What Freemasonry Teaches Us About Priorities
by Todd E. Creason
I made a very difficult decision recently–I decided that after seven years serving as Secretary of my Lodge, it was time to step down and let somebody else take over. So in June, I’ll become “Secretary Emeritus”. By the way, Secretary Emeritus is not a real title, but rest assured I’m going to use it anyway.
I’ve enjoyed the job, and that’s why the decision was so tough. I think I was good at the job, but like anything else, I’m sure I could have done a better job at a few things. But overall, I did a good job. I’d even been awarded Illinois Secretary of the Year a few years ago! I’ve written a few pieces on the Midnight Freemasons over the years about how to be a good Secretary, like Advice For New Secretaries and Lodge Secretary (For Life): A Thankless Job. But I’d known for some time that I needed to take a step back from a few of the roles I have in the Fraternity–Secretary was one of those.
I’ve gotten to the place I’m too involved in too many things. Secretary at one Lodge, and Master at another. I just finished a term as Sovereign Master of my Allied Masonic Degrees Council. I’m involved in the Scottish Rite. We’ve started a new Royal Arch Chapter, and I’m up next as High Priest of the new chapter. Then there’s the blog writing, the articles, the books, the education pieces, and the speaking engagements. It’s gotten to be too much. And we all know what happens when we get too much on our plate–we wind up with mediocrity instead of our best. That’s certainly what’s been plaguing me. I seldom feel as prepared as I should be, because I’m stretched far too thin.
So it was time for me to pull back before I burned out. Focus on doing a few things really, really well instead of a dozen things rather poorly. The Secretary job was the first thing I needed to let go, but there are a few other things I’m going to have to let go of–get back to being a member of a few bodies instead of a driver.
What we often forget as Freemasons is the lesson of the 24-inch gauge–one of the first and most basic concepts we’re taught. Life is about maintaining a proper balance. It’s about properly dividing our time. I know very few active Masons that pay any heed to that lesson at all, but we do so at our own risk. I could name several Masons that I no longer see in Lodge anymore that I used to see at every single event I went to no matter where it was. I know one or two were given notice by their spouses that they were spending too much time away from home, and as much as they love the Fraternity, it wasn’t worth half their stuff to find out if she was serious or not. A few others simply burned out because they were far too involved in too many things.
Brace yourself for a shocking statement–Freemasonry comes last! It comes after God. It comes after family. It comes after our chosen profession. We should never put Freemasonry before God, family, or career. I know many who have, including me from time to time. But as important as the work we do as Freemasons is, it should not be our entire life. What we learn in our Lodges is what is important–those basic tenets, principles and ideals. The application of the basic principles of Freemasonry is what is important, and making sure we’re teaching our new Master Masons those lessons by serving as a good example. Those principles we learn are the part we take with us everywhere. Those are the basic building materials necessary to improve ourselves. That’s the part of Freemasonry that makes good men better men, and that’s why we’re here. Unfortunately, too often many of us get so involved in “doing” Freemasonry that we forget to “live” Freemasonry. We focus on the tasks rather than the philosophy.
I think it’s safe to say I’ll always be an active Mason. However, going forward I’m going to be a little more selective about the jobs I take on so that I can focus more on those things in the Fraternity where I make the biggest impact. Writing books, articles and blog pieces that hopefully make us think. Being a good Worshipful Master in my Lodge. Advancing Masonic Education in our Lodges everywhere.
Attending Lodge is important. Being involved is important. But just as we’re taught early on in our ritual–we must learn to manage our time, and live a life that’s in balance.