Using Temperance, Tolerance and Compassion to Attain the Golden Mean

 

We begin our Masonic life for many individual reasons. Many of us wish "to become a better man." Along the way we seek to acquire virtues which we are presently lacking. We hope to rid ourselves of our vices. At the very least, we come to recognize that the traits we too frequently display do not constitute the more appealing behaviour we would consciously prefer to exhibit. This presentation focuses on Virtues and Vices and how they pertain to our relationships with loved ones, and friends. In particular, I will discuss the virtues and vices of temperance vs. intemperance, tolerance vs. impatience and compassion vs. indifference. I plan to present several examples in which, had I only exhibited temperance, tolerance and compassion, the results of my conversations would have been constructive instead of destructive. I will also contend, as many of the great philosophers have observed, that the application of the "Golden Mean" or the "Middle Way" often achieves a more favourable result to all concerned and minimizes harm to others and to ourselves. The Golden Mean and Middle Way espouse moderation and avoid the extremes...For example, instead of choosing the extremes of either excessive fasting or unrestrained gluttony one should elect a balanced diet consumed in sensible quantity.

Instead of verbally bludgeoning the person we engage in conversation, or weakly caving to his or her every demand, we should seek instead to negotiate a win-win result by exhibiting tact, listening carefully, suggesting rather than imposing our point of view. The examples I am about to inflict upon you of my failing to achieve the Golden Mean or Middle Way all include several factors in common. These are my becoming too quickly impatient, allowing anger to overcome me, speaking unkindly and demeaning the person I am addressing. Avoiding these mistakes is comparatively easy in the Lodge Hall. But when at home it seems I am confronted with ever-present temptations to abandon the path of moderation by exploding into a tirade and by spewing offensive accusations. After all, I am the head of the household. Case number one involved a discussion I recently had with my wife Paula. I called into question a term she had used with our nine year old son Christopher. That term was used to disparage another person. I entered the conversation with a voice tone resembling an Emperor about ready to command an immediate decapitation of the accused. When my wife resisted my demand I attacked her as if I thought she should be hanged for what she had said. Not only did I demean her, insult her and cause her to feel unjustly abused, but I also failed to produce even an iota of sympathy for the point I was making. Then it was too late. I could not retract what I said. The damage had been done. If I had only practiced Temperance, Tolerance and Compassion, the unpleasant confrontation and hurtful comments could have been avoided. Upon my after-the-fact analysis of this particular incident I realized that my uncontrolled reaction inhibited me from achieving my goal. I asked myself how can I avoid a repetition of this costly mistake. My first step is to harness my volatile temper and identify my purpose and intent prior to entering into a discussion. With that understanding, had I applied the Golden Mean or Middle Way, I would have avoided the heated exchange. I would have listened carefully and

If I had only practiced Temperance, Tolerance and Compassion, the unpleasant confrontation and hurtful comments could have been avoided. Upon my after-the-fact analysis of this particular incident I realized that my uncontrolled reaction inhibited me from achieving my goal. I asked myself how can I avoid a repetition of this costly mistake. My first step is to harness my volatile temper and identify my purpose and intent prior to entering into a discussion. With that understanding, had I applied the Golden Mean or Middle Way, I would have avoided the heated exchange. I would have listened carefully and respectfully to my wife's point of view and reacted in a calm and objective manner.

In asking myself how I could handle this situation differently in the future, I decided to make a conscious choice to identify my emotional triggers and practice being more aware of those triggers. By "emotional triggers "I mean becoming mindful of my shoulders tensing up, nostrils flaring, teeth gritting --all early warning signs of a soon to follow emotional hurricane. .Then instead of leaping into rage my goal is to take a deep breath and say to myself: "My ego is not so fragile that its immediate accommodation requires breaking into a homicidal frenzy. Be quiet, listen carefully and give my wife the benefit of the doubt. She cannot be as thought less as I am sometimes foolishly tempted to suspect. I will honor her by trying harder to understand and accept where she is coming from."

This would allow me to approach the situation with understanding even if she disagrees with me. I will remain understanding of our differences and will allow myself to listen to my wife's point of view and reacted in a calm and objective manner. In asking myself how I could handle this situation differently in the future, I decided to make a conscious choice to identify my emotional triggers and practice being more aware of those triggers. By "emotional triggers "I mean becoming mindful of my shoulders tensing up, nostrils flaring, teeth gritting -- all early warning signs of a soon to follow emotional hurricane. Then instead of leaping into rage my goal is to take a deep breath and say to myself: "My ego is not so fragile that its immediate accommodation requires breaking into a homicidal frenzy. Be quiet, listen carefully and give my wife the benefit of the doubt. She cannot be as thoughtless as I am sometimes foolishly tempted to suspect. I will honour her by trying harder to understand and accept where she is coming from." This would allow me to approach the situation with understanding even if she disagrees with me. I will remain understanding of our differences and will allow myself to listen to her point of view, by placing myself in her shoes. This new approach I am adopting now leads me to practice the virtues of Temperance, Tolerance and Compassion in order to maintain serenity. Otherwise such virtues may be too little, too late when engaged in a situation which is already inflamed. Masonry teaches us to subdue one's passions. A great tool to have available when seeking to achieve such a result is the combination of Temperance, Tolerance and Compassion. We need not to overreact to a situation. It is better to sit back and hear all sides of an issue. Exhibiting these virtues avoids the temptation to allow my ego to go out of control by seeking victory at all costs. Dealing with my teenage daughter Colleen represents case number two. My daughter is very forgetful, most probably a characteristic that stems from her Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). Previously I have told her and reminded her constantly to do a particular job. But she rarely performed it. Like other parents of teenaged daughters I frequently became frustrated and impatient. I felt I had to berate her into submission. Somehow I thought that all the attention I was bringing to this matter would change her ability to remember in the future. The fact that I become annoyed does not correct the situation, if anything; it only adds unnecessary intensity to the discussion. It also demeans her. What I have found through self-examination is that I must not let this daily habit control and perplex me. I am beginning to accept that my daughter does not always have the capability to formulate clearly her own thoughts or grasp every critical idea. Understanding her handicaps in advance allows me to make better decisions on how I will react when the conversation doesn't go the way I would like. As in the case with my wife Paula, so too the same lessons apply to dealing with my daughter Colleen. I am better served and so are they when I notice my emotional triggers, take a deep breath, listen carefully and respectfully and allow my behaviour and speech to be guided by the virtues of Temperance, Tolerance, ,and Compassion. This understanding, thanks to teachings of Freemasonry, has motivated me to transform myself and try a little harder to become a better man. I leave you now with a question. In your life how do you go about dealing with your own intemperance, intolerance and indifference?