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I have lost two grandfathers in the past two weeks, and have had the privilege of officiating both funerals, so the concept of death and life have been weighing heavily on my mind. Both were men of great integrity, humility, and character, who exhibited the work ethic made famous by that “Greatest Generation”. They both loved their families and were active in their churches. In working to create an overarching narrative that encapsulates each man’s life, I began to wrestle with these questions:

How do you measure the life of a man? What is the measure of a life well-lived?

In grappling with these questions, in light of the men who served as heroes and role models for me, I came to this conclusion:

The measure of a man is not marked by the wealth he acquires, the possessions he accumulates, or the positions he attains. Indeed, these are very faulty measures, measures that, in the end, leave only brokenness, ruin and regret.

No, I am convinced that the only measure by which a man may be found true, the only measure that marks a life well-lived, is by how much he gives of himself, by how much he lays his life down for the other.

The measure of a man is not in how degreed he is, how rich his portfolio, how full his social calendar, how great his golf score, how impressive his business card, how extensive his library or how full his closet.

Quite simply, the measure of a man is marked by how much he loves. 

And let me, by way of the Greeks, explain what I mean, and do not mean, by love. The Greeks broke the idea of love out into four distinct words:

Storge: the love of things (basketball, Mexican food, TV shows, e.g.)
Phileo: brotherly love (love for friends, companions, etc.)
Eros: romantic or passionate love

And finally, agape, the love that literally shatters itself on behalf of the other. The love that bears all things, endures all things, suffers all things; the love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

For, if a man speaks multiple languages, has earned degrees from the finest institutions, has made a tidy sum playing the market, has built a comfortable life behind gated walls, donates to the finest non-profits, preaches sermons before thousands, writes best sellers, oversees million dollar budgets, and raises his children to do the same, but does not have agape, he is but a resounding bore and an empty shell.

The measure of a man, then, comes down quite simply to how much and how well he loves. These are the lives that are straight and sound and true. These are the men who leave behind families of blessing, whose children rise up and call them blessed. These are the men whose quiver is full of children who pass on this legacy of love to their children for countless generations.

These are the men I was honored to know and humbled to honor. These men (and many others like them in my life) were men whose lives measured true and straight by that great yardstick: the depth of their love.