Family Legacies

By J. Otis Ledbetter
By Kurt Bruner
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
BowdenImages/iStock/Thinkstock
If we don't intentionally pass on a legacy consistent with our beliefs and values, our culture will pass along its own.

No matter who we are, where we live, or what our goals may be, we all have one thing in common: a heritage. That is, a social, emotional and spiritual legacy passed on from parent to child. Every one of us is passed a heritage, lives out a heritage, and gives a heritage to our family. It’s not an option. Parents always pass to their children a legacy … good, bad or some of both.

A spiritual, emotional and social legacy is like a three-stranded cord. Individually, each strand cannot hold much weight. But wrapped together, they are strong. That’s why passing on a positive, affirming legacy is so important and why a negative legacy can be so destructive. The good news is that you, with God’s help, can decide to pass a positive legacy on to your children whether you received one or not.

Today, if we don’t intentionally pass a legacy consistent with our beliefs to our children, our culture will pass along its own, often leading to a negative end. It is important to remember that passing on a spiritual, emotional and social legacy is a process, not an event. As parents, we are responsible for the process. God is responsible for the product. We cannot do God’s job, and He won’t do ours.

The Emotional Legacy

In order to prosper, our children need an enduring sense of security and stability nurtured in an environment of safety and love.

The Social Legacy

To really succeed in life, our children need to learn more than management techniques, accounting, reading, writing and geometry. They need to learn the fine art of relating to people. If they learn how to relate well to others, they’ll have an edge in the game of life.

The Spiritual Legacy

The Spiritual Legacy is overlooked by many, but that’s a mistake. As spiritual beings, we adopt attitudes and beliefs about spiritual matters from one source or another. As parents, we need to take the initiative and present our faith to our children.

The Emotional Legacy

Sadly, many of us struggle to overcome a negative emotional legacy that hinders our ability to cope with the inevitable struggles of life. But imagine yourself giving warm family memories to your child. You can create an atmosphere that provides a child’s fragile spirit with the nourishment and support needed for healthy emotional growth. It will require time and consistency to develop a sense of emotional wholeness, but the rewards are great.

A strong emotional legacy:

  • Provides a safe environment in which deep emotional roots can grow.
  • Fosters confidence through stability.
  • Conveys a tone of trusting support.
  • Nurtures a strong sense of positive identity.
  • Creates a “resting place” for the soul.
  • Demonstrates unconditional love.

Which characteristics would you like to build into the legacy you pass along to your children? Even if you don’t hit the exact mark, setting up the right target is an important first step.

The Social Legacy

In order to prosper, our children need to gain the insights and social skills necessary to cultivate healthy, stable relationships. As children mature, they must learn to relate to family members, teachers, peers and friends. Eventually they must learn to relate to coworkers and many other types of people such as salespeople, bankers, mechanics and bosses.

Nowhere can appropriate social interaction and relationships be demonstrated more effectively than in the home. At home you learned — and your children will learn — lessons about respect, courtesy, love and involvement. Our modeling as parents plays a key role in passing on a strong social legacy.

Key building blocks of children’s social legacy include:

  • Respect, beginning with themselves and working out to other people.
  • Responsibility, fostered by respect for themselves, that is cultivated by assigning children duties within the family, making them accountable for their actions, and giving them room to make wrong choices once in a while.
  • Unconditional love and acceptance by their parents, combined with conditional acceptance when the parents discipline for bad behavior or actions.
  • The setting of social boundaries concerning how to relate to God, authority, peers, the environment and siblings.
  • Rules that are given within a loving relationship

The Spiritual Legacy

Parents who successfully pass along a spiritual legacy to their children model and reinforce the unseen realities of the godly life. We must recognize that passing a spiritual legacy means more than encouraging our children to attend church, as important as that is. The church is there to support parents in raising their children but it cannot do the raising; only parents can.

The same principle applies to spiritual matters. Parents are primary in spiritual upbringing, not secondary. This is especially true when considering that children, particularly young children, perceive God the way they perceive their parents. If their parents are loving, affirming, forgiving and yet strong in what they believe, children will think of God that way. He is someone who cares, who is principled and who loves them above all else.

Here are five things you do that predict whether your children will receive the spiritual legacy a Christian parent desires. Do you:

  1. Acknowledge and reinforce spiritual realities? Do your children know, for example, that Jesus loves everyone? That God is personal, loving and will forgive us?
  2. View God as a personal, caring being who is to be loved and respected?
  3. Make spiritual activities a routine part of life?
  4. Clarify timeless truth — what’s right and wrong?
  5. Incorporate spiritual principles into everyday living.

From Your Heritage, by J. Otis Ledbetter and Kurt Bruner. Used by permission of Chariot Victor Publishing, a division of Cook Communications Copyright © 1996.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.