You and the image you project

A Masonic Essay By  Wor. Bro Clive Herron

Marine Lodge No. 627 IC , Durban South Africa

Almost all the candidates I have interviewed for freemasonry - when asked why they wished to become a Freemason, give one of the reasons - "TO BECOME A BETTER PERSON". The chances are you also gave that as a reason. Now that time has past, I pose the question to you as a Freemason. "Why did you join Freemasonry" and “What image are you projecting?” 

A difficult question one we sometimes don’t give enough though to. If I were to ask you to sit and with a pencil and paper describe the image you project. What would you say about yourself? In other words, how do you want others to see you?

The image you project is your legacy – What is your legacy?

Most of us would like it to be said, 'He is a good guy, a good friend, and a good father/grandfather. He makes a difference. “He lives his life well” etc.

The phrase “lives life well” what does that mean? To some it may mean that you have achieved certain objectives; to others, it may mean that you are following certain moral or ethical imperatives in your life, or that you van afford to take your family on holidays.

On the other hand is it possible that you are projecting an image similar to Ebenezer Scrooge's in the classic tale, "A Christmas Carol?" What would be your reaction if you were to get a glimpse of your destiny? How do you want people to think of you?

So, regardless of your religious or faith-based orientation, there is an important life lesson to be taken from this Dickens story.

In contemplating your image you should take a step back hypothetically and ask. How do I live? What have I done for others or to others? How am I able to decide right from wrong? What am I living for? Wealth? Power? Service? Longevity? Reason? Love? Faith? Family? God? Virtue? Happiness? Fulfillment? Comfort? Contentment? Integrity? These are taxing questions but for a freemason concerned about his image this should not be a difficult task, more especially if we are living our life according to the core principals and tenets of Freemasonry the most important of which is contained in the charge to a newly invested Entered Apprentice.

As a Freemason, you were charged to seriously contemplate the VSL and to regulate your life by the Divine precepts it contains. A tall order the VSL is a thick book and gives us many lessons. Theses can all be summed up however in the short phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” The Charge further goes on instructing us to live our life practicing the four Cardinal Virtues, Prudence, Temperance,  Fortitude, and Justice.

 “let prudence direct you; temperance chasten you; fortitude support you; and justice be the guide of all your actions”.

The words mean naught but prose unless you really appreciate their meaning and live them. If you were to apply more modern names you may refer to them as Wisdom, Moderation: Courage, and Justice,

The Cardinal Virtues are not the sole property of Freemasonry. They are ascribed to Plato  the Greek Philosopher around the century 400BC and also included  in the writings of Aristotle. They were later incorporated into Christian doctrine by the Catholic Church and became the basis for Christian teaching. They were only incorporated into Masonic ritual around 1750. although you will be able to deduce from The Regius Poem (1390) the oldest Masonic Documents does not specifically name the Cardinal Virtues but adherence to the very high principals is clear.

Perhaps you are already living what can be described as a Masonic life without having to reflect on Masonic ritual, taking your inspiration from other sources. This is great and will no doubt assist you with the task at hand of writing about ourselves.

The Cardinal Virtues provide us with the yardstick we require “let prudence direct you, temperance chasten you fortitude support you and justice be your guide”.

Sounds like some real good advice – So now determine how you measure up. In contemplating the Cardinal Virtues we need to apply some deep philosophy, so here goes.

Prudence - A fancy word for having common sense/being careful. Someone who thinks things through.  “What is the best way for me to do the right thing?” Prudence means to make the right decisions and then to act.  It teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably and of reasonably. The difficult part about this, is that sometimes, we may not know until it’s too late. We should always consider all situations, actions, or words spoken before hand. A prudent person learns from his mistakes. We’ve all found ourselves at one time or another saying something like, “I wish I hadn’t”, or “with hindsight I would have….”  It is this realisation that gives us the insight to know for the future what the prudent course of action should be. An important element of prudence is the willingness to seek the advice of other wise or prudent people.

As an aside, for our Lodges, prudence is of the utmost importance. We must be especially prudent on proposing, scrutinising and balloting for new members, because if we are not, the results may be undesired, and irreversible.

Temperance. Temperance is the virtue of moderation and self-control especially in indulgence in pleasures Temperance is the direct opposite of the two deadly sins gluttony and lust. The chief violations against temperance are drunkenness and impurity.

Put simply temperance is about 'moderation' and 'self-control'. Exercising temperance places conditions upon our habits and passions. You have heard the saying “to tame the passions”. It frees the mind from the allurements of vice.. When we think of temperance more often than not we associate this with the consumption of alcohol but the lesson applies to us in many different areas of our lives, including tempering our language, our boastfulness our rudeness.

The temperate person asks himself how does the use of this good thing whether it be food, drink, sport, sex, study, music, company, properly express my true dignity as a rational human being?

Temperance then is the virtue which enables us to control what has traditionally been called the Lustful appetite, our desire for food, drink and sex. Basically there is nothing wrong with these things but they can become crutches or escapes from our human and every day responsibilities and this is when they need to be tempered. Temperance enables us to moderate and control these desires.

Fortitude:  is something pleasure seekers don't aspire to. They lack fortitude. Instead they just drift through life without wanting anything better they moan and groan when there is work to be done.

Fortitude really is that noble and steadfast purpose of mind whereby we are enabled to undergo any pain, peril, or danger, when prudently deemed expedient. Put more simply, fortitude is courage. However, as Freemasons, it is be more in the line of moral fortitude, or moral courage that we use as a beacon. As Freemasons we must have the courage to act rightly in the face of opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. Fortitude describes a habit of steering a middle path between foolhardiness and cowardice.

Justice can be defined as the power or habit whereby one person renders to another that which is his rightful due. For human beings justice is perhaps the most difficult of the virtues, since it is the attitude of mind and heart which is constantly looking towards the goods or possessions of others. Justice is generally understood to mean what is right, fair, appropriate, and deserved. It requires us to render to every man his just due without distinction. Justice teaches us not to take that which is not rightly ours. It also means settling our debts both to our debtors and society.

In the Old Testament Justice was seen as an “EYE FOR AN EYE” Today justice is a tempered action. Justice is achieved when an unjust act is redressed and the victim feels whole again. We often hear it referred to as closure

Justice also means an offender is held accountable for his behaviour. If an injustice is committed it is quite acceptable to seek restitution or compensation but not seek vengeance in such a way as to harm the other party.

Justice also takes on a whole new meaning - As a Freemason you were charged when you entered the Order “to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties, by never proposing or countenancing anything which may disturb the peace and good order of society; by paying obedience to the laws of the State in which you reside……. and ever loosing sight of the allegiance you owe to the Sovereign of your native land”. That is Justice

Perhaps you are starting to get the picture. How do you measure up on the PRUDENCE / TEMPERANCE / FORTITUDE / JUSTICE scale? These are the starting points to the development of your legacy and will determine how others see you.

Your legacy is not only something that you will leave behind. Your legacy is something you build every day you live.


Listen to this poem I came across while researching this paper (I don’t know the author)

I don't want to be remembered as the guy who was good or bad at sports;
The guy who was physically strong or weak;
The guy who was good or bad looking;
The guy who was talented at one thing but definitely not in another;
The guy who was smart or dumb or even worse, average.
I want to remembered for the love that I gave;
For the friendships that I made;
For the caring and compassion that I showed towards others;
For the happiness that never seemed to go away
Which I shared with every person that I possibly could;
And for the faith and hope that never died inside...