The resume virtues are the ones you list on your resume, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being—whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you have formed. Most of us would say that the eulogy virtues are more important than the resume virtues, but I confess that for long stretches of my life I’ve spent more time thinking about the latter than the former…most of us have clearer strategies for how to achieve career success than we do for how to develop profound character.
– from The Road to Character by David Brooks
As I sat listening to the incredible testimony of a life most certainly well-lived, a life spent bringing new life into this world and ensuring lives would continue, I was soul-stirred. Yet, I could not help but feel intense sadness that not only had this life ended too soon, but life’s virtues, those essences of our character that encourage others to speak so eloquently at our funerals, are not recognized as such in our everyday lives. I was surprised to learn there were so many things I did not know about the man whom we were saying goodbye. So humble, so private and reserved, his accomplishments and successes were not Facebook statuses “liked” by hundreds, but kept close to him and minimized by an intense resolve to do right by his talents. I wondered how many others in the room were unaware of the many honorable deeds done in such a short amount of time upon this earth. And I wondered if he truly knew how many lives he’d changed, motivated, and engrained with those same principles he lived by: care for your patients, but learn to balance work and family, as both are a priority; and do what is right. All this led by quiet example.
Do we think of this in our daily lives? Do we resolve to do right by our talents? It’s easy to get caught up in the external visage of what is deemed success. The resume virtues are easily seen, quickly recognized and rewarded with corner offices and elaborate titles or lauded at banquets with plated dinners and gilded plaques. But, eulogy virtues can be harder to see, hidden from eyes used to looking for the familiar skeleton of success and not open to the heart and soul of character.
Yes, there are those around us whose eulogy virtues are boldly apparent, not waiting to be extolled at pulpits and graveside. The funny thing is, these individuals are often embarrassed upon hearing such accolades and accept such testimony with deep humility. Theirs is not a life lived to receive pats upon the back or desktop trophies. They devote themselves to others, to family and friends. As mentors, caregivers, and teachers of life, they are the first offerors of hands and shoulders. Most live a life in the quiet shadow of their virtues; their lives more than a social media status and extending well beyond a minimum number of characters.
I am not disparaging success, as we all want to reach our goals and cross those finish lines, but I’m always more interested in the story behind the success. The hard work, the humble beginnings and equally humble ends, the silent heroes—those are the stories I want to hear, to witness. Those are the stories I hope to emulate. No one will remember nor care what was listed on our resumes, nor will anyone wipe away the dust from those forgotten trophies and read them aloud upon our passing. Will we spend our lives hoarding material successes under the guise of status or will we spend it in quiet resolve, doing right by ones talents in lifting up those around us. I am no Mother Teresa, nor will I ever be, but I hope when my time is done, I will be remembered for my character and how I lived this single life gifted to me.