Grand Master's Message – On four letter words

Grand Master's Message – On four letter words

By MWBro Bryant D Webster, Grand Master of North Carolina,

The North Carolina Mason Magazine. March/April 2016 Edition, Page 5

Hate is a four letter word. Hate is completely inconsistent with our Masonic teachings. Unfortunately, as we read the headlines, scroll through Facebook, or even listen to casual conversation, what we see and hear is hate and intolerance. Even more unfortunately, when I see Masons expositing on Facebook, and in conversation, some of what I see and hear comes very close to hate and vitriol. Whether the topic is nationality, immigration status, religious tradition, race, sexual orientation, or any other subject on which there is a spectrum of belief, we seem unable to be tolerant of divergent views. I suspect that most hate comes from a lack of understanding, and a fear of what we do not understand. We seem as a society to have forgotten how to have civil discourse with those with whom we disagree. We don't need to agree on everything. If we disagree, one of us may be right and one of us may be wrong; it is equally possible that both of us may be right or both of us may be wrong. Even if the other is wrong, there is no need to hate him for being wrong. There certainly is no reason to hate him for being right. There are positive ways that we as Masons can set examples for our communities.

First, it is acceptable to have an unexpressed thought. Regardless of how upset or indignant we feel about something, I recommend taking a deep breath, and deciding whether we can improve upon the silence; if we cannot make a positive contribution to the discourse, please refrain. In my house, we call it the Thumper Theory: "If you cain't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all." With the right to say something comes the responsibility to decide whether it is appropriate to say it. Please do not jump to the conclusion that I am suggesting a derogation of our free speech rights. The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees to us the protection of our speech from Government interference. That does not mean that we should say everything. As Masons, we are charged to be prudent, temperate, discrete. That means we do not always exercise our right of free speech if that language will be harmful to another. Our Brother Benjamin Franklin explained "your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose." The same is true of our words.

Second, seek to understand more. Talk is a four letter word, but a positive one. Talk to those who are different, who have different views. Seek out those with a completely different perspective; seek to understand why they believe or do as they do. Hear is a four letter word, again a positive one. We have these working tools in our toolbox. We just don't use them enough. We talk about the instructive tongue and the attentive ear; too often we restrict these concepts to the transmission of the ritual; they will serve us much better if we extend them to other areas of our lives, particularly when it comes to human interaction. If we learn, if we formulate questions and seek answers to them, if we gain more understanding of concepts, ideas, and beliefs other than our own, it will broaden our minds and allow us to have less fear of that which is different, and less hate. I'm not suggesting that we change our own beliefs, far from it. You may find that exploring the beliefs of others strengthens your own belief system. It is perfectly ok for us to have different beliefs; we don't even have to agree with those of another, we just have to respect their right to their own beliefs.

Third, reach out to others, particularly those whom you think are wrong. Walk is a four letter word, again a positive word. That icon of American literature, Atticus Finch, suggested to his daughter Scout, that "you cannot really understand a man until you get inside and walk around in his skin." This is a Masonic teaching also. We are instructed to go on foot and out of our way to help those in need. We are taught that "every human being has a claim upon your kind offices". Every human being means every human being, regardless of nationality, residency status, race, religion, sexual orientation, period. There are no exceptions to every human being. Spending time with them, walking with them, going to their aid, will do them good and do us good. Again, I'm not recommending that we need to agree with everybody, or change our views, or accept that anyone has a better position than ours. I am only suggesting that we need to respect all others and seek to understand them. By having personal relationships with those who diverge from us, we will have the opportunity to exemplify the teachings of our gentle Craft. We will become wider, deeper, more well-rounded men, worthy of the title Master Mason. We will be examples and ambassadors for all that is right, good and beneficent about our Fraternity.

Fourth, do good unto all. Love is a four letter word; perhaps the most important four letter word of all. Love is the opposite of hate. Brotherly love is the first tenet of a Mason's profession. "Love your neighbor as yourself," is the greatest commandment. If we love one another, if we break bread together, if we talk and hear and walk together, we will have no room for hate. Hate cannot coexist with love, they are mutually exclusive. We need to live our Masonic obligations outside our Lodges more importantly than living those obligations in our tyled recesses. That is why we give a closing charge. It is a reminder to practice what we preach in our daily lives. if we do that, our wives, our families, our communities will see our better selves, and our Fraternity will be increased in stature and standing.

Let me be clear. Hate is Unmasonic. Intolerance is Unmasonic. Denigrating the views of others is Unmasonic. It cannot be justified by our faith beliefs, by our political views or by our personal philosophy. Disagreeing is fine; being disagreeable is not. We are here to subdue our passions and improve ourselves in Masonry. Vanquishing hate to the dustbin of our personal history is essential to our task of fitting ourselves as living stones for that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Let us begin.

The Grand Lodge of North Carolina consists of more than 41,000 members in 375 rural and urban lodges across the state.

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