It seemed like a good idea at the time

Don’s Diary

It seemed like a good idea at the time

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I am not referring to the well-known Johnny Farnham lyric. Rather, the statement which is often made or implied and is more an apology, an excuse, than an explanation when things go bad. More often than not the culprit will not be able to determine whether he is seeing the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself. Freemasonry is not exempt from this situation.

The symptoms of a problem in a lodge may be falling membership and or the attendance, the development of factions and the related disharmony, an absence of visitors, non-payment of dues, resignations, a decline in the standard of ritual, a reduction in the amount of charitable donations or worse no donations, and so on. These are not the problem but the result of a problem or problems. For the lodge to be enjoyed and for it to survive the problem needs to be identified and addressed. Not infrequently it results from decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time.

Our natural desire is to appease, to “fix the squeaky wheel”, to accommodate everyone’s wishes, to never say “no”, or “let me take some advice and think about it”. This naturally leads to decisions being made that did seem to be a good idea at the time but ones that can create long term problems, inequities, lost trust, and disharmony. It will be usually hard to unscramble the egg. Some dissatisfaction may be voiced if the lodge is lucky but more often than not members will simply just vote with their feet and go.

In most organisations it seems that the principal concern are its people and finances and in Freemasonry we have in addition charity, our distinguishing characteristic, and our ritual. Our normal yearly change of master and the advancement of officers can afford renewal and invigoration, but sometimes “corporate knowledge” can be lost placing reliance on Past Masters.

A strategic direction needs to be determined and maintained with no “thought bubbles” that seemed like a good idea at the time. In principal, offices should not be “jumped” as this leads to discontent. Vigilance need to be exercised to include no one who does not “fit in” as disharmony will result. Everyone should pay their way and there should be no hidden subsidies. We should help a brother in time if need, say for six months for unpaid dues, but this not mean an endless subsidy or financial support as this results in someone else paying more than they should and monies not being available for real charity. There are other ways to help a brother: I understand in some Constitutions that a member’s proposer remains responsible for his candidate’s dues, or if a number of people think that there is a case for dues to be paid or subsidised they could individually provide the necessary funds. There must be transparency in decision making especially spending other people’s money.

In lodge decision making the head must rule the heart and no situation should be allowed to occur that results in someone saying later “well, it seemed like a good idea at the time”. It is unfair to burden a new Master with this legacy.

Yours fraternally,