Are You a Mason or a Member?
Are you a Mason or a Member?
By Grand Master Dwight M. “Mack” Sigmon
My Brethren, the district meetings have finished and summer activities are just around the corner. I am deeply grateful for the warm welcome I received as I traveled across our grand jurisdiction bringing my message of kindness and encouraging the wholesome respect of our fellowman. I emphasized the critical importance of living the lessons of our ritual in conjunction with the lessons of our various Books of Faith. Living these lessons are what separates us from all other organizations. If we live our lives the same after beginning our Masonic journey, have we really paid attention to the meaning of these teachings? If not, then we have failed ourselves in taking advantage of the true purpose of Freemasonry, one of the world’s greatest self-improvement programs.
I often ask myself, why me? What did the Great Architect of the Universe have in mind, in putting me in this position of serving as the 166thGrand Master of Masons in North Carolina? I am just a plain simple country boy from a small town in western North Carolina. Maybe it is my love of the lessons our various rituals teach and that it is time we have a friendly reminder of how these lessons can help bring a positive change to the world we live in. Our world is extremely divided and has been for some time. I truly believe as Freemasons, we have the tools to make a real difference in guiding this world on a more positive journey. Anyone who knows me well knows my love of the ritual and the lessons it teaches us. These, coupled with my Book of Faith, guide my life in everything I do and say.
In two of our degrees, we are taught that Masonry is Work!It is not always easy being a Mason but that doesn’t mean we can’t be successful if we try. Making good men better as our motto states, making ourselves better, is hard work but as Freemasons, it is truly worth the effort.
Making good men better is not just a slogan, it should be a way of life.
Each of us must be committed if we are to bring a positive change both in our own lives as well as the lives of others. We do this by the example of the type of life we choose to lead. Actions always speak louder than words. Each of us has a choice, we can choose to be a Mason or just a member. To me, a Mason is one who lives his life in accordance with the lessons taught to him. A member may choose to be impressed by the lessons when first heard but afterwards quickly returns to his previous life style as if he never even began this journey. Remember, there is a huge difference in being impressed by a ritual lesson versus being changed by that lesson. Our third-degree charge cautions us: Be particularly attentive not to recommend him unless you are convinced he will conform to our rules (this means our ritual lessons as well, not just the Code). We need to guard our west gate!
My Grand Master pin this year is intended to be a friendly reminder of what guides our lives as men and as Masons. In the middle of the Square and Compasses is the all-seeing eye. Under it is an open book. This book represents both our own Books of Faith and our various ritual books from where we have taken multiple obligations. At the bottom, it stresses that Masonry is Work. Many view Masonic emblems, pins, rings etc. … as our chance to show others that we are members of this fraternity. There are, however, several rituals that teach us that these illustrations are intended for ourselves, not others, to serve as a constant reminder should we ever be tempted to prefer anything to honor or duty or for a moment forget that we are a Mason and the solemn obligations that name imposes on us.
Our dues cards say that we are a member of this fraternity. It does not state that we are Masons. To me it is when the lessons of our rituals, obligations and vows, coupled with those lessons from our own Book of Faith, enter our hearts that we are truly made Masons. After completing our third degree, we are told that we are now a member.You have to earn the title of Masonand you do that by the respect you earn through your words and action. Remember the all-seeing eye is always watching everything we do and say.
As Masons, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. The majority of us joined this fraternity because of someone we looked up to -- a father, grandfather, a member of our church or maybe a community leader. As Freemasons, it is now our turn to be the person others would want to emulate. The choice of how you choose to represent our fraternity is one that you must make every day. More importantly, always remember that your own actions, appearance and words provide an opportunity for us to attract the best of the best this world has to offer in becoming a part of our historical fraternity, or they can just as easily discourage someone from exploring further an opportunity to be a part of the world’s greatest and oldest fraternity.
How often do you truly renew your obligations?Consider holding an annual homecoming event at a stated communication of your lodge. Promote and encourage inactive members to attend as well. Make renewing your obligations part of that celebration.
Many problems in our lodges could be solved if we would be Mason enough to sit down and do what our lessons teach, both in prevention and forgiveness. A simple rule to follow is; if you have wronged a brother --apologize, if a brother has wronged you -- forgive. I believe every wrong deserves forgiveness but that does not mean it goes unpunished, if applicable. In the Maundy Thursday ritual of the Scottish Rite we are reminded in the relighting ceremony that “Each man is still responsible for his own actions and must account to our Father” and at the close of the ceremony, “What there is, to be our fate and fortune, “depends upon ourselves.” Being a Mason is hard, you see Masonry is Work!
As mentioned before, we live in divided times. Social media has contributed to the problem. I respect everyone’s right to freedom of speech; however, I am extremely disappointed in some of the social media postings I read from my Masonic brothers and my friends outside of Freemasonry. It is human nature to have differences in opinions, but it does not and should not give us the right to be disrespectful. If you choose to continue a disrespectful path, I encourage you reevaluate your mission as a Mason. If not moved to improvement, please remove any Masonic references from your social media pages as your comments will not represent what Freemasonry teaches. Instead, I hope you will choose to live our lessons as taught.
One of our degrees teaches:
“Ever remember that, being human, you must of necessity often err; that those who hold different opinions entertain them as honestly as you do your own; and that you have no right to deny or doubt their sincerity. Especially, never harshly denounce an opinion that more experience and a more thorough investigation may someday compel you to adopt. Therefore, always treat your opponents as if their opinions were at some time to become your own.”
I like people and enjoy being around people. Something unique about me is that I can honestly say that I dislike no one. I have zero hate in my heart. So, what are my main Ritual/Book of Faith lesson guidelines on how to interact with others?
I choose being disappointed in other’s actions over hate.
I choose being difficult to offend and easy to forgive.
I choose to treat others as I want to be treated (the Golden Rule).
I choose to pause and reflect before I speak or act. Before speaking or acting ask yourself this question, “is this the proper time or place?” Remember we are taught that “the mouth speaks from that which fills his heart”. If you are speaking ill of others, don’t repair your speech, repair your heart.
I choose to follow the words in the charge when installing the Tyler: To set a guard at the entrance of our thoughts, place a watch at the door of our lips, post a sentinel at the avenue of our actions thereby excluding every unqualified and unworthy thought, word, and deed, and preserving consciences void of offense toward God and man.
I choose to follow the words in the closing charge when installing lodge officers: May kindness and brotherly affection distinguish your conduct as men and Masons.
- And finally, I choose to follow the words from the last and highest recognized degree in Freemasonry: Hate none and Despise none.
As I close my remarks, I want to offer you this challenge. It is a challenge that I try to give to myself every day. When you stand before the mirror in the morning to wash your face, to brush your teeth or comb your hair, ask yourself this question: Today, am I going to be a Mason or just a member? I hope you will do as I try to do each and every day and live your life as the best Mason you can possibly be. Practice Freemasonry in everything you do and say. Be the example! Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
I am glad our paths crossed.