Another Day, Another Cliché

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

There is a common scenario that, in one form or another, seems to crop up in almost every initiation I've attended. You may recognize it: at the end of the degree the Master gives the attendees a chance to introduce themselves and speak if they wish. Congratulations abound and at some point one of the Brothers will tell the new initiate, "You will get out of Freemasonry what you put into it." Another day, another cliché.

Then there's that other scenario. You meet an old acquaintance whom you know to be a member and he tells you he dropped out, "All they wanted was my money."

Did you ever stop to think those two overworked remarks are related?

Take, for example, our two esteemed Brothers John Doe and Joe Doakes. John and Joe are the same age and, like all of us, have family responsibilities and demanding jobs. Raised on the same evening, their Masonic journeys take two distinct paths.

John dives right in, starts helping out around the Lodge, participates in the social functions and eventually fills in for officers in their absence. He participates in degree work, becomes interested in the ritual and begins reading articles about its meaning. The incoming Master asks him to step into the officers' line and his progression through the chairs begins. He eventually becomes Master, serves on Grand Lodge committees, joins appendant bodies, his Lodge of Research and maybe writes a couple of articles himself.

Joe, on the other hand, attends a few meetings after his raising but loses interest. Every once in a while he comes to a meeting, but doesn't have much to say; he's not involved in any of the Lodge's projects and most of the planning just bores him. He stops going to meetings altogether and loses touch with his Brothers. They, in turn, don't bother to stay in touch with him since he's drifted away. Joe's proud to be a member, thinks Freemasonry does good things but something seems to be missing.

Each year John and Joe receive a couple pieces of mail from their Lodge and maybe a couple more from the Grand Lodge. Face it, most of those letters contain an appeal for funds.

Then one day, years after becoming members, John and Joe receive their annual dues notices. John pays and doesn't think much about it, except maybe that it's a small price to pay for the value he gets from the fraternity. Joe, however, looks at the statement and thinks back to his only contact with the fraternity this year — those appeals for funds; and now it's not an appeal… it's mandatory. He decides it's not worth it and tosses the dues notice in the trash, "All they ever want is my money."

It is true that we as members have an obligation to stay in touch with Brothers who are no longer active and to encourage them to become involved. However, another cliché comes to mind: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

The ultimate responsibility for making this fraternity (or pretty much any other life experience) rewarding lies with each of us individually. When things get boring, do something about it (dare I mention, "when the going gets tough the tough get going?").
In the end both Joe and John are right. Joe was right when he said he only heard from the members if they wanted money. He was also right that something was missing. Unfortunately, what was missing was Joe himself.

John, on the other hand, indeed got out of Freemasonry what he put into it.

Most clichés become clichés because they are, ahem… "tried and true."


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on

Day By Day, The Masonic Way: Anger

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

Of all the emotions that we experience in our daily lives, anger may be one of the most potent. It has the ability to completely consume and overwhelm our rational mind, leaving us a complete slave to its whims. It, along with love, is one of our most God-like emotions; outside of love, the Bible speaks most frequently of God’s anger at His wayward children.

The most dangerous part about anger is that, often, it leads us into irrational, potentially damaging actions that can negatively affect us far into the future. Our peers, seeing our actions, may lose respect for us. We may say words in anger that damage, or even destroy, our relationships. If we’re especially unwise, we may even vent our anger in writing, leaving proof of our inability to control our emotions for all to see.

Brothers, this is an especially difficult topic for me, because I struggle with controlling my anger daily. To me, it has become an almost separate entity; a beast that has taken up residence in my mind and that I have to fight against to maintain the balance in myself. I had such a dread of writing this topic that I have developed an inability to write for the past two months and have had to rely on articles that I banked up for just such an occasion.

The thing about anger is, there really isn’t a good answer to it. If you indulge in it to get past it, you hurt those around you as well as yourself. If you bottle it up, it will eat away at you until you explode in rage. Besides, the whole goal was to control the anger, not suppress it.

In my search for more light about anger, I find myself contemplating two striking (and often overlooked) symbols from our ritual.

The first is the Volume of Sacred Law. Now of course each Mason brings to the table his own Volume, and I cannot begin to tell you what is in yours, however I can tell you the words of King Solomon that are in mine: “Fools give full vent to their rage” (Proverbs 29:11). Solomon was wise enough to recognize the importance of keeping his anger in check, and there is no greater example for a Freemason to inspire to.

