What Freemasonry Teaches Us About Priorities

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Soon to be "Secretary Emeritus" of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL)
I made a very difficult decision recently--I decided that after seven years serving as Secretary of my Lodge, it was time to step down and let somebody else take over.  So in June, I'll become "Secretary Emeritus".   By the way, Secretary Emeritus is not a real title, but rest assured I'm going to use it anyway.

I've enjoyed the job, and that's why the decision was so tough.  I think I was good at the job, but like anything else, I'm sure I could have done a better job at a few things.  But overall, I did a good job.  I'd even been awarded Illinois Secretary of the Year a few years ago!  I've written a few pieces on the Midnight Freemasons over the years about how to be a good Secretary, like Advice For New Secretaries and Lodge Secretary (For Life): A Thankless Job.  But I'd known for some time that I needed to take a step back from a few of the roles I have in the Fraternity--Secretary was one of those. 

I've gotten to the place I'm too involved in too many things.  Secretary at one Lodge, and Master at another.  I just finished a term as Sovereign Master of my Allied Masonic Degrees Council.  I'm involved in the Scottish Rite.  We've started a new Royal Arch Chapter, and I'm up next as High Priest of the new chapter.  Then there's the blog writing, the articles, the books, the education pieces, and the speaking engagements.  It's gotten to be too much.  And we all know what happens when we get too much on our plate--we wind up with mediocrity instead of our best.  That's certainly what's been plaguing me.  I seldom feel as prepared as I should be, because I'm stretched far too thin.

So it was time for me to pull back before I burned out.  Focus on doing a few things really, really well instead of a dozen things rather poorly.  The Secretary job was the first thing I needed to let go, but there are a few other things I'm going to have to let go of--get back to being a member of a few bodies instead of a driver. 

What we often forget as Freemasons is the lesson of the 24-inch gauge--one of the first and most basic concepts we're taught.  Life is about maintaining a proper balance.  It's about properly dividing our time.  I know very few active Masons that pay any heed to that lesson at all, but we do so at our own risk.  I could name several Masons that I no longer see in Lodge anymore that I used to see at every single event I went to no matter where it was.  I know one or two were given notice by their spouses that they were spending too much time away from home, and as much as they love the Fraternity, it wasn't worth half their stuff to find out if she was serious or not.  A few others simply burned out because they were far too involved in too many things.

Brace yourself for a shocking statement--Freemasonry comes last!  It comes after God.  It comes after family.  It comes after our chosen profession.  We should never put Freemasonry before God, family, or career.  I know many who have, including me from time to time.  But as important as the work we do as Freemasons is, it should not be our entire life.  What we learn in our Lodges is what is important--those basic tenets, principles and ideals.  The application of the basic principles of Freemasonry is what is important, and making sure we're teaching our new Master Masons those lessons by serving as a good example.  Those principles we learn are the part we take with us everywhere.  Those are the basic building materials necessary to improve ourselves.  That's the part of Freemasonry that makes good men better men, and that's why we're here.  Unfortunately, too often many of us get so involved in "doing" Freemasonry that we forget to "live" Freemasonry.  We focus on the tasks rather than the philosophy. 

I think it's safe to say I'll always be an active Mason.  However, going forward I'm going to be a little more selective about the jobs I take on so that I can focus more on those things in the Fraternity where I make the biggest impact.  Writing books, articles and blog pieces that hopefully make us think.  Being a good Worshipful Master in my Lodge.  Advancing Masonic Education in our Lodges everywhere.

Attending Lodge is important.  Being involved is important.  But just as we're taught early on in our ritual--we must learn to manage our time, and live a life that's in balance. 

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° 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.  He is a Past 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: webmaster@toddcreason.org

11 comments:

  1. Well written Brother. I too am a Secretary. In career-life I was an HR manager nd the Secretary position was a natural. While i am not too the point of stepping down yet, I know it will come.

    I recently advised a potential member who was so enthusiastic about joining and then going into Shrine that 1. he was unemployed at 21 years old, 2. has 2 children to support and 3. to look at his priorities.

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    1. I think that's excellent advise. Too often the majority of the work falls on just a few hard working members. My point for many years has always been that when we start making our purpose about education and improvement, our attendance will improve, and we'll have more active members to help share the workload. We're in the process right now of putting that theory to the test with some of the things we're doing in one of our local lodges, and with a new Royal Arch Chapter that is focusing on education. We'll see what happens, but I suspect what we'll see is more active participation, and more hands on deck.

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  2. Thanks for this reminder. Many times I'm asked during my Masonic leadership workshops how to avoid getting "burned out" with Masonry. I wrote this post which describes what I do when asked to take on another Masonic responsibility.
    http://masonsleadbetter.com/how-to-serve-and-not-suffer-by-saying-no/

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  3. Ah, the dreaded Masonic overload. Yes, I've been there, fixed it, now I'm back there again.

    A while back I wrote about it, http://scotnewbury.com/mind-your-cabletow/, and even called out the same priorities you stated Todd, just wish I had heeded my own advice. As you mentioned, suddenly I find myself in the same place, with a stack of things that need to get done, and I'm not ready for the next item on the agenda - really hate that feeling.

    I have learned to say no, actually it's, "not by the Secretary," and I'm working on handing things off to those that are interested and willing. The balance will come.

    I think the issue really lies in our hearts. Those that seem to fall into the, "I'll take on just one more thing," group are often those that have a deep love for the Fraternity and want it to succeed and carry on after us. We have a "if not me, then who," drive, a need to get things accomplished.

    Best of luck with moving to Secretary Emeritus, I was there once, try not to do as I did and say yes to office a second time. :-)

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    1. Thanks Scot. Common affliction amongst the Brethren. Good piece you wrote by the way. Thanks for sharing it.

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    2. Thank you for the compliment. I just need to get things balanced again so I can get back to writing and sharing more.

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    3. Well I wish you would. I miss your writing. You've been out here a long time, too. That's my goal. To get back to more of this. I love this.

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  4. Well said Bro soon to be Secretary Emeritus. Many years ago; here in Western Australia I was in as as many as 7 Orders all at the same time. I totally neglected my family for such a long time before I realised at long last; that if I didn't change my ways then in all probability I wouldn't have a family for much longer. I also lost a good job I had because of my Craft involvement, some of our meetings were held in the day time when I was supposed to be at work; sometimes we had two meetings on the same day. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed being a member of every Order I was in........it just became time for me to put things into perspective and find quality time with family once more. Nowadays I am IPM in my Blue Lodge, I still attend Chapter when work permits, I resigned as Most Wise Sovereign, and I gave away the Knights Templar. It's all a question of perspective. Wor Bro John Mason - Perth, Western Australia

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    1. It sneaks up on you slowly over time. Next thing you know... glad you took corrective action. Thanks for sharing your experience. I guess what happens in the Midwestern United States is just as common in Western Australia! S&F

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  5. I am in EXACTLY the same place you are, although a replacement for me as Secretary is not yet identified, which kind of scares me. (Because if in a year I'm still behind the desk, they may find, when I rise to read minutes, that I'm not wearing pants.) But there is a good deal of time left before we elect in October. Fingers crossed.

    I've learned a lot by all of the work I've done for my Lodge. One thing I've learned, is that I don't derive any personal satisfaction from being In Charge. I want to CONTRIBUTE, but I have no need or desire to be In Charge. And in the meantime, my own goals—which are heavily tied up with writing for me, as well—I have generally discarded.

    Time to find out what it's like to be a member.

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