In one of our soon to be released episodes of the Tremendous Leadership podcast, visionary and genius Michael Gelb, shares that he was living in the wake of my father, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones. I had never heard that terminology when referring to legacy living, but I thought it fascinating on numerous levels.
First, because I have the blessing, benefit, and dare I say the privilege, of operating in the wake of my father. Parents should provide for their household members and even leave an inheritance for their children's children. My father was not just a brilliant entrepreneur; he was a full-throttle philanthropist. So not only did he teach and provide for his family, he did for countless other individuals. I am who I am because he was who he was. Did my father and I agree on everything? Absolutely not. He grew up in a different time, with varying experiences of life, and we did disagree on many topics. However, the life force of DNA is that you keep the original strand yet unlock other variations that stay true to the core. On the core principles of life, our value congruence was inextricably linked.
Leadership, like life, is highly contextualized. You cannot judge the past in terms of the present. That is why the rule of law and society continues to evolve, or as we see in today's world, devolve. Today we hear the word "woke," which describes individuals as one who is alert to the injustice in society. Today’s culture has taken this to include not just present-day society, but anything from past timelines. This behavior has morphed from being “alert” to a cascading wave of destruction and cancel culture where opposing viewpoints are not tolerated but rather torn down, silenced, boycotted, or threatened.
My father wasn't perfect, and neither were his parents. Yet he taught me to view others with grace and to realize no matter how unjust they may have been to me, I was no better than them. I will not act as judge and jury to anyone in my past. I cannot understand some of the things my father did; however, I also cannot know how he grew up with some of the difficult things happening to him in his younger years. The world was a different place then but human nature is the same. When you realize we are all broken and apt to make bad decisions, you can live peacefully with the past and celebrate how far you've come in the present while continuing to evolve into a better person in the future.
When we tear and burn down the past, we marginalize and dismiss the actions of those who have gone before. When we hate the thread of humanity that came before, we have turned against our own. How can we survive as a human race when we hate the very people who walked before and created us? Talk about Man's First Disobedience exemplified! If you live by pride, you will die by pride. When we seek to eradicate and not reform, we erase the effort, sacrifices, and even mistakes that serve as the bedrock for all human progress.
What if I had returned home to run my father's legacy only to tear it down to shreds, burn all of his awards and trophies, and vilify everything he ever wrote and spoke as ignorant and despicable. How much of an ego do I have to possess in order to do something like that? Such a response would mean that I hated my father and considered myself far superior to him. However, even if I obliterated my literal founding father, I would still be operating in the world that he created for and left to me. I would reveal myself to be the self-absorbed, narrow-minded, undisciplined child I truly was. This type of reaction wouldn’t stand to reason—if you were inclined to reason.
I am well aware of the injustices in the world. As a Christian, I have the spiritual lens to see how the power of evil is at the root of all the bad we do to one another. We have two choices. We can live in the wake of our ancestors to build a future that is more just or to live in the woke of our forerunners, where I serve as judge, jury, and executioner to anyone I deem behaved badly. We are no better than those who have walked before us and laid the foundation for the nation where we have the privilege of living. John Milton described this perfectly in his classic, Paradise Lost. In the end, it all boils down to whether you would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.
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