Eulogy Virtues

Friday, May 29, 2015

My husband and I are unfortunately at the age where we now face saying goodbye to our grandparents. While we know that we are immensely blessed to have had them with us for so long, it does not lessen the sadness of losing these significant individuals who played huge roles in shaping who we are today. 

As I look back, it’s not hard to understand why saying goodbye is so difficult. My grandparents stand at the head of our family, leading us all by example in the selfless, caring, and Christ-centered way they have lived their lives. To say they are role models is an understatement. They have shaped our family dynamic and I know the ripple effects from their lives will be felt for generations to come.

Facing the loss of those from the “greatest generation", I have become introspective of my own life and how I can help their legacy prosper. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an enlightening article by David Brooks in the New York Times called “The Moral Bucket List”.  Reading it, several light bulbs went off.

The first aha went off in my head when he stated,
“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?
Sometimes as I sit at my desk at work, I wonder if I am living out my true purpose in life. How am I changing the world through marketing construction services? Shouldn’t I be doing more with my life? And then I go home and realize how incredibly blessed I am to live in this lovely home with my healthy and happy family. My purpose does not come from my outer identity, but from within, from the deep love that I feel for my family. A love I have always known thanks to my extraordinary grandparents and parents, and a love I try to pour out to my daughter every day of her life. I remember the legacy that my grandparents have handed down to me, which follows a very simple philosophy:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” - John 13:35
This is a philosophy I can live out no matter where I work and gives purpose to every breath I take.

The second aha struck when Brooks stated,
“I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments. If we wanted to be gimmicky, we could say these accomplishments amounted to a moral bucket list, the experiences one should have on the way toward the richest possible inner life.”
I do not need to figure everything out this very instant. Many times I overwhelm myself trying to make everything perfect, right now. But that is an illusion as there is no such thing as perfection. The more I grasp for it, the further away it is. Instead, if I can focus on the path and learning from each step on that path, I think I will have better luck at finding happiness and peace.

The third aha resulted from Brooks' description of people's lives on the path to inner virtue: 
“Their lives often follow a pattern of defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding.”
He calls this the philosophy for stumblers. What an insightful way to think about life and our experiences. We’ve all made choices that have affected who and where we are - some may have been positive, others not so much. Instead of only valuing the “good” experiences, what if we instead embrace the experiences that make us good people? And what if some of those experiences are difficult?

For me, I know that I am a better person when I can empathize with others. I am much more willing to forgive someone who screws up if I have been there, done that. Well, I would consider some of my biggest f-ups to be the occasions that have built up my empathetic nature the most. So while I often like to shove those experiences under the proverbial rug and pretend they didn’t happen, I should actually be extremely grateful for them.
As Brooks states, “The stumbler scuffs through life, a little off balance. But the stumbler faces her imperfect nature with unvarnished honesty, with the opposite of squeamishness...The stumbler has an outstretched arm, ready to receive and offer assistance.
The best quality I hope to inherit from my grandparents and pass on to future generations is selflessness. When we stop worrying about our own happiness and instead focus on helping others, a crazy and wonderful thing happens...we end up becoming happier ourselves!

So with that in mind, here is my moral bucket list, my outstretched arm to the world. Hopefully I can make an impact, even a small ripple that will expand and reach out to slowly but irrevocably change the world, so that when my time comes - my eulogy virtues vastly outnumber those on my resume.

  • remember John 13:35 as I sit at my desk (it is now taped to my wall next to my computer screen)
  • be a better listener 
  • increase personal interactions, reduce impersonal (Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, I’m looking at you)
  • pray more
  • be more patient with my family and the imperfect mess of our home
  • hold my tongue and not insert my opinion where it’s not wanted or needed
  • increase giving
  • reduce my negative impacts on the environment 
  • buy new less and reuse more
  • be optimistic in the face of difficulties 
  • let go of anger quickly
  • be honest in my failures
  • always say I love you

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