The Masonic Trowel

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masonic matters

Brother, or, Mister?

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

“Nothing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment.”
Frederich Nietzsche

Do you like country music? I do, in fact I’ve liked it all of my life, but then I like all sorts of music. However, Country is the kind I will choose to listen to most of the time. There has been some great music produced by some fine people over the years. Some songs are serious, some are funny, some are whimsical, and some are what one would call mystical.

One song I like from a while ago is about a young man, a musician, hitch hiking to Nashville and getting a ride from a man in a 1952 Cadillac, the upshot of the song / story is the driver lets him off just out side of Nashville and the young musician thanks him for the ride by saying “Thanks Mister” and the driver answers “You don’t have to call me mister, mister, the whole world calls me Hank.” It’s an obvious reference to getting a ride from the ghost, or spirit, of Hank Williams.

I got to thinking about this because I have noticed something happening recently that I hadn’t noticed at all years ago in Masonry, and that is Masons sometimes refer to, and greet each other, as Mister.

When you see your Brethren at a Lodge function how do you address them? When you see them outside of Lodge how do you greet them? If you send them an e-mail or a letter how do you address them in the message? What if you don’t like a Brother Mason, how would you address him then?

The term Freemasons apply to each other is “Brother.” We refer to each other by that title because of the close bond of union which we share by being united by and in a mutual tie and labors. We are Brethren, and when you and I meet and you address me as Brother that is more than a courtesy, it is an honor you give me because you’re telling me that you regard me as more than an acquaintance.

As we move along in Masonry some will become Masters of a Lodge, and some will get involved on a statewide basis and thus gain another title that comes before the word Brother, such as Worshipful, Right Worshipful, or Most Worshipful. But I will suggest that no matter what title we may have there is no better name for one Mason to call another by than Brother.

I don’t think I’m being too sensitive on this issue because I’m known as Mister to almost everyone in the world, but I’m known as Brother to a select group of people, and they are my Brethren in Freemasonry, and my Sisters in the Order of the Eastern Star. Outside of my family there would be nowhere else I can be called brother, and I personally think it is doing a disservice to a Brother Mason to call him Mister.

By the way the word Brethren is the way we are addressed in a group in Freemasonry, the word Brothers would indicate blood bothers – such as the Smothers Brothers – as opposed to the Brethren of the Mystic Tie.

“Mankind is made up of inconsistencies, and no man acts invariably up to his predominant character. The wisest man sometimes acts weakly and the weakest sometimes wisely.” Lord Chesterfield

Above I asked the question: What if you don’t like a Brother Mason, how would you address him then? A while back in an issue of Masonic Matters I wrote about how there is a difference between loving someone and liking someone, and asked if it was possible to love someone and not like them. This goes to Brotherly Love one of the principal tenets of our fraternity. We are told, by Brotherly Love, Masonry conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance, and it does.

Has a Brother Mason done something you dislike? Has a family member done something you dislike? Have you done something a family member or Brother Mason didn’t like? I know I have a time or two. One of the things I have learned over the years is to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Therefore we may not like what another Masonic Brother or Family Member does, but we love the person nonetheless.

Brother and Doctor Rustom S. Davar, Past Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of India has said about Brotherly Love: “Love places the highest possible value on another person – not with a view to personal gain but for its own sake. By Brotherly Love we refer to a brother placing on another man the highest possible valuation as a friend; a companion, or a fellow. For him the brother is willing to sacrifice and considers it a privilege to merely be with him. The relationship is itself the reward. Freemasonry provides opportunities for such fellowship.”

The Brotherly Love we as Masons have for each other should go deep into the core of our being, and it should transcend all of the petty differences we have amongst each other. Sometimes it’s hard, but if we do it we will live a happier life. We all want to live a happy life, and it would be well to know that that’s what every other person wants too. It is also good to keep in mind that everyone is fighting a hard battle, and they can use all the kindness and friendship you can give them.

One of the times I was asked to conduct a Masonic Memorial Service, for a deceased Brother in a town about an hour from here, something came up that was definitely unique.

There is a part in the service I use where there is an opportunity for Friends and Brother Masons to get up and say a little something about our deceased Brother. At this particular time a Brother stood up and began to say how our deceased Brother owned a Tractor Dealership, and that he had bought his equipment from him, and consequently was in there to buy parts etc. from time to time. And on one trip while he was at the Parts counter a mouse darted from a nearby wall around a corner into the parts room. The Mason who was telling the story said he had said to his Brother that he had a mouse in the building and observed that he might like to set a trap or two, but our Brother Replied, “Oh I know he’s here. He’s just trying to make a living, and so far he’s the only one making a good living out of this place.” Our Brother understood that all of God’s creatures are fighting a hard battle, and he thought he could give them a break.

Well that story put a smile on the face of everyone there, thinking about the kind of man our Brother was.

“Out of our beliefs are born deeds. Out of our deeds we form habits; out of our habits grow our character; and on our character we build our destination. Henry Hancock


Come, let us sing to human worth,
'Tis big hearts that we cherish,
For they're the glory of the earth,
And never wholly perish.
All Nature loves the good and brave,
And show'rs her gifts upon them;
She hates the tyrant and the slave,
For manhood's stamp's not on them.

Thine eyes shall be the index true
Of what thy soul conceiveth;
Thy words shall utter firm and few
The things thy heart believeth;
Thy voice shall have the ring of steel;
The good and brave will own thee;
Where'er thou art each heart shall feel
That manhood's stamp is on thee.

Well with Computers we’re always learning, and right now I’m learning I don’t know how to get rid of these columns.

With “Brotherly Love,”
Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
And if stern duties are assign'd,
And no one near to love thee,
Be resolute, nor look behind—
The heav'ns are still above thee.
And follow Truth where'er she leads,
Tho' bigots frown upon thee;
Thy witnesses will be thy deeds,
If manhood's stamp is on thee.

Let hope around thy heart entwine,
Thy loadstars love, and duty,
And ev'ry word and deed of thine
Will be embalm'd in beauty;
And Goodness from her highest throne
Will blessings pour upon thee;
Thee Nature's soul will love to own,
If manhood's stamp is on thee.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014