Impact 360 Institute lost one of our great inspirations with the passing of Truett Cathy.

Truett Cathy is, of course, known for founding Chick-fil-A and guiding it to becoming one of the nation’s most successful companies. That, in and of itself, would be an amazing American story of a boy born into poverty and through hard work and dedication finds success and happiness.

Like many of these stories, however, there were great challenges and adversities along the way. As you read through the many wonderful tributes that have been written may we reflect on a few characteristics Truett Cathy possessed that teach us about how to become a person of integrity and influence: A strong sense of humility is integral to a desire to serve others.

Truett helped us learn so much: but there are three things that stand out. 

1) Never lose an attitude of humility. Truett often publicly spoke of how having very little as a child was a blessing. Like many, it taught him to value simple things. He certainly had reasons to grow up embittered at the circumstances of life and envious of those who seemed to have it better. He didn’t. His faith taught him, based on what we would call an understanding of Imago Dei, that all are created in the image of God and possess value. A manifestation of Imago Dei undoubtedly creates a heart that seeks to serve others. This was manifested in his life not only through the Chick-fil-A model of second-mile service but it was also demonstrated through the many philanthropic efforts he established and led. You can’t describe his life without the words “service to others” and you can’t truly serve others without an attitude of humility.

2) Never lose the value of family. Another aspect of Americana is the concept of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and working hard until your dreams come true. Unfortunately, many times this comes at the expense of family. Work time takes precedence over family time as we buy the lie that “providing” for the family is more important than actual time invested with them. This mindset causes spouses to lose touch with each other and parents to lose influence with their children. It doesn’t take a close examination to see Truett treasured the value of his family. He did not fall for the idea that his family responsibility ended with simply being the financial provider. He understood his wife and children needed him in the role of a husband and father. Because of that dedication, you see the values that he believed were important in life, derived from the wisdom of the Bible, carried on, and reflected through his children and grandchildren.

3) Never lose the sense of calling. Truett’s mom ran a boardinghouse as he was growing up. Seeing the dedication and care she must have taken in preparing meals for her boarders (and the joy they had in eating it) must have sown early seeds for a sense of calling for Truett. It was a calling not simply to serve food but to serve people. Not to just fill a stomach but try to help people feel important and valued by making and serving the food in a way that communicates that they are important. Lots of opportunities had to have come with success to “sell out” by cutting corners to maximize profit or to just allow another larger company to buy him out. To do either of those would undercut the sense of calling he had to serve people and to do it with excellence. He did not allow his sense of calling to be compromised.

The list of the ways the example of Truett’s life challenges us all to be our best could go on. There is an attribute that should not escape us, even if we find it convicting. Wherever you find people of influence you often find people of great talent or means. Leaders of great companies, coaches of great teams, artists, writers, and such are examples. It’s easy to look at their influence and be thankful for it but not necessarily challenged by it. Many of these people got into positions of influence because of talents or connections they possess that we don’t. We can believe we can’t write any great music or produce any great literature because we don’t have the talent. We can’t produce medical breakthroughs in vaccines or incredible scientific insights because we don’t have the great mind to do so. We can’t lead a global company because we don’t have Wall Street connections. We can always look at great leaders and think we can’t do that because of (fill in the excuse). An examination of the life of Truett Cathy strips us of that myth. He wasn’t born into privilege. He possessed no college education that opened doors for him. He possessed no great networks that got him his big break. He possessed none of the advantages that many who rise to influence possess.

We are without excuse for developing a positive influence with our lives when we look to his example. Too busy to serve your church or community? While trying to build a business Truett found time to teach boy’s Sunday School. Too busy for a day of proper rest and worship? Long before success hit he was closing his business on what was likely the most profitable day of the week. Too financially strapped to help others in need? Stories abound demonstrating Truett possessed a generous heart long before he had wealth to give away to those in need. Yes, there are advantages to being incredibly connected, smart, or wealthy in becoming a person of influence. We can make excuses that because we don’t possess any of these then we can’t make a difference. The life of Truett Cathy disproves this and should challenge us to serve others even when we think we don’t have the time, smarts, or wealth to do so, without excuses.

Thank you Truett, for a life well lived and the example of service and humility you provided.

(Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A)