red Bull).  You are modeling a lack of integrity to your children AND that is the sword you are passing.  We’ve got to keep our word.  We’ve got to tell the truth.  We’ve got to practice what we say we believe.

Is it easy to live with integrity?  Absolutely not.  If it was easy… we wouldn’t be talking about it…That’s why WE need God’s help.  You might make this verse part of a prayer.
Psalm 101:2 I‘m finding my way down the road of right living, but how long before you show up? I’m doing the very best I can, and I’m doing it at home, where it counts.
It’s most difficult to have integrity at home.  Why?  Because they know who we really are.  One definition of success, and part of this knighthood quest… is having those who know …me best respect me most.  It’s easy to impress people from a distance because they don’t see me up close – my faults, my crow’s feet, my warts.  But real integrity is when those who know me best respect me the most.  That’s integrity.
At Saddleback Church they asked “What do you want to be remembered for?”

“Probably most importantly I want to be remembered as being a good mother to my children and a good wife to my husband and a good friend to all my friends.  …   I want to be remembered as a good father…  I don’t want to be remembered for anything bad…    I’d like to be remembered as investing in the lives of my children and also giving them the tools to follow the Lord…  My honesty.

…That I gave, that I was a giver.  I want people to remember that I was always giving and giving unconditionally, sharing of myself and my resources.  That’s what I want to be remembered for.”

That last comment gives us the second key to a lasting legacy.  First you must speak with integrity and second….


Be a servant to others.
When you ask kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Not one child has ever said, “I want to grow up to be a servant.”  Not one.  We don’t want to be servants when we grow up.  We want to be celebrities, stars, winners, leaders.  But.. Jesus said, Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”  Servant hood is the second key to a lasting legacy:  serving other people.

Proverbs 14:22 isn’t it obvious that conspirators lose out, while the thoughtful win love and trust? The fact is most people only work for their own good.  We work for our dreams, our ambitions, for our goals.  We think about what we want.  Is that thoughtful?

I know a lot of folks that work with intensity but it’s all for selfish reasons and for selfish purposes.

Colossians 3:23 Work from the heart for your real Master, for God,Be enthusiastic, be eager to help other people, be ready to serve.  And what’s the motivation behind it?

…. As if you’re doing it for the Lord.  You can turn any task, even the most menial job – cleaning toilets – you can do it as if you’re doing it for God.    I’m going to clean this house today for You.  I’m going to serve this client today for You.  I am going to land this jet for You!  When you do it in the name of God, for God, it becomes an act of service – serving others and serving God.  Do it with intensity.

I do a ton of leadership reading… I love history books… and I ponder if there really are truly GREAT people…It seems… They’re only ordinary people committed to great causes, great purposes.  You don’t have to be at the head of your class to leave a lasting legacy; you don’t have to be the most brilliant, the most wonderful, the most talented, and the most beautiful person.   But you can leave a great legacy.  Simply by serving with intensity.  Serving a great cause, a great purpose.  Giving your life away to something greater than yourself that’s what leaves a legacy.

The tragedy is that many people are wasting their lives on things that aren’t going to last.  The Bible is pretty clear that some things are going to last forever and some things are just going to burn up, decay, and fall away.

We know…. there are some things that are going to make a difference forever and some things that aren’t going to be worth thinking about tomorrow.  Too many people are investing their time, their energy, their life and reputation on things that aren’t going to last.

Jesus warned us about this.
John 6:27 talks of not working for food that spoils.  Instead work for the food that lasts for eternal life.”  There’s a principle here.  Jesus is saying don’t waste your time, energy and effort on stuff that’s going to rot, to spoil.  But use your life; invest your life in things that are going to last over the long haul for eternity.  Make a difference.

What’s not going to last?  One thing that’s not going to last is fame.   Today you’re the hero tomorrow you’re a zero.  Obviously, I’m not famous but it seems…. the moment you get there you’ve hit the top and after that it’s downhill.

