Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Eulogy Versus Resume Virtues

--by David Brooks (May 25, 2015)

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.

When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.

A few years ago I realized that I wanted to be a bit more like those people. I realized that if I wanted to do that I was going to have to work harder to save my own soul. I was going to have to have the sort of moral adventures that produce that kind of goodness. I was going to have to be better at balancing my life.

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?

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.

David Brooks is a columnist from NY Times. The above excerpt is from his article The Moral Bucket List.

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On May 22, 2015 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 David Brooks talks about me and many friends I know deeply.People may not remember me for what I did or said. They remember me and will remember me by how I made them feel, how I got connected with them in my heart. We are so much used to use the head language and the mind language, useful and necessary but not enough. When I listen and relate to me and others with an open heart and open mind, I feel the deep connectedness, intimacy and oneness. Such experiences create and leave deep traces in my brain, in my mind, in my heart and  in my soul. As I am getting older ( 90 plus), I am getting richer in my heart and my relationships with people of all ages regardless of the outer shapes and colors are getting more lively, energizing, joyful and meaningful.

When I was in India, I went to to an exposition. The theme was  The Family of Man. When I entered the hall, I read a poem written by the American poet Carl Sandburg. I still remember the words. They deeply resonate with me. Here are those words:

There is only one Man in the world and the man's name is All Man.
There is only one woman in the world and the woman's name is All Woman.
There is one child in the world and the child's name is All Child.

This is the spiritual dimension of ourselves. We experience it when we open our mind  and heart and live mindfully and heartfully. Blessed we are for having such potential in us and I bow to many who have opened their minds and hearts to me and let me dwell in that sanctuary.


Jagdish P dave

On May 22, 2015 sheetal wrote:

Rightly said Eulogy virtues are only spoken at the time of funeral. The hard truth of the world is that resume virtues are the ones that are celebrated. Sometimes it has been noticed that even spiritual gurus are inclined to support those devotees whose resume virtues are high. The distinction hence stands out clearly and though we would wish to nurture our eulogy virtues sometimes practical reality does tilt it otherwise. The practice one follows is to find a balance between the two and hold on to what helps in living with inner truth of being.

On May 25, 2015 david doane wrote:

I appreciate the distinction between eulogy and resume virtues that David Brooks points out, and his honesty in talking about himself.  I have been aware of the distinction, but not in the terms that he states so clearly.  I certainly think he's right.  Resume virtues are the skills I bring to the marketplace, and eulogy virtues are the ones talked about after I die.  I suppose both types are exaggerated for the occasion.  Maya Angelou said "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  I think eulogy virtues are what Maya Angelou is referring to by how you make people feel.  As Brooks says, resume virtues are about career success, and eulogy virtues are about your inner light and inner character, including qualities like kindness, honesty with self and with others, maturity, and capacity to love.  Henry James said, "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind."  Kindness is an important one of those eulogy virtues.  A couple things that help me develop eulogy virtues are being around someone who lives them, and growing in realization that we are one which naturally manifests in eulogy virtues such as compassion and increased capacity to love.

On May 26, 2015 Sunil,Bangalore wrote:

To me Eulogy and Resume is a question of what you do between the short gap of life & death.Its all about soul connections made during this gap.Personally I can tell you this happens only when you manifest the latent harmony,friendship, forgiveness & the eternal love..................bypassing everything else, all the negativity.What ultimately matters is human relationships and not right or wrong. Cultivating this habit as our culture , daily routine  with mindfulness consciously is indeed  experiencing the beauty, fulfillment and amazement of life.

On May 26, 2015 Tree wrote:

 My biggest growth has been by my own hard times....facing them, learning from them & THEN having the empathy for others in trying times & being able to truly have the empathy & also the knowledge to share things that help them & I SEE their spirits lift & their eyes glow & I know I am serving my purpose!

On May 26, 2015 brett wrote:

Being, then doing - not the other way around.

On May 26, 2015 Padma wrote:

 Beautiful writing to reflect upon. One thing I have realized that when I meet such joyful souls fully rooted into the present, there is definitely desire to be like them. But the desire to be like somebody else can be a dangerous thing as it can go into negative cycle of thoughts of I am not good enough, not present enough and the thoughts keep going on....The thing that helps is having the inner awareness and getting in touch with the "deeper Self" which is present in everyone. There are lot of instances when I loose the touch with this "self" these are the times that become entangled in the external things and situations, then bringing the awareness back to the "being" level helps me stay centered without being sucked into the negativity. Deepening this awareness can help us to be like those joyful , ever present ,radiant souls.

On May 26, 2015 LM wrote:

As someone at a real crossroads, this resonated deeply with me. I think that it is necessary to develop both kinds of virtues. However, I think the naming of these virtues should probably be head virtues (resume virtues) and heart virtues (eulogy virtues). The resume virtues help build a capability to perform the actions that the eulogy virtues call upon us to take up. Therefore, I believe that ideally, the 'leaders' are the eulogy virtues and the 'followers' are the resume virtues. I agree with David Brooks that reversing this order is what is happening in the world today, myself included. But I also agree that if we can align both of these, it would be ideal. But our current thinking (individual and collective) is not yet geared towards this. I also feel that naming certain virtues as eulogy virtues takes away, perhaps, from their importance, because we are not present during our eulogies. However, when we are practicing our eulogy virtues, I believe that our hearts get more connected. So maybe these are more of 'alive virtues' than  'eulogy virtues'?

On May 27, 2015 Sunila wrote:

What a beautiful realization of the ultimate truth of living an impeccable life- that we all can have a meaningful satisfied joyous life when we find our truth and honor our authentic self and that we are being ourselves in every step. This article is a gem :)

You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. - See more at:
You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. - See more at:

On Jun 28, 2015 jerard wrote:

 For me both of the two are building virtues, the only  distinction between the two is that eulogy is  a virtue we build prior to the day we leave the world and such virtue will continue to work in hand, while the resume is a virtue we build to be equipped  in the present.

When we prepare a resume, we ensure all the details therein speaks about our technical ability to compete in the market while a preparation for eulogy is at large character of what we build although our life for the sake of a good legacy that will work in hand as we leave the world.
To deepen the eulogy virtue, I always end up a day with a good realization for the good and bad times, but still looking at the brighter side of everything and being thankful for the blessings left in hand. That, the best virtue is accepting things happen according to God’s will.

On Jul 7, 2015 Craig Bell wrote:

 Deciding what it is important evolves  through a lifetime. I am fortunate to celebrate 77 years and a few years back, I realized that gratitude needed to be my new attitude. It wasn't necessary to find that niche that would lead to glory in this world, but to find ways to improve the lives of others, if possible.... as I realized many in my life had contributed to my own growth. Serving others is what life can be about.