Wise Counsel

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

In the Master Mason degree, we are assigned a duty, that we will whisper wise counsel into the ear of an errant brother, which is such a beautiful sentiment that I can’t help but believe most of us don’t truly understand the ramifications of it. This is such an important duty that many jurisdictions claim it as one of the duties of the chaplain, situated as he is on the immediate left of the Worshipful Master, and for this reason it is generally understood that this position is filled by an active Past Master of the lodge, who is best in a position to give advice as needed to a new Worshipful Master. In light of this, perhaps we should spend a few moments reflecting on the full meaning of this duty.

There are many parts to this particular duty, which I will attempt to break down as simply as possible. First, to whisper. Before I tell you how important this is, I should admit up front that I fail miserably at it. My friends, if they’re being generous, would describe me as having a loud mouth. I shudder to think of what they would tell you if they are not feeling generous. To whisper, for me, is to actively fight my natural inclination to shout loudly when I see an injustice, to choose only those words that create the proper meaning in a positive way, and to tell it directly to those who most need to hear it, or are in the best position to change something. This, to me, comes at a great cost; as a writer and an entertainer, I am rather verbose, and want my writings read by everyone. Hopefully, you have already conquered the first challenge better than I, but if not I encourage you to add being quiet to your list of virtues to meditate on.

Wise counsel requires that the information we pass on is both helpful and intelligent. If I were to explain the whole of Masonic history to you, that may be wisdom, but it is not counsel. By the same argument, if I recommend that you come to lodge in the nude (excepting the apron, which is the proper dress of a Mason), that is definitely counsel, but far from wise. Wise counsel, therefore, requires not only giving advice, but to give intelligent advice that can be used to help correct the current situation.

To whisper wise counsel in the ear of a brother requires courage, especially when it is a brother who has strayed from the path. It isn’t easy to tell someone they are doing something wrong, especially someone you care about. If you analyze the situation, you will usually find that they are better off for your intervention than they would be if you ignored the situation.

Generally, I try to avoid giving unsolicited advice, because it never seems to end well, however our duties do not allow us that option for a brother. We are specifically charged to watch our brothers, to hold them accountable for their actions, and to help them to be better. In short, we ARE our brothers’ keepers.

Ask yourself this difficult question: if you saw a brother about to commit a crime, would you try to stop them? It is not a rhetorical question, please send me an e-mail with your answer and your reasoning.

Of course, we all want to say “Yes, absolutely, I would try to stop my brother from erring.” Sitting behind the comfort of a keyboard, it is so easy for me to say that I would, without a doubt. Out there, in the real world, the story may be different. Maybe it is too embarrassing for me to say something, or I don’t feel I have the right to correct them because, after all I’ve made plenty of mistakes too, or maybe I was just too tired so I turned the other way instead of helping. There are so many easy excuses, because it’s so much easier to just stay out of it.

Where do you draw the line? If you saw a brother about to murder someone, I feel safe that all of us would intervene, but what if it wasn’t something so obviously wrong? What if it was a brother stealing from work, or cheating on his wife, or just jaywalking? Just how far does your obligation extend?

Freemasonry teaches us in a different way than we are used to; instead of treating us like we’re children, and presenting pure, easy to follow examples, it knows that we are adults, and so presents us with situations where there are not any clear answers, and then challenges us to discover what the answers are within the framework of our own morality. It seems intentionally designed to force us to be better men!


Bro. Adam Thayer is the Junior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No 54 in Lincoln (NE) and the Worshipful Master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member of the Scottish Rite, and Knight Master of the Lincoln Valley Knights of Saint Andrew. Adam serves on the Education Committee of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. You can contact him at adam.thayer@gmail.com

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