As we close this series, let us remember the basic principles and purpose of exploring the development of our lives through the lens of theorist Erik Erikson.
Keep in mind that, by definition, a theory is a guess about how something works. Erikson’s Theory of Emotional Development is a guess about how we grow emotionally and what it takes to do so in a healthy way.
The eighth and final stage is called Integrity vs. Despair. Integrity is feeling at peace with the world and with yourself. It’s getting to a place in life with no regrets. It’s looking at your life positively and happily knowing that the world will be a better place because of what you did while you were here.
Hopelessness is defined as a feeling of “sour grapes” about what life could have been like. It is made up of feelings of missed opportunities, regrets, and wishes for a second chance at life.
As an adult, no matter what our age, it’s never too early to think about living a life that leaves something of value when we die. There are many individual lives waiting to be touched by meaningful acts of love. It’s never too late, at any age, to leave a meaningful “footprint” of love in someone else’s life.
I like the Ray Boltz song “Thank you for giving to the Lord”:
“I dreamed that I was going to heaven, you were there with me. We walked the golden streets next to the Sea of Crystal. We heard the angels sing, then someone called your name You turned around and saw this young man, and he was smiling as he came.
“He said, ‘Friend, maybe you don’t know me now,’ and then he said, ‘Wait, you used to teach my Sunday school when I was only eight years old. and every week you said a prayer before class started. and one day when you said that prayer, I asked Jesus in my heart.’
“Then another man stood in front of you, he said ‘Remember the time, a missionary came to your church, his pictures made you cry. You didn’t have much money, but you you gave it anyway. Jesus took that gift you gave, and that’s why I’m in heaven today’
“One by one they came, as far as the eye could see. Every life somehow touched by your generosity. The little things that you had done, the sacrifices that you had made, They had passed unnoticed on this earth, in Heaven now proclaimed.
“And I know in heaven you’re not supposed to cry, but I’m pretty sure you had tears in your eyes when Jesus took your hand and you stood before the Lord. He said ‘My child look around you, great is your reward.’
“Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that has been changed. Thank you for giving to the Lord, I’m so glad you gave, I’m so glad you gave.
Keep in mind that it will be the constant “little splashes”, not the rare “big splashes”, that will make the biggest difference. Instead of building a hospital, school, or seminary, it will be things like adopting an older child, being an adoptive parent for children in times of crisis, providing transportation for doctor’s appointments, or helping single mothers to “succeed” who will provide your true legacy.
A life lived, day to day, listening to and following God’s specific call on your life to meet the immediate needs of those around you will be your life of integrity.