How will you be remembered at your funeral?

Smiley noteBy Lynn R. Mitchell

David Brooks poses an interesting thought in today’s New York Times (see The Moral Bucket List):

 It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé 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?

Brooks’ thoughts began after realizing some people he encountered along the way were different in the way they interacted with others:

About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

And this tidbit: “… if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured.”

Brooks went on to say, “Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character,” and came up with a list of experiences — or a moral bucket list — that lead to those who exhibit the inner virtues:

1) Humility: In an age of me first, those who fit this category are “profoundly honest about their own weaknesses.”

2) Self-defeat: “External success is achieved through competition with others. But character is built during the confrontation with your own weakness.”

Brooks added, “Dwight Eisenhower, for example, realized early on that his core sin was his temper. He developed a moderate, cheerful exterior because he knew he needed to project optimism and confidence to lead. He did silly things to tame his anger. He took the names of the people he hated, wrote them down on slips of paper and tore them up and threw them in the garbage. Over a lifetime of self-confrontation, he developed a mature temperament. He made himself strong in his weakest places.”

3) Dependency: “… people on the road to character understand that no person can achieve self-mastery on his or her own. … We all need redemptive assistance from outside.”

4) Energizing love: Unconditional love of others can sometimes overcome our natural self-centeredness.

5) The call within the call: “… some people have experiences that turn a career into a calling. These experiences quiet the self. All that matters is living up to the standard of excellence inherent in their craft.”

6) The conscience leap: “In most lives there’s a moment when people strip away all the branding and status symbols, all the prestige that goes with having gone to a certain school or been born into a certain family. They leap out beyond the utilitarian logic and crash through the barriers of their fears.”

Brooks also recognizes that the way people handle pain, suffering, defeat, redemption, and recognition will define their characters. Read more at the New York Times.

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