The second symbol, which is one I find useful in so many situations, is the compass (or, if you prefer, compasses). The art of circumscription is one that can be applied to so many situations that it is hardly any wonder our ancient brethren chose it (along with the square) to be the most public symbol of our craft. It is a subtle craft; when appropriately applied, it may go unnoticed by the world outside of ourselves.

Taken together, these symbols become even more powerful; we can use the teachings of our Volume of Sacred Law to help us learn how to better circumscribe our anger. Our Volume of Sacred Law teaches us how to appropriately express our anger, and the compass reminds us of how to reign it in.

In theory, all of that is great. In practice, when the blood is boiling, and all I want to do is lash out and make the irritant feel as much torment as possible, it is very difficult to remember that there are boundaries to our actions that we must NEVER suffer our passions to cross. So, here are some practical solutions, in the hopes that you will find them useful, and that I will keep reminding myself of them:

1) Remove yourself from the situation. Odds are, if you stay within the situation, you’ll just make your anger worse, like leaving a pot of water on the stove until it boils over.

2) Think, think, think. What is causing your anger, what are some possible solutions, and most importantly ask yourself what the outcome would be if you really let your anger out like you want.

3) Talk, but do it carefully, and don’t stop thinking. It’s important to release the anger slowly and carefully, and in a non-confrontational manner. While you’re talking, instead of saying “you”, try saying “I”, and be specific. For example, instead of saying “You never do any of the work at the lodge”, try saying “I’m upset that I had to spend an hour cleaning the kitchen alone”. It is much more useful to express yourself in this manner.

4) Exercise. I hate exercise, but since I’ve started back in I’ve dropped weight, put on muscle, and feel much less stress than I used to. It’s important to not neglect the physical temple while we’re refining the mental temple.

5) Forgive. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal, and can go a long way to healing ourselves and our relationships. If we start with forgiveness, we often find that the anger has resolved itself.

I hope this has helped you. I know that writing it, and just admitting my own issues, definitely has helped me.


WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

Elections Have Consequences

By Midnight Freemasons Contributor 
WB Gregory J. Knott

With the presidential election just a few weeks away, my Facebook feed has been filled with posts about why you should or shouldn’t vote for a particular candidate.   It’s great to see citizens involved in our democracy, it strengthens our nation.
I have never missed voting in an election, and consider it both one of the highest privileges, and responsibilities that I have as a citizen.  But, why does voting matter, even if your selection of candidates is limited?   Because elections have consequences.
Let’s consider this phrase again; elections have consequences, even in your local Masonic lodge.   
When you put a brother in a chair, have you considered if they truly have the capacity to fill the position, and not just the chair?  If a brother starts as Junior Deacon and is planning to work their way through the chairs, can you look ahead down the road to see what kind of Worshipful Master of the lodge they might be in a few years?
One of the amazing opportunities in Freemasonry, is the ability to grow as an individual.  Being an officer, elected or appointed is certainly one of the ways to achieve this growth.   But being an officer may not be for everyone.   Let me reflect on some characteristics, that I believe are helpful to look for in an individual who is seeking election or appointment to an office.
Do they have the time? I have learned the hard way, that the monthly meeting is just the beginning of the time commitment to be an officers in a lodge.   There will be degree nights, dinners, practices, fundraisers, etc.   You don’t have to be at all of them, but you should be at most.
Do they have an eagerness to learn?   Each of the chairs comes with a certain level of responsibility.  In the progressive rotation, this amount of responsibility increases with each new position and reaches a capstone with becoming the Worshipful Master.  I found that an individual who wishes to learn, not just the ritual, but the responsibilities for the position, are good candidates for officers.  Learning is an excellent way for individual growth.
Do they have the ability to plan and ask for assistance?  By the time a brother becomes the Junior Warden, they should be seriously thinking about what it is they want to accomplish, as they work their way to the East.   Waiting until you assume office as the Worshipful Master to lay out your plans, is too late.   Planning at least a year in advance, putting together an annual calendar, asking brothers to assist in various capacities will greatly increase the chances of having a successful term of office.
Do they have the ability to listen?   Along with the planning process mentioned above, I am always looking for a good listener.   This individual knows that they cannot achieve success alone, and they are eager to hear what other brethren think and learn of their desires in helping make the lodge a success. 
Can they lead?  Being a leader is not simply a matter of issuing edicts and orders, but comes with a desire to serve others.   The term servant-leadership, was coined by Robert Greenleaf when he said, “The servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”  The servant-leader is in a position to help others grow, shares the power, and by doing so helps these individual achieve their greatest potential.
Do they have compassion?  One of most important and basic tenants of Freemasonry is caring for others, and not just when they are sick or in their darkest times.  Having compassion could simply mean having a conversation with a brother who is troubled, helping the widow with raking the leaves or being there in times of illness and distress.  But it also means setting the tone in the lodge, so that it becomes a welcoming place where brothers want to come back again and again, because they know someone truly cares.
There are any number of other characteristics that are also important, and your list might differ from mine.  But recall the next time your lodge is holding elections, that the privilege of voting in the lodge is one of our basic rights as Master Masons, but it also carries that important responsibility of being informed and casting a vote that will impact the future of your lodge.
Elections have consequences.
For more information on voting within the lodge, read these articles I wrote in 2012 “Voting is a Masonic Principal” part one and Voting is a Masonic Principal - Part II.   
WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.  