Status is not going to last.  Why spend any of your effort, time or energy trying to gain status.  Why?  You won’t keep it.  And it doesn’t really matter…Status doesn’t leave a legacy.

Pleasure doesn’t last.  Power doesn’t last.  Things aren’t going to last.  Everything you have is not going to last.  You didn’t bring it into this world.  You’re not going to take it out of this world.    Why would you invest your entire life collecting things, making the goal of your life to get more and more things when none of those are going to last for eternity?

Only two things are going to last for eternity.

1.  Truth is going to last forever.  You should build truth into your life.  Of course, God’s Word is true.
The Bible says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My word won’t pass away.”  The Bible says, “The grass withers and the flower fades but the word of God abides forever.”  
So build your life onthisbook, onthesetruths and the more you build on eternal truths, the more you’re building that eternal legacy.  Opinions come and go, fashions come and go, but truth is always true.  And it will be true 2000 years from today as it was 2000 years ago.  Build your life on truth if you want a legacy.
2. People.  People are made to last forever.  Everybody is going to last forever in one of two places.  Heaven or hell.
You might say, “Bill…you believe there’s a heaven and hell?”  Of course I do!  Jesus did.  God says there’s a heaven and hell.  He knows more about this than I do.
But you were made to last forever.

One day your heart’s going to stop and this body is going to die … but that’s not going to be the end of you.  You were made by God to last forever.  What you do on this earth and what you commit to is going to determine where you spend your eternity.  Have you accepted the love of God?  Have you accepted the forgiveness of Jesus Christ?   You’re going to last one of two places.  Everyone is….

So if you want to leave a lasting legacy, build it on the two things that will last.  Invest in the truth – the word of God – and invest in other people.  Serve them, love them, help them, encourage them, and bring them into the kingdom.

OK—  How many of you could name the last five winners of the Miss America contest?  Name ten people who won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.  Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor or actress.  You’ve already forgotten last year’s.  Name the most valuable player in football, basketball, and baseball for the last five years….

Yesterday heroes we forget about.  These are not insignificant people.  These are not second rate achievers.  They’re at the top of their class, at the pinnacle of what the world calls success.  But we don’t even remember them.  Achievements vanish and awards tarnish ….

BUT: Can you name –the most helpful teacher you had in school?  Can you name two friends who helped you through a difficult time?  Can you name someone who taught you something worthwhile?  Can you name somebody who believed in your potential growing up?  Can you name some people you enjoy spending time with?

The second part is a lot easier … Why?  People who make the greatest difference, who leave a legacy in your life are not the most famous, the most wealthy, the most talented, those who are celebrities.  The people who have left a legacy in your life are the people who have served you in love.

If you want to leave a legacy, serve other people with intensity.

We all want to serve God but sometimes…we don’t want to serve other people.  The only way you can serve God is by serving others.    You serve God by serving the others.”

Do you want to leave a legacy?  Speak with integrity and serve with intensity…next….


Would you agree with this… we make a living by what we get in life but we make a legacy by what we give.  You will never leave a legacy unless you learn to become a generous giver of your time, money, effort, energy, and talents.

2 Corinthians 9:9 “He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.” – They’ve left a legacy.

ImageWhen Andrew Carnegie, the great philanthropist, died they found in his desk a little piece of paper on which he had written out his life mission as a young man.  He said, “I’m going to spend the first half of my life making as much money as I can.  I’m going to spend the second half of my life giving it all away.”  That’s exactly what Carnegie did.  In his lifetime he gave away over 450 million dollars.  Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Institute, Carnegie Foundation, we see his name still today years later.  He gave it all away.  If he’d kept it, he’d be a nobody today.

Okay… Some of you are thinking, “That’s a great idea.  I think I’ll do that.  I’ll spend the first half of my life making all the money and the second half giving it all away.”  There’s only one problem.  How do you know when you’re at half time?  I suggest you start being generous now. And if you want to leave a lasting legacy you must learn to be generous.

