You shouldn’t care what people think about you.
You should care what people think about you.
I don’t have to validate who I am to the people around me.
I have to validate who I am to the people around me
As you can see from above, I have typed out two sets of diametrically opposed philosophical statements. And for those of you reading this, you have heard all four being used to explain how to guide your actions. And that…is impossible.
As Masons, we have an interesting element that is part of our cultural DNA. And that is the Free and Accepted moniker that comes associated with our lodges and is a part of our Masonic code. For this article, I want to focus on the ACCEPTED part. For a few reasons. Here is a link to a recent article about a Gay Mason who doesn’t feel accepted by his lodge.
Some choice quotes.
So let me preface this by saying that I am a MM, a gay man, and I’m in my younger 20’s. I am also in an area which is notoriously conservative. As in, NPR recently rated it as the #4 most “Bible-Minded” city in the United States.
I finally had a friend become an EA on Tuesday. It has been so hard to make friends in my lodge because of my age or my sexual orientation and I am so thrilled to have someone who I can go to lodge meetings with now! Most of my experience of Freemasonry has been solitary study… LOTS of solitary study; I’m hoping I get to expand my horizons a little now.
Congratulations to my friend, [person whose u/ I can’t remember], who will see this tomorrow!
And here is the top response.
So your lodge was open minded enough to accept you as a brother, but they don’t extend a hand in friendship? That’s a real shame.
And here is his response.
Well I wasn’t out about my sexuality to others or myself when I joined the lodge. Don’t get me wrong no one has ever turned a wayward eye in lodge, but outside of lodge… Well we all have our vices; for some the drink, for some the zealotry. They’re still good people, even though some have differing ideals.
It was a pretty standard thread to say the least. All the brothers were quick to let the Mason know that he was accepted to them, and that these brothers were not the norm for Masonry.
It’s an interesting question, acceptance. It was very important to early Masons who made sure to plaster the Free and Accepted titling to their lodges. But acceptance wasn’t the term people strove for when I was growing up. Instead, it was tolerance. I was always told as a child that people had different beliefs and that I didn’t need to accept them, but I shouldn’t try and persecute or ostracize other either. Instead, I should learn to tolerate the other beliefs and people and learn to co-exist.
Acceptance – the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.
Tolerance – is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
Both these words come from a similar frame of mind but couldn’t be more different. Someone tolerating me is a starkly different experience then some accepting me. I think someone tolerating me is someone trying to hold back gagging from a stench. Someone accepting me conjures up the ideas of someone coming over and hugging me. Fundamentally, it feels as if someone who tolerates me doesn’t like me but only is cordial with me because of the laws of the land or their personal moral beliefs. While someone who accepts me is open to all my ideas and who I am, no matter what.
When I came into this blog entry, I was resistant to the idea of acceptance. I personally could never accept nazism, or racism, or communism, and so forth. I could never accept violence, or dishonesty, or ignorance. But on the other hand I most likely would never tolerate any of those things either. So let’s make it harder.
If a mother and father decide to send their kid to the army to fight a war, I would tolerate that but I wouldn’t accept that decision. If someone decides they want to spend all day smoking pot, I would tolerate that but never accept it (only in the evenings, hey!). If someone voted differently from me, I wouldn’t accept that decision but I would tolerate it.
Tolerance allows you to quickly act when something is happening that you feel is a problem. If we tolerate behavior, the second it goes over the line we can then jump in and stand against it. But if we’re all accepting of people, then it will be harder to detach and face the problem head on.
Now, I have been speaking in a broader sense here. Masonry, potentially approaches the topic of acceptance in a more minimalistic way. As in…come to Masonry and you will be accepted. Masonry, the original hippies.
But Masonry’s approach to acceptance is not unique to Masonry. In fact, acceptance is a key element of all the major Abrahamic faiths. See here.
Acceptance is fundamental to the core dogma of most Abrahamic religions, the word “Islam” can be translated as “acceptance”, “surrender” or “voluntary submission”  and Christianity is based upon the “acceptance” of Jesus of Nazareth as the “Christ” and could be compared to some Eastern religious concepts such as Buddhist mindfulness. Religions and psychological treatments often suggest the path of acceptance when a situation is both disliked and unchangeable, or when change may be possible only at great cost or risk. Acceptance may imply only a lack of outward, behavioral attempts at possible change, but the word is also used more specifically for a felt or hypothesized cognitive or emotional state.
It’s interesting that masonry takes an approach that aligns with the two major Abrahamic religions. And interestingly enough, the last sentence in the above paragraph is key. When you accept someone, that means you will not exhibit behaviors to change them.
This is very odd to see in a free-market modern society like America. We try to change each other all the time. We try to get people to buy things, wear different clothes, stand up straight, whiten their teeth, be the better you, and so on. We try to change each other all the time. That’s not very accepting.
Furthermore, we try to change people until we realize there is an aspect of them that we can’t change, and then we try to accept that aspect that can’t change.
But acceptance fits with Masonry in an odd way. I can’t go into specifics, but the Masonic lessons we learn through the ritual aren’t outwards attempts to change you in my opinion. They are phrases and imparted to us in a special way that allows me to make that remark. Masons will know the specifics, but I don’t want to focus on that as I want non-Masons and Masons to focus on the point. And the point is that Masonry doesn’t try to change you. You walk in trying to change yourself, and Masonry gives you the tools to do it.
So let’s think of acceptance in a larger sense, especially for the real world a that is where we spend most of our time. While people have behaviors that we accept/tolerate/scorn, what acceptance can mean is to tolerate the person as they are. What I mean is, Masons believe in a supreme being and this have a code they must follow when it comes to others. God loves all, and this he must accept all as well. And if we are to love God and his creations, wouldn’t it make sense to accept his creations as well if we are supposed to love them?
One of the key things we learn in Masonry is Brotherly Love. While many Masons may see that as an imperative to love their lodge brothers, I see it interpreted in a larger Biblical sense.
Hebrews 13:1 – Let brotherly love continue.
When The Bible references brothers, it means everyone. So maybe I just learned a lesson from this. Tolerance is important, but it’s only a stop gap measure. People aren’t to be tolerated, only aspects of their behavior and things they believe are to be tolerated. But who they are…is to be accepted. Mason or not.