I turn 40 this year.
As I move fully into middle age – at least in actual age… I still feel like a kid trying to figure it out – I have begun to think more and more about legacy. Obviously my children are my most obvious legacy. But what will people remember me for? How many people will remember me?
At one point, I believed that I had been put here on earth to build a legacy of great songs and great albums. I was talented and ambitious and was willing to fight for what I felt was owed to me for my talent and ambition.
But even as God took away – at least for a time – that dream of being an artist whose work would be his legacy, I still relied on the same muscle memory as I went into church work, full time. I knew I had vision. I knew that I could get stuff done and that stuff would be great, if we could just get my vision to tape or video or paper, or whatever form it took.
I had a version and a vision of excellence that no one else’s version or vision could match… at least that is what I believed. And so I fought for that vision. Because it wasn’t just a video or a song recording or a spoken word piece or a conference opener. THIS was my legacy. The work. The results. My legacy.
Then a close friend and mentor said to me, off-handed, “Chris excellence isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. But love is.”
There was more to the conversation than that, but that was the line that has stuck with me for over three years now.
Excellence is a wonderful thing. Vision is an incredible thing to have and to cultivate. Learning to shepherd your vision to completion is a difficult and important thing in the life of any leader and any creative.
But without love, those things are meaningless.
And here’s the kicker… you don’t get to decide what love is. I truly believe that the people to whom you give your love decide whether it is truly love by how they receive it.
I would’ve told you that I loved the people around me, and that getting them to do it my way was love. I knew better. I had experience. I had expertise. If they did it my way, the results would be better. And typically I was right.
But they received my love as bullying, and if not bullying, as a bulldog fighting for his truth, or a bull in a china shop. Either way… they all had the word ‘bull’ in it.
And so I went through and I studied the fruit of the Spirit. I began to work towards actively living the Fruit. To live out how Jesus described the kingdom: “where there is righteousness, peace and joy“. When there was a discrepancy that felt like someone on my team or someone around me could receive my version of excellence as unloving, I worked to either find a better way to communicate or to budge off my version of good. When there was a question of results vs love, I erred on the side of love. I loved the people around me, as best I could, and I listened and learned.
And here’s the funny thing… over the past couple of years, I have seen different results than I would’ve seen had I bullied my way to what I felt was best. In many ways, I’d even judge them to be better.
But here’s the thing. I’ve come to realize that I dunno that I believe the results to be all that important anymore. Because along with the results, I know this:
1) work with good people and chances are you’re gonna get good results. Many times, you’ll even get the best results possible.
2) in the meantime, I have built relationships with people that are the most rewarding relationships I think I’ve had in life, built on mutual respect and freedom, instead of fear or positional power. I have already seen the fruit of those relationships in ways that have honestly helped me through an incredibly tough 2017.
Results are important, but they aren’t my legacy.
The fruit of my relationship is the my legacy now. And I can’t even explain how shifting from results to fruit as my focus has revolutionized my life.
What do you think? Does your life “bear good fruit”? If not what can you do to change that?
*originally posted at chrissligh.org
Chris Sligh is an worship leader, songwriter, producer, recording artist, & American Idol finalist based out of Madison, TN. His latest CD, Mighty Roar/Healing Flood, is available most anywhere Christian music is sold.