As with many things, it's one thing to say it, and it's another to do it. It's easy to say you're a Freemason. It's easy to look like a Freemason--you put a sticker on your car, and you wear a ring. But would somebody be able to look at your life, and the way you interact with the world, and be able to tell you're a Freemason? Are you living up to the standard, or are you going to Lodge to be seen in Lodge? Are you there to learn and participate, or are you there to collect medals and certificates?
Unfortunately, too many men misunderstand what Freemasonry is about. They enter into it wanting to accomplish something, however, what they believe is important is covering their walls with awards, and themselves with titles, jewels and ribbons. That's not the point. The purpose is to learn something--to improve yourself. To open your eyes and see yourself as an instrument of purpose, and the world as an opportunity for service. You'll find those medals and acknowledgements often go to those Masons that aren't really looking for that kind of attention--much to the chagrin of those who really desire them. And I've got a great story to illustrate that point.
I helped a Mason's daughter a few years ago go through her father's Masonry stuff. She was a friend of my father's, and she had a trunk full of it, and had no idea what to do with it. So I went to check it out. I'd have to admit, I was surprised at what was inside that trunk. It was filled with a lot of Masonic stuff, but there were a considerable number of Masonic awards, plaques, certificates, ribbons, medals, etc, including his 33rd Degree cap and certificate--still rolled up in the cardboard tube where it had been since he'd received it no doubt. I was surprised to find that stuff moldering in an old trunk. Those are the kinds of acknowledgements Masons proudly display. I asked her how they had wound up there. Apparently, that was his trunk, and that's where he put them after he received them. He never hung anything up, never donned the white cap of a 33rd, or wore his medals and jewels--he just filled up a trunk in his garage.
I told her that was a pretty amazing collection of accomplishment to be hidden away like that. This isn't an exact quote, but she said to the effect, "I remember him receiving some of these awards. I know Dad was always grateful and surprised when he received these things, but he said it wasn't the reason he became a Mason. He said being a good Mason was its own reward. He didn't need anything else."
His example is something we can all learn from. If you're doing something with the expectation of being rewarded, then you're doing it for the wrong reason.
Todd E. Creason, is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is also the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog, where he posts on a regular schedule on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199. He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research. He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org