Resume or Eulogy

As we go about living our lives one day at a time, are we striving to build a resume or providing material for our own eulogy? David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, wrote, “It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues. The resume virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?” The Moral Bucket List, NEW YORK TIMES web site, April 11, 2015.

I’ve conducted probably some 500 funerals, and the great funerals were those where family and friends reflected on how the person had impacted their lives, a real eulogy. The darker funerals were those where the best that could be said was where the person lived, worked, what sports they loved, and what they achieved, more like a resume.

Retiring in my 40th year of pastoring the Mayfair-Plymouth Church, the parishioners hosted a retirement/going away celebration for us. What was interesting in people’s personal reflections of our ministry together was the lack of focus on any achievements that were, at the time, so important to me. What the reflections focused on were the times we went through things together, often tough times, but many good times as well. They remembered words I said in an attempt to be comforting or encouraging, most of the conversations of which I had no recollection. It was very little of the resume type stuff and a lot of what might be said at my funeral, except I was present to enjoy it!

We would do well to focus less on resume building, on achieving and accomplishing things, and more on relating to people in positive and loving ways, seeking to make a difference in their lives so that they will have ample material for a eulogy at our funeral. Morbid? I don’t think so. It’s just that, as David Brooks wrote, it’s better to aim for eulogy virtues than resume virtues.

“…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2b-3

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