"Men of good reputation and solid character used to be more common than they are today. We don’t teach the value of it anymore. Our society is so focused inward on ourselves, and our own selfish needs. We are a society of grown children, fighting and arguing on social media just like children used to fight and argue on the playground. We’ve never grown up and become men, because we haven’t had the role models. And just like children, we don’t think about what we’re saying, and we don’t think about what our words and actions are saying about us."
It made me think about a few quotes from one of my favorite books (and later Movie):
“We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Our role models have been TV stars, movie stars, rock stars and sports stars. We’ve been raised through television. I was what was called a latch key kid. Mom and Dad both worked, so I’d get off the school bus, walk home, turn on the television. It was my babysitter. With the advent of cable television in the early to mid-1980’s, I would watch MTV. I would see images of rock stars behaving like children. There were videos with drinking, partying too excess. The sexual exploitation of both women and men was rampant. I was lucky enough to understand at a young age that it was just fantasy, but still I wonder what type of an effect it had.
My generation has been bombarded with 40 to 50 plus years of targeted advertising that teaches happiness = stuff. We are conditioned to believe that success is a measurement of what you own, not who you are. The size of your house, the clothes you wear, and the type of car you drive are all indications of how ‘Successful’ you are. We’ve been taught to consume, consume, consume. As Fight Club asks: “Do you know what a duvet is? It’s a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then? We are consumers. We’re the byproducts of a lifestyle obsession.” Couple this with many of us not having a real male role-model growing up. Is it any wonder we’re all angry and selfish children?
I was lucky to have some male role-models in Scouting. They coupled with my Dad’s apathy towards volunteering made me want to be a volunteer soccer coach for my son’s teams, and also to be a Scout Leader. It was through Scouting that I met fellow Midnight Freemason Greg Knott. Greg Knott often jokes about him giving me 'Structure'. But he's not half wrong. Freemasonry came along for me when I was at cross-roads. You see, I was one of those selfish grown children that Todd referenced. I won’t get into details, but Greg saw something untapped in me that I didn’t recognize. He saw potential. He reached out to me. He told me about how Freemasonry promotes many of Scouting’s ideals. He helped to set me on a path that has changed my life forever. It was through Greg that I met Todd Creason. I slowly got more involved in helping them both with their mission to restore Homer Lodge #199. They both have become not just great mentors, but really good friends. All because Greg took a chance on me.
There has long been a notion within Freemasonry that ‘We make good men better!’ I would argue that this is false. First of all, we’re not just accepting good men. Every year at Grand Lodge when the role-call of Brothers being expelled for committing a felony is read, I’m reminded that we need to do a better job of guarding the West Gate. Secondly, we hardly go out of our way to make men better. How many times do we bring in a candidate only to have him attend lodge a few times, and then never return? Now, I will say some of this is on the individual brother, but most of it is on us. You see we are failing each other even in lodge. The idea of making someone better implies that someone is doing the teaching.
Like I stated, I was lucky. I had a Masonic role model to emulate when I joined the lodge. But not everyone is as lucky. We as Masons also need role models. Now I’m sure if you’re reading this article, you can probably think immediately who you consider a Masonic Mentor or role-model. If you’re like me, you have several. But are you a mentor or role – model to someone else? Are you going out of your way to make new brothers feel welcomed, are you helping them with ritual, are you answering their questions as they come up? You see, we have an untapped market of men that we can reach. There are now a few generations of men that would benefit from having a Role – Model. We need to step up to the task.
How do we do this? I think it’s pretty simple really.
1. Guard the West Gate. We need to admit men that are going to actively participate in Freemasonry. Admitting everyone who has a pulse isn’t going to help our issues. We’re just going to spend more time chasing after late dues payments. Identify good men and make them your priority.
2. Stress Education. We need to structure our business meetings around Education. Get good speakers from the community (Masonic and otherwise) to address topics that men care about. Eliminate the waste from the business meetings. Bills can be auto-deducted, the Treasurers report can be emailed, as can the Secretaries Minutes and Announcements. Cut out what you can and keep only the essentials.
3. Be an exemplar. Let your actions speak louder than your words. Don’t engage in things that could soil your reputation or that of the Fraternity. Especially on Social Media.
4. Be a Mentor. Take new members under your wings. Meet with them outside of lodge, address their questions and concerns. Listen to their ideas.
5. Teach others how to do be a Mentor. This is self-explanatory. Pay it forward. Teach the men you mentor how to be Mentors.
6. Do things outside the lodge as a group. Last, but certainly not least, organize fun events for your members and their families. The events can be informal or formal.
Look, it’s going to take a tremendous amount of effort to get to where we need to be. It might not even happen in my lifetime. I believe in this Fraternity. I believe that we all can make the world a better place for ourselves and our families. Yes, it’s going to take work. We all need to pitch in. We should be able to project ourselves as Role – Models and give Men an actual enriching lodge experience. To quote another movie: “If you build it, they will come.”
WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.