When I became a Mason back in 2005, I was joining a group of men. Not only was a joining a group of men, but I became a representative of that group. I joined that group with a desire to improve myself. I embraced those principles, ideals, and morals that the group believed was important to develop in ourselves in order to become men of good character. There was nothing in any of those basic building blocks of character that conflicted with my religious or personal beliefs. And over the last fourteen years I've met some of the finest men I've ever known, and learned a great deal about Freemasonry, about life, and about the characteristic of being a man of principle. We aspire to live by a higher standard than those in the profane world outside.
I used to say that Freemasonry's best advertising was its members. In the social media age, I'm not sure that's true. I'm frequently embarrassed by the way I see Masons behave on social media. I see Masons posting memes they know will start a huge debate, and then take part in online fights that are disrespectful and crude. There's one social media page that seems to pride itself on the lack of respect that they show each other. It's also a public forum. That behavior certainly doesn't represent my values nor most of the Masons I know, and it certainly doesn't demonstrate the standards of our fraternity either.
I wonder what non-Masons think about our Fraternity when they see our members behaving this way? I wonder what perspective Masons looking for information think when they stumble on these forums? I'll tell you honestly, if I'd seen some of that back in 2004 when I became interested in Freemasonry, I'm not sure I would have joined. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have. That conduct of our members (our representatives) is not what I thought Freemasonry was about back then, and it's definitely not what I know Freemasonry is supposed to be about today.
I'm a true believer in what this Fraternity can do for men, what it can do for communities, and the positive influence these values we instill in our members can have on the world. I've studied it. I've applied it. I've written about it. I've spoken about it. I've lived it for the last 14 years. I must admit, however, I sometimes question the direction we're headed. This public foolishness is beneath us. We can't even talk about something as mundane as how we should dress for official functions without getting into ugly public fights with one another.
We've become so inwardly focused on ourselves as individuals and our own needs in this era that we forget we're part of a group--each representing each other and all of us representing a higher standard that we aspire towards. We've forgotten that we're not Freemasons to change Freemasonry into an image of ourselves, we became Freemasonry to be changed by the traditional teachings and values of our Fraternity. To become part of a long and proud tradition. To become better men--to rise above the crude and profane world around us and serve as examples to others.
Let's remember who we are when we interact with the world . . . and try to remember that when we represent ourselves as Freemasons to the world, each of us represents ALL of us.