Civility – An Opportunity for Freemasonry

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
W.B. Gregory J. Knott

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston SC

The recent killing of Nine African-American’s inside a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, sent chills down my spine.  It was another senseless shooting, by an apparently deranged killer bent on making a name for himself with this violent shameless act.  Horrific in every way describable. 
The 24 hours news cycle immediately had on a parade of experts, politicians and others offering their opinion on why it happened, how it can be prevented next time, etc.   But many of these ideas fall short in my view, because they don’t address the underlying issues regarding how we view each other as fellow citizens, how we interact with each other on a daily basis and how we fundamentally treat one another.  What is lacking is a discussion of civility.
Civility is a foundational building block for a healthy society.  Defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “: polite, reasonable, and respectful behavior”.   Civility broadly speaking, is how we interact on a daily basis with one another in our conversations, business dealings, personal relationships, etc.
In Choosing Civility, P.M. Forni quoted Novelist Peter Gadol who wrote in The Long Rain (pg. 262):
“Here we are the end of the century, drifting through a hero-less age.  We have no leaders we can trust, no visions to invest in, no faith to ride.  All we have are our own protean moralities, our countless private codes, which we each shape and reshape according to our own selfish needs.  We don’t dare think too far ahead.  Here we are, trapped by whatever season we find ourselves enduring, waiting out the weather, staring at a drought sun, stupefied, helpless- or scrambling like fools to make it home before the rain really comes down and the dry river floods and the hills crash into the valley.  Where do we find the courage to do what we know is right?”
Freemasonry has civility has one of its fundamental lessons and it lies at the very core of how we treat each other as brothers.   Couldn’t society benefit from the lessons that are taught in our great fraternity?
Politicians and pundits will never be able to fix all of society’s woes.  As Freemasons, our fraternity has a unique opportunity to lead the way by example of how men of different faith, politics, and heritage can work together side by side to help improve each other and our fellow mankind.
The Grand Lodge of California has partnered with the Civility Center to create a program to promote civility within the greater society.   Together they have created a number of goals:
The Principles of Engagement are guideposts for attracting collaborators and establishing relationships among them. 

1.​ View everyone in positive terms.  Seeing everyone as a potential resource and agent of change helps to level the playing field and engage all stakeholders. 

2. Develop a common language.  The language we use can either unite or divide people. How can we discuss change if we don’t understand each other? Being aware of the problem, and agreeing on the terms to be used, is a good start. 

3. Build strong relationships and trust.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of trust, which builds bridges across boundaries and makes relationships solid. 

4. Remember our shared humanity.  It is easy to forget we are all humans, with more commonalities than differences. Common sense and history tell us we can work together to solve common concerns—and that when we separate ourselves, we are less effective. 

5. Value both the process and the results. The gap between the two causes many people to give up on collaboration. Results-oriented people need actions with observable outcomes, and process-oriented people focus on continuing the methods that drive the action. Both are crucial for improving communities. 

6. Look both within and outside the community for guidance.  People living in communities need to take responsibility for their problems and find actions that will address them. But we also need to recognize when to accept and use resources that are available from outside of the community. All resources need to be leveraged around a healthy attitude toward self-improvement.

The April-May edition of the California Freemason features some in depth articles of how Freemasons are working together to advance the ideals of a civilized society.  It’s worth a read.
Fellow Midnight Freemason Todd E. Creason, myself and a group of brethren are working towards establishing a new Royal Arch Chapter that will feature civility as one of our guiding principles in not only how we interact with each other, but with a goal of promote civility throughout the Masonic fraternity.
Brother George Washington wrote a small book titled “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior” and opened his list of 110 rules with “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”
As a Freemason the opportunity shape and improve our world is right in front of us, one person at a time.


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. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. You can contact him at


  1. The news media needs a crash course in civility too. When an incident like the South Carolina Church Shooting or the Connecticut School shooting happens, they invade the town, usually with their main "Talking Heads" and then for days on end, they invade the privacy of anyone they can convince to talk to them. Can we as Masons teach the media? I wish I knew how. When Masons are involved in something, we are either ignored by the media, as with the finding and relaying of the corner stone recently in Boston (at least as far as the National coverage was concerned) or we are just mentioned in passing with terms like secret society or they manage to work in passing mention of conspiracy theories. I wish we could find a way to get the media to take us seriously and report the truths that we stand for.

  2. This is a great article. Thank you for aiding our very important effort. We have been identifying civility ambassadors across the world and now have ambassadors from Israel, the Philippines, Baja Mexico, Canada and the US.

    Please feel free to distribute the Civility Toolkit far and wide: