One of the most insightful books that I read last year was by the New York Times columnist, David Brooks. The Book is entitled, The Road to Character (Random House Publishing Group, 2015). In the opening lines of its Introduction, Brooks writes:
Recently I’ve been thinking about the difference between the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the ones you list on your résumé, 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 formed. Most of us would say that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé virtues, but I confess that for long stretches of my life I’ve spent more time thinking about the latter than the former. Our education system is certainly oriented around the résumé virtues more than the eulogy ones. Public conversation is, too— the self-help tips in magazines, the nonfiction bestsellers. Most of us have clearer strategies for how to achieve career success than we do for how to develop a profound character.
Brooks goes on to speak of the critically important virtue of character as it has been mirrored through famous men and women down through history. Each chapter focuses on one of these personages and movingly narrates how ‘character’ and ‘integrity’ were the motivating ‘eulogy’ virtue in their lives. I’d like to share with you a few ‘gems’ from his book as we all strive to live lives of virtue, integrity and character in the Lord.
The self-effacing person is soothing and gracious, while the self-promoting person is fragile and jarring.
Humility is infused with lovely emotions like admiration, companionship, and gratitude. “Thankfulness,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, said, “is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.”
If you don’t have some inner integrity, eventually your Watergate, your scandal, your betrayal, will happen.
“A sense of humility is a quality I have observed in every leader whom I have deeply admired,” (Dwight David Eisenhower)
Suffering simultaneously reminds us of our finitude and pushes us to see life in the widest possible connections, which is where holiness dwells.
Over the past few decades there has been a sharp rise in the usage of individualist words and phrases like “self” and “personalized,” “I come first” and “I can do it myself,” and a sharp decline in community words like “community,” “share,” “united,” and “common good.” The use of words having to do with economics and business has increased, while the language of morality and character building is in decline. Usage of words like “character,” “conscience,” and “virtue” all declined over the course of the twentieth century. Usage of the word “bravery” has declined by 66 percent over the course of the twentieth century. “Gratitude” is down 49 percent. “Humbleness” is down 52 percent and “kindness” is down 56 percent.