One of my guilty pleasures is the pride that comes from helping others succeed. In this, I specifically mean mentoring in Masonic, professional career, and even friends and family mentoring. I am blessed to continue benefiting from mentors and guides throughout my life, and when I finally got it through my thick skull I could and should give back? The joy and gratitude doubled, maybe tripled. Mentoring others may not be your strong suit, but I learned listening deeply and quietly without interrupting or just asking for additional detail brings depth and contemplation in all participants in any conversation.
I learned a valuable lesson from my studies in the Scottish Rite’s Academy Of Reflection: sometimes it is just listening and letting the person express their thoughts. Other times it is asking a gentle question to explore something they said. I personally benefited much from analogy and allegory when my own mentors would relate a story back to me, and I appreciate the nuance of a well-placed question such as “what were you experiencing at that moment” or something as simple as “how did that make you feel?”
Giving advice seems appropriate as we tend to want to “fix” the situation presented to us, but good listening takes that conversation to a deeper level. I learned that I wanted to express my own thoughts and experiences along with the person speaking, and I learned often my own experiences were best kept to myself until the conversation was at a long pause or stopping point. Only after the whole picture could be expressed did anything I might offer be relevant.
Then, after fully exploring the situation or experience, the solution or path forward often manifested for the individual. Mentoring became a challenge to me to simply sit in mostly silence as the person saw my perspective through a few questions, and they often found their own solutions without any guidance from me. This was a moment that mattered. This self-discovery of an idea or direction that I helped guide often paralleled my own advice, yet all I did was encourage the person to explore their own thoughts. We all benefit when we discover moments that matter.
Occasionally my own experiences came into play with a related story of how I approached a similar issue, and I tried to relate experiences in a manner that could draw a parallel analogy. That didn’t always work. What did work was honesty in describing my own situational failures and how I learned overcoming mistakes helped make me who I am today. I make plenty of mistakes that turn into lessons both embarrassing and not.
Ego wants us to tell our own story. The lessons of the Entered Apprentice include the silence and patience with which we can listen with quiet intention, not interrupting others while they tell their story. Ego can be difficult to overcome, and direct practice in listening turned out to be a skill I developed with some rough edges still poking through. I continue to find myself talking more than listening at times, and my own lessons become my own moments that matter to me.
We as Masons should focus on these moments that matter to us, to our Brothers, and to friends and family. To strangers, simply giving someone a compliment may be the moment that mattered to them. Asking strangers to pass along the good to someone else may brighten someone else’s day. That moment mattered to someone downstream, and the beauty of giving a stranger a good moment never gets old. You may never realize how much a compliment mattered in that moment to others, but if you don’t give it you will never manifest that kindness.
Our challenge remains to recognize moments that matter. We influence people around us, and we affect them with our attitude. Are you approaching people with gratitude and love, or are you hauling the heavy load of ego into your conversations and encounters? Are you taking time to find the moments that matter to you through contemplation and reflection? Are you helping others with moments that matter?
Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a bachelor's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30-plus years of teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.