Why be generous?

You know I have found the more you’re a blessing to others, the more God blesses your life.  You will never bless other people more than God blesses you.  God will always bless your life more than you give away.   Not always in the same way but in other different kinds of blessings.

Since we are coming up on Mother’s Day/Fathers Day, let’s talk parent stuff.  We often give our kids the wrong things.  I think many parents are giving their kids activities instead of attention.  What kids really need is not more activities.  What they need is attention.  I have noticed that in the last generation, the definition of successful parenting has changed from spending times personally with your kids (hanging out with your kids) to being an activities director (remember Julie McCoy, Love Boat?) for your kids.

You’ve become both a chauffeur and a spectator.  We take kids to Little League then we watch kids at Little League.  We’re not interacting with them; we’re taking them and watching them.  We take kids to TKD and then we watch them at in the Do Jaun.  We take them to ballet and then we watch them at ballet.  We take them to band or ceramics class or art or whatever and then we watch them.  And parenting has been redefined as simply giving your kids enriching activities.

Wrong answer! Work with them… be there for them…Coach them, practice with them… its not that the activities are bad… …You need to let your black belt beat the donkey out of you… I’ve got the bruises to prove it…

REALLY there’s nothing wrong with those things but that’s not what parenting is all about.  Parenting is about personal time with your kids, not taking them somewhere else where someone else spends time with them and you watch them.  They need your attention far more than they need any enrichment.  Far more!

If you had a parent that was engaged with your life… What do you remember… the lessons… the games…  What I remember are long summer afternoons hanging out with my dad in our backyard, playing in the pool…   I didn’t need a lot of activities.  I needed him in my life… influencing my character, making a difference.

The key is this.  The time to be generous with your time, with your attention, with your love, with your money is now.
Proverbs 3:27 Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person”  Dads, how many times have we said to our kids, “Later, son.  We can do it this weekend.  I’m busy right now.  We’ll do it tomorrow.  We’ll do it later.”

We only have our kids for a season.  They’re not going to be home forever.  They’re going to grow up, they’re going to move out, fall in love, get married.  They’re going to be off on their own and then it will be too late.  Do it while you have the opportunity.

All that really matters in life is loving God and loving people.  — The only thing that’s going to last is truth and people.  —  If you want to build a lasting legacy with your life build it on something that lasts.  Speak with integrity, serve with intensity, give with generosity.  If you do those three things you will be a success in the things that matter most in life.  So on to number four…


The Bible says in Proverbs 29:23 Pride lands you flat on your face; humility prepares you for honors.  You need to stay humble or you WILL stumble. Again… I say it… because I have lived it… Remember like a whale when you get to the top and you’re ready to blow.  That’s when they harpoon you.

You know, I married a Texan…. last time I was in Slaton and talking with my in-laws…some good friends of the family were bragging (no humility) about their ranches.  One guy said, “What’s the name of your cattle ranch?”  “The Circle W Rocking R Rolling B Around the World Rainbow Ranch.”  “That’s quite a name.  You must have quite a big herd of cattle.”    “No, not really.  —Few of them survive the branding.”

It’s all image.  God uses a couple of things to test your humility.  One of them is praise.  I guess we could say “Praise is the test of character.”  Every time you’re complimented, this is a test.  Are you going to get egotistical about it?  Are you going to get prideful?

The human species is the only species that when you pat them on the back their head swells.  We need to be humble.  Treat praise like you treat criticism.  It’s like bubble gum; you chew on it but you don’t swallow it.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter what other people think about me.  What matters is what God thinks about me.  So God uses praise to test your character.

The other thing God uses is mistakes.  I worked for a General that used to always tell me… its not how big the screw up, but how good is the recovery…  You don’t have to know it all to be respected, You just have to admit that you don’t know it all.  Nobody knows it all.

Humility is being honest about your weaknesses, being honest about what you don’t know, being able to laugh at your own mistakes, your own faults, your own weaknesses.

