Having Been Tried, Never Denied

What That Line Means and Why It Is So Valid In Our Ritual

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

"Having been tried, never denied, and ready to be tried again." Those words have fascinated me from when I first studied ritual to earn proficiency. Why do we say them? What do they mean? And how does that phrase make me a Freemason? I asked so many questions. In the examination, the position of that answer comes as part of the supporting evidence of your identity as a Mason. If you trace the steps of our ritual in your mind, you can recall the direction your route took to confirm that you were qualified to enter our fraternity. As a man in your community, you showed an interest in Freemasonry. You contacted a Lodge, maybe came to a few dinners, met the Brothers and at some point, asked to join. It's at that moment that you completed a petition, answered essential questions about your beliefs and values, sought out a Brother to attest for you, and listed some references. What I described is the typical application process that most gentleman experience in joining a Lodge. But that's not really where your Masonic journey begins. We are told that we are first made a Mason in our hearts, then in a Lodge. What does that mean? That you are born with the search for Light impressed in your soul, that you live a life full of experiences, and that a certain point your heart syncs with your mind - directing your steps to a Masonic Lodge.

Having been tried, never denied

Countless songs and stories have been written on the experience we call life. I was shopping for a new winter coat for my girlfriend when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones song, "The Impression That I Get" played on the speakers overhead. I recognized it instantly because it was one of my favorite "SKA" songs from the '90s. I laughed to myself when the song hit the first line in the chorus. I'll let you listen to it, see if you get the inside joke. "The Impression That I Get" covers a wide range of daunting experiences in life. Tests, you might say. The song starts with a series of situations; odds stacked up high, needing strength you didn't possess, rising above the rest. As each challenge is presented, the singer poses the question, "it makes me wonder if I could?" By the time we hit the song's bridge, the lyrics change from wondering if one could pass the test to believing that, "If I was, I would pass." Why the change? As the song goes, "'Cause I know someone who has." The debate has continued since 1997 on the meaning behind the song. Did Dickie Barrett (songwriter/lead singer) write it for a friend who's brother died of leukemia? Was it a statement about the AIDS testing that was happening at the end of the 90s epidemic? Perhaps he wrote it after going through some unthinkable tragedy? In the 22 years following the song's release, it is safe to bet that we will never really know the story behind the song. We know this; the questions posed in "The Impression That I Get," reinforce the lesson of persistence through life's challenges stemming from a belief in ourselves and something larger than yourself.

Ready to be tried again

We understand that you were born a Mason in your heart. That your experiences in life shape your perspectives, your values, your beliefs. Our ritual evolved from ancient methods of worship that now provide learning opportunities with each degree building upon the preceding lesson. As you work on completing the three degrees of Freemasonry, you submit to situations, mentally and physically, that test your knowledge of what you have learned. You must pass these tests to advance. By participating in each degree, men acknowledge this trial as they prepare to obligate themselves to something much larger than himself. Throughout our degrees and study of the lessons found in the ritual, we are paired with a faithful friend, a fellow Brother who guides us with his words and steps. We don't have to know how to navigate through each situation or lesson - we must trust "someone who has." Having been tried, never denied, and ready to be tried again prepares one for the lifetime of learning as a Freemason. As Master Masons, we are presented Working Tools to use in our everyday lives, each with its own specific purpose for the unique daily challenges we face. PM Bill Hosler reminds us of the explanation of the ashlars in Lodge rooms, how that lesson encompasses the repetitious cycle of life. "Masonry takes that Ashland and helps shape it for the builders use. You continue through life, raking everything it tries to hand you, and the whole time your Ashland continues to get smoother and not cracking from defects of the constant work from life’s working tools. You made it through being never denied. You continue to become a better man, one who is 'willing to be tried again.'"


Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden of St. George’s #6, Schenectady and a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at: michael.arce@me.com


  1. Thank you for this insightful introduction to your craft. I found this thru a post at Universal Life Church (ULC). Blessed be.

  2. Nice article. We didn't have the Tried/Denied phrase in California. I rirst heard it when I joined in New York, I associated the Tried, Denied, etc., as referring to visiting another lodge. In fact, your view is much more appropriate.

    Also wanted to mention that you're reasonably local to me. I'm a member of Queensbury 121, about 50 miles north of you.

    Fraternal Greetings.

    Ed Greenberg


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