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We all need a eulogy

“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” Rom. 12:10 Recently a friend who is dying asked if I would deliver the eulogy at his funeral. Of course I will. But I need to be eulogizing him now as well. He has loved well, sought to serve others, and has l…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” Rom. 12:10
Recently a friend who is dying asked if I would deliver the eulogy at his funeral. Of course I will. But I need to be eulogizing him now as well. He has loved well, sought to serve others, and has lived a colorful life. He’s been a friend to me and to others. But he’s lived his life under a cloud – somehow the enemy too often pulled the rug out from under him. To eulogize means “to speak well of,” and a little more of that would have been a tonic to my friend.

Peter Lord first brought this to my attention. He explained to me that we should eulogize people while they are alive and in our presence, not when they are gone and can’t hear the kind words we have to say about them. Too many of us have fallen in the rut of criticizing people. Anybody can point out the broken behavior we see in others. But treat a person as though they already were what they could become, and that is what they will start becoming.
Most people are capable of far more than they realize. Yet, growing up, they hear the drumbeat of negativism. They get compared to their siblings and they struggle to find a place where they excel. It’s a dreary way to live.
I remember feeling perpetually inadequate in high school. I was small for my age. I didn’t have any friends who understood me. I was insecure about talking to girls. I underperformed in sports and academics. Whew! What a lot of negative baggage for anyone to overcome. Add to that the critiques of others and the result was I often felt depressed.
Sadly, that’s how a lot of people go through life, waiting until their burial for a good eulogy. The evidence of their failure gets underlined by their parents and friends – the very people who should be their biggest cheerleaders. The devil is called “the accuser of the brethren.” It’s appalling to me how, in an average day, so many people are ready to join him. They speak ill of others, in part because of their own sense of inadequacy – somehow tearing others down elevates them in comparison. It’s a broken equation that diminishes another to pump you up.
I recommend fasting from criticism and becoming a eulogizer of others. My friend Steve Wallace is a star at this. You can’t help but feel like a million bucks around him. People gravitate to folks like Steve. God already sees the enormous potential in all of us – eulogizing them just means seeing them as he does. Who needs a eulogy from you today?

Comments (9)

  • AMEN – as someone who has done a fair amount of both sides of this (encouraging and judging) – I know I have been asking Jesus to just PURGE me of the judgment completely. (and boy, has He had a lot of work to do!! 🙂 Funny that today I got in the mail a reflection of C.S. Lewis on Judging Others (out of “Mere Christianity”)- and how surprised we will all be in heaven when all sorts of “nasty things which where due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.”

    Won’t we be so shocked to see how ill-founded our judgments were, how much suffering we caused others with it … and how often we were guilty of the very thing we judged another for!

    I know that God has been gracious enough to “slap me” with that last one more than once. Thank goodness, He gives us lots of second chances. And we get to keep taking the test until we pass… I have been privileged to have in my life several people who emulate this standard well. And they are nearly all of them people who also grew up under hard criticism but who have had Jesus do a transforming work in their lives. That gives me great hope!

  • OUCH that hurts… it must be the truth ha. Yeah Carol & I have been discussing this exact topic a lot lately. It seems to be like any negative thing in our life, a habit that must be broken and re-created. Thanks for the push Seth I need this in my face so I can deal with it.

  • Spot on!

    My analytical mind sometimes produces a negative, criticizing spirit in the name of continuous improvement efforts. While improvement is indeed mostly the goal, in actuality the crtical approach produces the opposite.

    Thanks for putting me back on track as you so often do…and probably don’t even realize it!


  • Good morning Seth and I was thinking again how much I like the way you think and more vitally what the Living God prompts in you.

    This is a topic where I’ve lived, seen, experienced, promoted and promulgated all 360 degrees of the issue.

    So rather than add a hollow log to the fire let me say a few quick things:

    1. The “lesser” always has more to say than the “greater”.

    2. Most judgements are based in fear.

    3. Encouragement never goes out of style and is universal.

    4. We reap what we sow. Simple concept.

    It’s very easy to denigrate. I’ve done it. But it leaves a seemy feeling and is sin.

    Loyalty in friendship is never so valued as the day betrayal rears an ugly head.

    The real test of Christian love is how you serve, support and defend a person when they are absent.

    So here is what I plan to say at your funeral given the chance:

    “Seth was a friend. That word is used casually these days. But there was nothing casual about his love of a world in need. He took risks. He loved lavishly. He made time. He laughed at himself. He believed in mentoring new servants for the Kingdom. He prayed. He was a dad. He never lost that impish grin. He stood in the gaps. Some of them were mine.

    That’s why heaven is such a delight for him just now. He’s got his compass and a map and can’t wait to explore–again.”

    Love you friend.

  • hahahah…. I forget sometimes we both know him :-), always a pleasant reminder.

    Peter Lord taught me this attribute, too. I also call it a being a Barnabas, an encourager! It is definitely one of my most fave things EVER! I love speaking truth into others, ushering them into seeing their worth NOW and not just from Heaven’s view. I used to be pretty good at slicing and dicing someone, so I asked God to give me a double portion of encouraging words for HIM… and He did!

    We are inundated with so much negativity. I did a little study; here’s an excerpt from it: “Dr. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago says our brains are actually more sensitive and responsive to unpleasant news. That’s why personal insults or criticism hit us harder and stay with us longer. It’s why negative ads are more effective than positive ones—political or otherwise.”

    I concur. How painful, though, to carry around the negative words others have spoken to us and even about us. The human mind is quite intelligent, and it is no secret when people have a critical spirit towards another. I have so many stories I could share… I’m so grateful to be delivered from criticizing others and to be delivered from the words of others.

    “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thes 5:11)

  • Butch,

    What a wonderful kind thing to say. That’s the best eulogy I’ve had in a long time! Thanks – you prove my point better than anything I said in the blog. I just sat with someone who is at the end of their rope, their spirit scarred by betrayal. But you lifted my spirit with your words. Thanks for being a friend who loves me.


  • This is a big part of the good news. Thanks, Seth, for reminding us to, as Melinda cites it above, “encourage one another daily.”

  • My friend Tim Hansel (who is currently in a hospice facility as he waits to graduate to heaven) used to tell me I was an ‘incorrigible encourager’. I don’t think I was, but his encouragement moved me further along that direction.

    Tim reminded me that you would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t need encouragement. Have you ever encouraged someone and heard them respond, “No, don’t do that! I’ve had enough encouragement. No more. I can’t stand any more encouragement.”

    Not likely. And that is because we are all hard-wired to be loved, and when we get encouragement, it processes as an act of love. And as Hebrews 13:3 reminds us, we need a daily dose of this:

    But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today….(Hebrews 3:13 NIV)

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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