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

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