|Worshipful Master Gregory J. Knott of Ogden Lodge No. 754 A.F. & A.M. Illinois|
The thing that makes member education in our Lodges so important and discussions like this so relevant, is that we don't simply talk about the problems. We all know our society is genuinely lacking in civility. It doesn't exist for the most part on social media. It certainly doesn't exist in our politics. Even the most basic fundamentals of civility and respect are difficult to find in the world today--like the gentleman I saw this morning at a Barnes & Noble store who was in such a hurry, he let the heavy wooden door close on an elderly woman--it very nearly knocked her down. He did glance back and say "sorry" as he walked away but he never stopped to help her gain entrance to the store.
Civility is an issue today. And these discussions WB Knott has led are good because we didn't just complain about the lack of civility that exists today, we talked about what we could do both as individuals and as a Masonic Lodge to promote civility in our society.
We identified a few things including a tendency for people today to focus inwards on themselves. Social media has amplified that without question--how many pictures to you think the average teenager takes of themselves and posts any given day? There's also a lack of toleration for anyone that thinks differently than we do. This idea of live and let live no longer seems to exist--the idea that freedom means we can say what we think, believe what we wish, and live our life according to our own set of principles and priorities so long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others to do the same.
And finally, there's a lack of empathy in our society today. That ability to see things from another's perspective. There's a lack of curiosity to understand another point of view, or to put ourselves in another person's place--like when you see an elderly woman struggling with a heavy wooden door and doing the right thing by stopping and holding it open for her.
One thing that Masons can do to improve civility in our society today is to become the standard, and to train a new generation of Masons to be principled men. To mentor them. To have discussions about topics they can benefit from and can apply to their everyday life. To teach them the fundamentals of Freemasonry so they can become men of good character-- and later mentors and trainers and examples themselves. It's living the principles that makes the Mason, not just giving lip service to them.
The hard part of this process is mentoring. Being strong enough to pull someone off to the side and say, "that comment you made to Frank was out of bounds" or "I think the way you characterized that situation you described during our meeting was misleading." We learn through trial and error. Through correction. We learn more mistakes than we do from successes when we're aware we've made one. Unfortunately, we live in a world that's afraid to correct anybody for any reason, and I think that fear has crept into Freemasonry as well. How do you think future generations of Freemasons are going to act if we don't teach them to be Freemasons, serve as examples, and correct them gently and compassionately when they need it.
If we're going to be a Fraternity of certain standards and principles and beliefs as we always have been, we're either going to have to defend them and teach them, or what's the point of any of this?