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more light #293

Dealing with Derogatory Comments

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

Another LEO message that I think will be of interest to Masons from Brother and Dr. Stanley Shapiro. Brother Stan is a retired psychiatrist, and the LEO if Albert Pike Lodge in Hopkins, Minnesota.

By Stanley Shapiro, Lodge Education Officer

As Masons, how do we deal with derogatory comments about others and ourselves?

Because we are human and make mistakes, we don’t always handle these comments well. Ideally, we judge each person charitably and use our best efforts to find a kind explanation for what appear to be negative comments no matter how suspicious we are of their motives.

There are many examples of derogatory comments. Sometimes the facts are false and the comments are told to put down another person. In other situations the facts are true, but told for no positive purpose. An example of a positive purpose: “Be careful if you are considering buying anything from Tim. He has been convicted of embezzlement three times.” An example of negative purpose (if it is merely tale telling): “Did you hear what he said about you”?

Often derogatory remarks are made accompanied with strong negative emotions such as anger or appear when we thought we had in the past favorably worked through the situation with the other person. When either of those is present, it is difficult but not impossible to respond without getting into an argument or damaging the self-esteem of either or both people.

Ideally we consider several things before judging negatively.

1. How are you thinking and feeling in response to what was said and what does that tell you
about yourself?

2. Have you or the person misperceived what happened? Are the details correct?

3. Did the person not think before they acted? Did the person intend harm?

4. Do you know the assumptions behind the person’s comments?

5. Were they under stress or in physical or emotional pain?

As Masons we are admonished to deal with each other on the level. When dealing with a negative remark in an equal relationship, clarify if you heard correctly what was said and then ask, “What prompted you to say that” or “How did you expect me to react to what you said?” Asking this type of question may help you (and perhaps the other person) to understand some of the above questions. Do not preface a question with “why” because the receiver may feel blamed. Also, you may try to tell them about how you are feeling in response to their comments (not what you are thinking because that can lead to an argument and blame). If that doesn’t stop them, sometimes changing the subject will. If we believe we are being treated as an unequal in a relationship, we are most likely not able to ask these questions or change the subject. That makes it more difficult but not impossible to consider if any of the above questions could explain the derogatory comment and thus help us judge the other person charitably.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014