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Eulogy For The Undeserving

Updated on December 14, 2014

An Insatiable Appetite For Glowingly Eulogizing Brutes

It is said that you are not to speak ill of the dead. In fact, I oftentimes wonder if some of us inferred that we are therefore to lie to make the bad apples look good, at whatever cost. I have never been to a funeral outside of my country, so I definitely need to add this to my 'to-do' list. Nonetheless, I suspect that once funerals have the culture of eulogizing and otherwise paying tributes to the dead, it might not be all that different in most other countries.



Society's Condemned

Fortunately or unfortunately, not only was I raised in not one, but two volatile communities; but I also work with society's condemned, otherwise incarcerated, as well as non-custodial offenders and their families. While I have never attended a funeral for a 'client'; theirs is the kind that is easy to find in the communities where I grew up and the kind which always seems to be glowingly eulogized.

A View Of Alcatraz Prison
A View Of Alcatraz Prison | Source
Death Row
Death Row | Source

'Soon To Be Eulogized Brutes' Population

I have also long suspected that some of the criminals who should be imprisoned are still in open society, wreaking havoc. There is even a possibility that some have mastered the art of concealing their evidence; but I cannot say they are "smart" as they usually end up on the seven o'clock news and make up the 'soon to be eulogized brutes' population.


Non-Criminal Brutes And Well-Wishers

My current grouse is however, with the friends, family and 'well wishers' who remain behind after their criminals become 'dearly departed'. Don't get me wrong, there are many non-criminals who were also terrible people, albeit in different ways. These people also make up the kind that my grouse is directed toward; the undeserving of glowing eulogies. These can include abusive parents and relatives-turned-enemies, among others.


Possible Reasons For Great Eulogies

What then is the reason why we tempt the Superior Being (for those of us who believe in one) by lying about these brutes in front of the pastor or in church, etcetera when eulogizing them or otherwise paying tributes? My guess is:

  • to save face/family reputation
  • out of shame
  • to secure a spot in the will or intestate 'spoils'
  • to get a rare chance to speak in public/at a large gathering
  • to show off the latest hair style or fashion
  • to prove status, especially if none exists
  • to console the grieving parties
  • to invoke tears from mourners/gatherers

A Celebration Akin To Weddings and Christenings

Having done a bit of informal research, I have discovered that while people accept the fact that we have a tendency to glowingly eulogize undeserving people; there is also a strong belief that the culture of not speaking ill of the dead is held to high regard. Some people feel downright offended at the fact that others would want to be honest at a funeral. Others are of the opinion that, like weddings, christenings and such celebratory events, funerals are to be kept happy and upbeat. Never mind the fact that the one being eulogized is undeserving of praise or even remembrance.


Euphemisms and Generalizations

On the other hand, there are those who feel that we should not lie at funerals, whether by omission or commission; but should instead use euphemisms or otherwise be as general or evasive as possible. In so doing, our eulogy for the undeserving would be pretty much a cut-and-paste version of the lives they lived.



If you are placed in a predicament where you have to eulogize someone you feel is undeserving or was an enemy, some recommendations are as follows:

  1. Generalize/ use generic phrases
  2. Talk about the good
  3. Talk about when they were young
  4. Talk about the family left behind
  5. Consider the feelings of the grieving family members
  6. Talk about forgiveness
  7. Talk about lessons learned from the deceased, whether intentional or not
  8. Consult with the family on what they want to be included
  9. Talk about celebrating life as opposed to mourning death
  10. Talk about the love they left behind and things they left undone
  11. Talk about the special talents or attributes of the deceased
  12. Be honest without addressing the bad things
  13. Talk about strengthening of character and conviction of those left behind because of deceased's faults


Playing On Others' Emotions

Some of us have mastered the art of playing on others' emotions, but whatever the reason, if you were a brute in life; you still are a brute in death. It would however seem like a better option to not delve on the negatives at funerals, if even for the sake of the grieving family. Notwithstanding, because you choose not to address the negative is no reason to lie or speak glowingly of the undeserving in your tribute. A major annoyance derived from this practice is the fact that people who didn't know the deceased will feel like they missed out on something, when in fact it was probably a blessing in disguise, having never met them.

To Eulogize Or Not To Eulogize?

What Would You Do If You Had To Eulogize Someone You Felt Didn't Deserve It?

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    • Keisha Hunter profile imageAUTHOR

      Keisha Hunter 

      3 years ago from Kingston, Jamaica

      Lol a wise pastor indeed. Thanks for the tips and kind words dear.

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 

      3 years ago from The Great Midwest

      A former pastor of mine would always say at funerals that nothing that we say or do at this point, can alter their eternal destination. I say tell what good that can be truthfully told and leave it at that. Interesting hub.

    • Keisha Hunter profile imageAUTHOR

      Keisha Hunter 

      3 years ago from Kingston, Jamaica

      Thank you Ann, glad I could be of assistance. It has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time, watching bastards eulogized as saints. I too have a better appreciation for the practice, based on research and reasons given, but my goodness man, some people blatantly lie and expect you to swallow that pill!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image


      3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Keisha, you have hit on the precise reason that I would not want to be a pastor, although I would be if the Lord called me to it. It must be hard to know someone that did not know the Lord but yet have to talk to the family and friends as though he or she did. You offer very good suggestions. Voted up.

    • Keisha Hunter profile imageAUTHOR

      Keisha Hunter 

      3 years ago from Kingston, Jamaica

      Thanks dear, its something i've been asked to do once, but only ended up writing the eulogy as opposed to presenting it. Needless to say, the person's cronies got hold of it and chose to honor the not so good characteristics, but mostly by way of euphemism. I had chosen to dwell on the sweet little promising child and teen when we were growing up. It really annoys me to hear people make angels of bastards though, especially those who have made many families weep and mourn.

    • Maria Antonia profile image

      Antoinette Lee Toscano 

      3 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Keisha, I neve considered this situation before, thanks for bringing it up. I voted it up and useful because you offered some good advice on what to do if you're asked to eulogize someone you feel doesn't deserve a kind remembrance by others.


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