That Ashlar Ain't Going To Chip Itself: Part 2

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason

I emphasized in Part 1 how important it is for Freemasons to take the responsibility of educating themselves about Freemasonry seriously, and then sharing what they've learned with the Brethren.  But there's an even more important aspect to this education and research than just studying the subject of Freemasonry.  You know, they're called working tools for a reason.  If you want to accomplish anything, you have to use the tools yourself.  Apply them.  As my pastor would undoubtedly tell you, there's a big difference between studying the contents of the Holy Bible and applying what you find in the Holy Bible to your daily life--one is the study of theology, and the other is the application of faith.

That's the same thing we're talking about here.  When many of us joined this Fraternity, we did so with a desire to improve ourselves.  However, improvement doesn't come from filling our heads with arcane facts and information.  The improvement comes from actually applying the things we're learning.  Learning how to improve our character.  Learning how to improve the way we interact with others.  Learning to improve our moral character and living a virtuous life.  Learning how to improve the world around us.  Learning how to help those in need. 

But in order to be successful at this, we have to take a very honest inventory, and make a very detailed inspection of ourselves and our character.  Just like the operative masons did when they worked in stone, we have to find those imperfections, and the places that could use a little work, and apply those tools as necessary.  That's not an easy thing for some of us to do.  It's much easier to see the faults in others than to see the flaws in ourselves.  Honest self-reflection is something that takes great courage and great wisdom to be able to accomplish.  In order to improve ourselves we have to take a very long and honest look at the man in the mirror.

Ben Franklin had a system for doing this, and it became a habit he continued throughout his entire lifetime.  He identified 13 virtues he wanted to constantly improve himself on.  He kept track in a small book he carried with him how he did on each of those 13 virtues every day.  And each week, he selected one of those virtues to work on in particular. As remarkable a man as he is remembered as being, and as accomplished as he was in so many things, he never stopped working at trying to improve himself each and every day.

Freemasonry isn't a social club, although there is and always has been a social aspect to it.  If you joined for a ring and a bumper sticker, you're probably not going to understand what I'm talking about.  First and foremost, a Masonic Lodge is supposed to be a place of enlightenment.  It's supposed to be a place of learning--learning to improve ourselves, learning to better our character, learning to become better community leaders, better husbands, better fathers.  It's a place where men go and learn both from the wealth of knowledge Masons have accumulated over hundreds of years, but also from each other.  In too many places, this has been forgotten.  However, in many others, we're beginning to remember this again and the true purpose of Masonry, the self-improvement aspect of the Craft, is beginning to take root again. 

I encourage you to dive into all that Masonry has to offer.  Some of that knowledge you'll find in your Lodge.  Some of it in the library.  Some of it in the many wonderful research organizations out there for you to join and from the wealth of knowledge put out in the numerous publications this Fraternity has available.  There is so much there, you'll never be able to learn everything there is to know about Freemasonry in a lifetime.  But the study and application of even the most basic rudiments of our Craft will improve your life in immeasurable ways. 

You'll see those benefits once you begin, and it will drive you to continue to learn all you can.


Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is the Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at: