By: RW Bro Kenneth M Christofferson, F.A.C.F
The basic premise of this presentation is that the real value of Freemasonry can be broken into two distinct components and there is tangible evidence that, when practiced effectively, the results are significant health and quality of life benefits.
These components are trusted Masonic relationships and Masonic learning and together they cover the whole of Freemasonry.
This presentation will focus on trusted Masonic relationships recognizing that there are many areas where the two cross over.
This presentation argues that there is scientific proof that high quality relationships, and in the Masonic context, trusted Masonic relationships goes well beyond ‘feeling good’ but make a real and tangible contribution to the good health, quality of life and even longevity of the participants.
Much of the scientific proof for this statement comes out of data acquired from a 75 year study of relationships conducted by Harvard University in the Boston area.
Summary of the Study
Contents of the Study
- 75 years of collecting data on wide cross-section of relationships,
- A compilation of outcomes,
- A statement of cause and effects.
Equality in the study group includes:
- Places of dwelling – wealthy to very poor neighbourhood and those in between,
- Stations in life- privileged, working class and underprivileged,
- Ethnic backgrounds – a broad spectrum of various ethnicities,
- Varying levels of education – Harvard university students and alumni, trades persons, high school graduates and poorly educated persons,
- A cross section of ages – all ages and multiple generations through the life of the study.
What do Quality Relationships look like as defined in the study?
- Feeling protected in the relationship
- Enduring mutual trust
- Reciprocal empathy
- Expectation of support
- Mutual respect
What are not in Quality Relationships or constitute poor quality relationships as defined in the study?
- Negative judgment and defamation
- Sense of vulnerability
- Absence of trust
- Closed listening
- Lack of support
As per the study Quality Relationships result in:
- Healthier and happier lives,
- More positive attitude to face the vicissitudes of life,
- Longer lasting memory capacity,
- Longer lives!
Lessons from the Harvard Study include:
- Participants who seriously commit to quality relationships live happier, healthier and, in fact, longer lives.
- People who participate in poor quality relationships have lonelier, harder and, in fact, shorter lives.
Consider the above data in a Masonic context. In Freemasonry, we consider harmony to be our foundation with respect to our relationships. Harmony enables trust, empathy, respect and the expectation of support. And, of course, disharmony undermines all that makes quality or trusted Masonic relationships possible. It sounds obvious but without harmony we cannot practice Freemasonry in its purest form.
It is important to link the ‘study’ to our Science, being our rituals and lectures, to demonstrate the important relevance and establish the common value in a masonic and non masonic setting.
- Equality: “Where do Masons meet?”
- Protected: “I will uphold a Brothers name in his presence as well as his absence”
- Trusted: “Hand to hand I greet you as a Brother”
- Empathetic: “…lock up your secrets in the safe and sacred repository…”
- Support: “…I will support you in all your laudable undertakings.” -‘The posture of my daily supplications…”
- Mutual Respect: “To your neighbor by acting with him on the square…”
It is all in our Science!
There is no question that unmasonic behaviour destroys quality and trusted Masonic relationships.
- Equality is overshadowed by discrimination,
- Protected is displaced by vulnerable,
- Trust turns to mistrust,
- Empathy drifts into criticism, and
- Support transforms into undermining.
How we treat our Brothers directly impacts harmony without which there can be no true Freemasonry!
No Mason has ever been granted the right to compromise another Brother’s masonic journey or drive him from the Craft.
Lessons from the Entered Apprentice Apron Charge
“… You should never put on that apron …should you be at variance or against whom you entertain animosity. …invite him to withdraw …amicably settle your differences.”
It is in our Science!
It is more constructive to focus on the good news about Freemasonry!
- Freemasonry is an individual endeavour,
- The Brotherhood is the sum total of individual Masons,
- Quality and trusted relationships form the true character of the Craft, and
- Masons can, and do, build quality relationships
How does a Lodge build quality Masonic relationships?
Be that Lodge that cultivates a culture of:
- Being a safe place for the Mason,
- Celebrating trusted relationships,
- Promoting mutual support and inclusivity,
- Challenging unmasonic conduct,
- Protecting harmony in Lodge at all times.
A litmus test for your Lodge is this rhetorical question:
“Who around your lodge would you go to to speak with about some personal issues you may want help with?”
How do you build quality Masonic relationships? You be that exemplary Mason that:
- Earns and protects the trust of Brothers,
- Turns empathy into support,
- Reaches out to Brothers and their families,
- Shuns gossip, criticism and defeatism,
- Challenges unmasonic conduct,
- Upholds a Brothers good name always,
- Makes Brothers for life!
A litmus test for you is the rhetorical question:
“When a Brother is talking to me about something important to him am I truly listening?”
In conclusion, there is a lot at stake here. When we speak of a harmonious Lodge we are talking about a place that enables and promotes quality and trusted relationships for individual Brothers. If one accepts the data and conclusions of the aforementioned study that means, barring other events, a good Mason in a harmonious environment has a higher potential for a happier, healthier and longer life as indicated in the study.
When a Brother is asked, “What is the value of Freemasonry?” I would suggest a plausible response, based on the science of this study, is: “Freemasonry offers a happier, healthier and longer life. A life very well lived!”
When I first had this paper shared with me I thought,
WHAT ANOTHER LECTURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then I sat down and read the contents and found, to my pleasure, that it covers just about every facet of Freemasonry imagineable in a very clear and understandable format.
YES= It does look quite academic, but if we were to apply ourselves to its teachings what a wonderful place this world would be and Freemasonry could be setting the example.
Have a Wonderful Day & God Bless