Book Review - Your Unforgettable Life, Only You Can Choose the Legacy You Leave, by Jennifer Schuchmann and Craig Chapin, published by Beacon Hill Press, KC, MO., 2005.
Property left to a child may soon be lost; but the inheritance of virtue--a good name, an unblemished reputation--will abide forever. If those who are toiling for wealth to leave their children would but take half the pains to secure for them virtuous habits, . . . Virtue will stand by (them) to the last.--William Graham Sumner (1840-1910). (Part 2, The Legacy We Leave)
I'm reading an eye-opening book, Your Unforgettable Life, Only You Can Choose the Legacy You Leave, by Jennifer Schuchmann and Craig Chapin.
Schuchmann and Chapin's thesis: You are going to leave a legacy--and you can deliberately build a legacy that will make a positive impact on the ones you love.
If you took psychology 101 in college, you may vaguely remember a study from the late 1800s (1874 to be precise) by Richard L. Dugdale. He studied the lives of the children, and their multiple generations, of two men, "Max Jukes" of New York and Jonathan Edwards of Massachusetts.
Schuchmann and Craig detail the study's findings to contrast the lives lived and legacies left by Jukes, a reprobate, and Edwards, a man of devout faith.
Max Jukes was an ungodly and vulgar-spoken man who had approximately 1,200 descendents over five generations. Of the 709 studied, hundreds were paupers, 1 out of 4 children born into the family died during infancy from poor conditions or neglect, resulting in 300 infant deaths, 400 men and women contracted STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), there were 140 criminals among his descendents.
Researchers described this family's character traits as idleness, ignorance, vulgarity and refusal to work. Many were mentally retarded or mentally ill.
But, Jonathon Edwards was a devout man of God, credited with beginning the Great Awakening, a revival which swept New England in the 18th century. Of over 1300 descendents studied, 285 graduated from college--120 from Yale alone, many had postgraduate or professional study after college and many attorneys, members of Congress, Senators and one Vice-President of the United States
At the root of their differences appears to be the character of the "paternal head" of each family:
- Max Jukes and his family lived in a secluded area of NY--along with $90,000 stolen by Max's family. His blood flowed through each of his descendents-or- his or her spouse-and sometimes both. They were known to inter-marry.
- Jonathon Edwards, a theologian, whose ancestors in generations prior to him-included two preachers. His writings and sermons began large revivals in America in the 18th century.
Legacy's authors base a portion of the great differences between Jukes and Edwards' families on Exodus 20:5 --and on the natural consequences of sin:
"You shall not bow down to (idols) or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me."
They point to other verses, including Deut. 24:16, where scripture directly supports the view that individuals are punished for their own sin, not that of their fathers. --And yet, Exodus 20:5 clearly states that punishment for the sins of the fathers goes on to the fourth generation.
Schuchmann and Chapin conclude "the best understanding of the verses that talk about punishment to the third and fourth generation is that the guilty person's actions have consequences, and these consequences will reverberate throughout the family for up to four generations (the presumed upper limit of a lifespan). Thus, while the sinner alone is responsible for his or her actions, the family must share in the consequences."
The Blessing-- Love for a THOUSAND Generations. Schuchmann and Chapin suggest the greatest thing we can do for our legacies (and families) is to keep what Jesus called the greatest commandment: "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." They go on to describe countless examples of people who followed that advice and left great legacies.
We know we are planting, by choice or default, a legacy in the hearts and minds of our children. As Christians, the legacy we leave will impact not only our immediate families, but Christ's Church and its work and reputation. The consequences are tremendous--for our families and the Church.
"If your choice includes loving God, your legacy on earth will be unforgettable--lasting for a thousand years--and your reward will be eternal."
Schuchmann and Chapin, in Your Unforgettable Life, will help us develop a vision and begin making wise choices to leave the Legacy we would choose.
Jennifer Schuchmann has a BA in psychology and an MBA from Emory University. Craig Chapin is CEO of EntTek, Inc., and a graduate of Samford University. Both are active in their churches and have written extensively on parenting, business, and the church.
Read more at www.jenniferschuchmann.com and www.yourunforgettablelife.com
If, after reading "Legacy," you still don't know where to begin, Jennifer lists excellent resources to help you get started at www.yourunforgettablelife.com/wst_page8.html