Sunday, June 1, 2008

Self Improvement and the Right Thing

“Look, if don’t want an honest answer then don’t ask me the question.” “It’s genetic, I just can’t (run, loose weight, learn math, etc. etc. etc.) “I have always had a bit of temper, it’s just who I am.” Brother Jim Tresner got me thinking about these things. These things being the obstacles to self improvement because in the end they are excuse not to expend energy in changing ourselves. We will often spend a lifetime of energy trying to change those around us. We will often lament that others “just don’t understand us.” But, truly, how often are we willing to expend the effort to radically change ourselves, to overcome a natural tendency and seek improvement. It is difficult and the excuse of “nature” is an easy one.

I was speaking to a man the other day and it hit home how important this is. He had shared with me stories of a relative in his past. The man was good, and in my friend’s estimation, dang near angelic. I am sure that death and time have purified his memories and death and time often prove a valuable forge and hone for removing impurities. But, it is fair to say that he misses this man and the impression left by a life of moral chivalry left an indelible imprint upon my friend’s psyche.

This man is not a Mason, but his mentor was. He knew I was a Mason and our conversation turned in that direction. The “what is a Mason” question popped up after telling me about his friend. I thought about it for just a bit and said, “Remember your mentor’s ability to simply do right even when it was tough?” “Sure,” he said. “Masons are all the men on the journey to achieve that same peace and comfort with morality in the face of adversity.”

I was shocked at what followed. He shared with me that parts of his life were in conflict with what he knew to be right and correct behavior and followed, “I would love to be a Mason, but I think I need to fix some things first if I am going to follow in [the mentor’s] footsteps.”
More than the fact that my friend had some moral conflicts in his life, but that his mentor’s quiet life of doing the right thing had radiated as a light he likely never imagined. This man he affected, now in his late 50’s, was going to begin of a journey of righting some wrongs and living in balance because a man and Mason who impressed him and lived by example.

Masons are those men who simply try to do right, even when it is hard. Religion might serve this purpose, in laying down moral code. But in truth, with today’s coffee bar churches preaching universal forgiveness without accountability, there is a void of moral consciousness. Masonry’s lodges and temples provide a quiet and reflective place to say, “I have my faith, but I am going to take this a step further and live my faith as action through a moral life.”

Several will read this and claim that I am preaching that faith requires good deeds and that this is against the teachings of Christ and his outpouring of grace. Yep, I am teaching that faith requires good deeds and that conflicted evangelicals claiming that it does not are deluded.
But I digress. Masonry teaches and condones right behavior. That IS something that is relevant and this world needs.


Maximus said...

We often use the excuse that it is our nature, that it it not our fault, "we were born that way," etc. These are nought but modern relativist cop-outs.

Your friends willingness to submit to self-examination and improvement indicates that he would be an ideal candidate for Masonry.

P.S., glad to see you blogging again, looking forward to reading more.

The Relevant Mason said...

Thank you Brother and glad to be back.

Sheihan said...

I do believe there is a middle ground between the vindictive, dismissive, judgmental condemnation of people and the naive acceptance of libertines who establish a pattern of exerting no discipline, going into confession on Saturday evening because they cannot get up in time for Mass on Sunday after having been out all night doing whatever they please. A person must make the attempt to subdue the lower self and stamp out the serpent. Life itself can be viewed as an initiation along a rough and rugged path. I recall one rather senior Mason from the state of Arizona who told me once several years ago that some of the best, brightest, hardest working and most zealous Masons he knew were those who had at one time sown a few wild oats, danced on the wild side a bit in their younger days and now had a perspective and a frame of reference from which they appreciated Freemasonry's structure, lessons and moral & spiritual lessons with a passion & fervor unequaled. The fellow you speak of may yet make a good Mason after being inspired by those brethren he has been exposed to. Similar examples come to mind of people who went of and joined the military or became active in their churches and went through a real transformation.

Tom Accuosti said...

“I would love to be a Mason, but I think I need to fix some things first if I am going to follow in [the mentor’s] footsteps.”

This was one of the reasons that I, myself, took so long to join after one of my friends was gushing about how much he was enjoying himself. I spent several years wondering if I were the right kind of person to join.

Funny, huh?

Steve said...

Indeed, when the strive to improve ones self and consequently the world around them is one of the best things a mason can do for himself.