We have to learn to laugh at ourselves.  If you learn to laugh at yourself you’ll have plenty of material the rest of your life.  Believe me… I know…. The problem is we take ourselves far too seriously and we don’t take God seriously enough.  That’s the cause of a lot of stress in my life.  We need to reverse that.  We need to take God far more seriously than we do and not take ourselves and work so seriously.

The enemy of humility is image.  Our society is image obsessed.  You can even hire image coordinators, image consultants who will teach you how to dress right, walk right, talk right, eat right, act right, say the right things and how to wear just the right clothes.

Everyone knows you don’t have it all together but we try to build this up and we think if we show people that we’re perfect, that we’ve got it all together then people will love us…we NEED to get real.  The truth is prideful people are a pain in the rear!  Usually they are suffering from their own deep pain…

Don’t worry about your image.  Worry about your character.  Image is what other people say you are.  Character is what you really are.  Character is what God says you are.  Character is what you are when you’re alone and nobody is looking.  Image vanishes in a puff.  Character lasts for eternity.  You’re not taking your image with you.  If you want to have a great legacy then you’re going to have to build great character.


Does that sound like anyone you know?  The quest has brought me right back to a truth I guess I already knew…I need… we need to be a lot more like Jesus and then we can truly leave a legacy..

What do you want to be remembered for?  When you die wouldn’t it be great if people would say about you, “I was so blessed to know him/her.  I thank God for their influence on my life.”

7 Replies to “How To Leave A Legacy By J. William DeMarco”

  1. i love this and if ever i want to struggle for anything in life it must be a struggle for legacy

    1. Jarvice: Could not agree more… something I ponder often. If only there were a chart or gage to see if it were working… Thank you for the comment

  2. I admire your case, Colonel. In fact, I think the strength of it overtakes your object. We will certainly all leave a LEGACY – with the measure of goodness really being how well we pursued our DESTINY (by which I mean final cause and last end). A raw pursuit of legacy is more often a self-defeating folly – lamented in Ozymandias (Shelley) and others cautioning us to not exchange “a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage” (Waters). Man is not the measure of all things. Such an idea gave rise to Pericles and the Acropolis – but also killed Socrates.

    Rather, as you point out, we were made for virtue. You laud knowing and acting under principle of such by your four points (I particularly liked your example of Carnegie as reminder that there is a mile of difference between earning our money and deserving it – and how these influences work on us concurrently). Truth be told, there are closer to sixty-four virtues to perceive – but which generally correlate to seven parents: Three Theological (Faith, Hope, Charity) and Four Natural (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance). With tuned ear, you can discern them blended into the harmony of the prayer Jesus taught us:

    FAITH – hallowed be thy name
    HOPE – thy kingdom come
    CHARITY – thy will be done
    TEMPERANCE – our daily bread
    JUSTICE – forgive us as we forgive
    PRUDENCE – lead us not into temptation
    FORTITUDE – deliver us from evil

    In the final analysis, we are born much like an ingot of gold – brilliant and malleable. And so it is that each morning we place ourselves on the anvil of a new day and continue hammering away at ourselves with the blows of our decisions. Habits of virtue are like muscle memory in the arm of an artisan. The day will come when we present our final result to our final cause – and then discover whether we conformed the ingot of ourselves into a likeness heavenly and pleasing or deformed it into something hellish and scrap. In either case, the wake we leave behind in this world is hard to fully fathom (in part because, as for good effects, the Holy Ghost is a master of the butterfly effect). As meager example, a friend in my college days once extended me an invitation to attend Mass with him on Sunday. I distinctly remember thinking it a bit ‘theatrical’ compared to the more barren liturgies of my upbringing. But I count that day as just one of the mustard seeds that came to leaf over two decades later. I’m positive that any notion of such a favor and effect is utterly lost on my old friend (let alone even the memory of it). Seemingly, in God, there is great power in little things.

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