In David Brooks’ excellent new book, The Road to Character, the author begins by pointing out the difference between “résumé virtues” and “eulogy virtues.”
In my simplified words, “résumé virtues” are those you earn through success in life: business, education, skills, associations and awards. They go on your vitae: PhD’s, sale of a startup business, salesman-of-the-year certificates. Professional experience.
But in contrast, “eulogy virtues” are those endearing characteristics of life which are repeated in memorial services. The core of who a person is. The admirable traits. So often, someone who is less than likeable, is universally thought a saint at a eulogy. At the threshold of death, we often forget the bad and remember the loveable parts of someone’s life.
Ravi Zacharias tells just such an apocryphal story of two brothers who were notoriously immoral. They both committed a string of heinous acts in full knowledge and to the disgust of the entire community.
Well one brother suddenly passed away. And the surviving brother decided his kin needed a proper burial. He asked the local pastor to perform the funeral service and eulogy.
As unthinkable as that might be, the brother offered the pastor a huge amount of money with one condition: in the eulogy, the pastor must call his brother a saint. The pastor thought a while and then agreed to the task.
Dutifully, at the appointed time in the service, the pastor said, “Now we all know, this departed soul who we bury today was a godless, immoral man. He was a cheat. A thief. A scoundrel and a cad. This man was depraved and committed virtually every immoral, lewd and hateful act. But compared to his brother, he was a saint!”
LOL. I love that story.
You see, in contrast to résumé virtues, eulogy virtues are earned the hard way: through failure. They’re the things that the difficult lessons of life bring. Things like patience, honesty, bravery and faithfulness. The virtues are the core of who you are. They’re earned through the process of pain. Only through the process of pain.
As Spurgeon said, “Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of.”
It’s interesting that these virtues contrast each other: the résumé is lauded in life; the eulogy is uttered in death as we longingly rehearse a life now gone.
Years ago, I recall praying the foolish prayer, “Lord, give me wisdom without the pain of going through trials.” I was missing the point: the purpose of trials IS to teach wisdom. And frankly, other than a Solomonic answer to prayer, there’s no other way to gain it. Troubles which come our way are intended to file off the rough edges of life and deepen our character.
You’ll also find that résumé virtues often inflate the ego while eulogy virtues deepen the soul. One inflames, the other douses. One builds a façade, the other a foundation.
When your résumé is long and impressive, you flirt with the danger of thinking you’re more important than you are. You start believing your own press clippings. You easily forget the Hand which providentially placed you where you are.
Think of David.
Hard to hold your ego in check when you’re a self-made man, rising from a shepherd boy to favored son and king of a nation. All powerful. Good looking. Loved and lauded by a kingdom. Nothing outside his reach. So it’s no surprise that pride led him to fail his family, commit an adulterous act followed by murder by proxy. Then the Lord used Nathan to convict David. While his résumé was impressive, it was David’s repentance that added to his eulogy virtue: humility and repentance. A man after God’s heart.
It’s a pattern over and over in scripture: Moses, Solomon, Abraham, David, Paul, Peter, Thomas and on and on.
When you read through the scriptures in a relatively short period of time, you begin to see both types of virtues underscored in the Bible. The 30,000-foot view, for some reason, just adds to the color and texture of scripture. Reading scripture in 90 days is a fresh way to see the giants of the faith, warts and all.
So this is my encouragement to you to join me, Charles Morris and Haven, once again this year, in reading through the Bible in 90 days.
There’s a simple plan at: http://havenbiblechallenge.org/
In the end, you’ll find reading through the Bible in 90 days will add greatly to your eulogy virtue.
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