We all love to think we’re worth this institution, and we’re doing things more or less correctly, but are we?
You could have Grand in front of every title in the Craft you’ve earned, and yet your day to day fraternal interactions could be poisoning your lodge and brothers, bit by bit, because success isn’t a goal that is reached, g but a trajectory that is either going up or down.
Here are 10 signs that you might be contributing to a downward trajectory.
1. You’re sitting alone
I’m an introvert, socially awkward, and an all-around weirdo, so I get the appeal of sitting on a distant couch or a darkened corner and scrolling through my phone while the lodge brothers are whooping it up some distance away. And it’s completely true that many introverts often like to remain quiet and isolated adjacent to one or more friends, because it isn’t people we dislike. We’re just overwhelmed and exhausted by interaction. But this is selfish.
Daniel Coyle, the author of Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, cites studies which claim that strong groups sit together. This is an animal instinct. When the pack is together there is safety, and safety lowers anxiety, which opens the emotional pores. When a lone wolf is sitting off alone not only is he in more danger, raising his own anxiety, but the pack too will be concerned for his safety, raising theirs.
If you’d rather scroll through your phone, and not talk, that’s fine, but scooch your chair to within at least five feet of the group.
2. You’re sitting with the same few guys
No cliques. No cabals.
There will always be some who are more than brothers; they’re friends. And you enjoy their company. They’re the ones you come to see when you aren’t coming for the meetings. And you don’t ignore the other guys, but you don’t converse too deeply or too long.
Change that. First, because the other masons in the room are more than your friends, they’re your brothers. Second, see No. 1. Third, you’re hurting yourself. Freemasonry isn’t meant to be a networking mixer, but coincidentally it is also a networking mixer, and you never know when you’ll need these guys or the things they can do. And more importantly, unless you talk with them, and get to know them, you’ll never know when there’s something they need, that you can do for them. And trust me, the last thing you want is a brother telling you lodge that his wife just passed and you didn’t even know he was married.
“Your brothers are your business, because we’re in the business of brotherhood.”Matt Gallagher, Practical Freemasonry
3. You come and go without a handshake
Life is busy and we don’t like interruptions going from A to B. But that’s not freemasonry. Freemasonry is supposed to be an interruption. It’s supposed to break your week in half and let you pause, and breathe, and remember to be the guy you’re supposed to be.
Human touch is important to this process. It’s not just the classic greeting, or an exchange of niceties, though it certainly is. A handshake is like an anchor. Like someone reaching out and grabbing you, and pulling you out of the rapids of life’s river, and onto the shore of a safe harbor.
4. You give the ol’ “No Look Pass”
Everyone’s done it. You feel a pat on the arm and see a palm out of the corner of your eye. You grab the hand and shake without even breaking the stride of your conversation. Or you walk in and offer your hand to the first brother you run into, all while scanning the room for someone you’d rather be with. Or maybe it just feels that way to them.
The handshake was historical shorthand for “I’m not going to kill you right now,” and eventually became a sign reading “I’m glad you’re here, because I trust you.” As good times went on to breed weak men, the handshake turned more into “Hey, I’m sticking out my hand because here’s a thing I guess I have to do, because reasons.”
As brothers, we aim for the middle definition. Face him. Hold your hand out. Grip. Look him in the eye. Be as kind as you can muster.
5. You go from meeting > to car > to home
I think a lot has been written about this practice. Hey, if your meetings are so great that it’ all you need, then congratulations and send me your minutes. But I don’t get it. You don’t want to…talk? Go outside for a smoke? Hit up a bar? Shoot some pool? Talk about a project? Vent about work? Tidy up your building? Discuss philosophy? Discuss movies? Discuss ghosts? Discuss ghost movies? Discuss movies about ghost hunting?
For a lot of us this is our one night out of the house. Let’s live it up a bit. Why? Because that’s the fellowship. That’s the Craft. That’s the work. That’s an integral part of the process, and if you’re not working to make the process better, you’re making it worse.
6. You’re sitting while a brother is working
Almost every lodge has the three or four guys who do all the work. They do the cooking, the dishes, etc. They work the events, the cleaning days, and they’re the ones who show up with a truck when someone puts out the bat signal for help.
If you’re not that guy, and you can’t name the three or four guys in your lodge who are, then you’ve probably already burned them out. They’re done. They’re tired. They’ve moved on.
And that’s when a lodge starts dying.
I’m not saying you have to be one of those guys. Those are special kind of guys. But if you’re sitting there and you’re hearing the clattering of pots and pans, get up and ask how you can help.
7. You’re in the weeds and you’re not asking for help
I admit, it’s kind of fun to sneer, and curse your lazy brethren, and seethe, and then when the dishes are done you climb up onto your cross and nail your left hand to it with your right hand, and nail your right hand to it with nothing else but the telekinetic manifestation of your own indignation, and die where it’ll take months for anyone to find your body because no one else apparently even knows where the f**king kitchen is, Kevin!!!
But if you’re up to your ass in masonic chores, do everyone a favor and ask for help.
People love making these little Covert Contracts with others. If they go to work that obviously means you go to work, and if you don’t then you’re in breach of contract. Reality is different. I’m not much use in the kitchen, so I sort of assume the people running it have it covered and don’t need me in the way. But while I should be offering, they, likewise, should be asking. I love being asked to help. It gives me the chance to put on my Superman cape. That’s why I’m a mason.
People have become far too passive aggressive. Ask, and yes shall receive. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock and the kitchen door will be opened.
8. There’s a brother you’re not talking to
My mentor, on the day I met him, told me that your masonic family is like your actual family. You love them all, but you won’t like all of them.
He’s currently not talking to me.
It happens. Even in freemasonry. I suspect it happens a lot in freemasonry, because strife is extra disappointing here. Freemasonry raises you so much higher before it lets you drop. But that’s life. What can do you?
You can do what you know you should do, and talk to that brother: on the level, on the plumb, on the square.
Will it work? In most cases, no. But that doesn’t absolve you from having to try.
9. You’re talking unkindly about a brother who is out of earshot
We all gossip. Well, except for that one brother. He’s such a good boy. You know what I heard about him though? …And there I go again. I’ll be honest. Gossiping is one of my favorite things to do. But this is a no-brainer. We just can’t partake. It’s destructive, even if you don’t mean it to be. Even if you’re think you’re being constructive, I caution you to tread lightly. Idle gossip holds the door open, letting in his pals: cliquishness, plotting, and disharmony.
10. It never hurts
Let me be clear. All of us do all of these things sometimes. And I’ve done all of them. I still do some of them. After I click Publish I’ll still go on doing some of them. No mason is a perfect ashlar. And that hurts.
Good. It’s supposed to hurt. Like the parable Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski gives about the lobster, pain and stress is how we learn to grow. Or perhaps a more masonic example would be Alexis Carrel’s statement.
“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.”Alexis Carrel
Brother, would you mind…
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