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Brother – Know Thyself!

Some years ago, while I was Master of my Lodge, I visited a Lodge who were also working in this temple. After the ceremonial working, there was a formal festive board and I was placed next to the Master at the main table. He asked me what I’d like to drink and, as I often do at festive boards, I chose a soft drink. He then commented that this was unusual and that he normally drank cooldrinks on his own.

Intrigued, I happened to ask him whether he chose non-alcoholic drinks by choice or whether there might be some other reason for it. I remember his response well and would like to share the story with you. What follows, is a true story of a brother’s experience and his reaction to the challenge it presented.

The brother concerned came from a family where his father, 2 uncles, brother and cousins were all alcoholics and, almost inevitably, I guess, the brother relating the story was, as a young man, drawn into the pattern. He was also an enthusiastic motor-cyclist.

Anyway, one day, after a good few drinks, our brother was racing along the Main Road on his motorbike when he lost control and crashed. A few days later, having regained consciousness and now being on the road to recovery, our brother was wandering around the hospital trying to cheer the other patients up. He came across a teenage girl with her neck in a brace. She had a broken back!

“Goodness me”, our brother said, “what sort of accident has a pretty young girl like you been in?”. Our brother continued that he will never forget the look in her eyes as she gazed up and said “You hit me!”.

My instinctive reaction was to inquire what lasting damage he had caused. Was the girl paralysed? “No she was not”, was the response, “in fact she’s got a responsible job, has 3 beautiful children and leads a very contented life”. I was intrigued and asked our brother how he had kept updated on her progress.

It then came out that, for the past 16 years, on the anniversary of the accident, our brother had phoned the young lady to check that she was well, to let her know that he had not forgotten the lesson that he had learned and that he was grateful to her for the positive contribution she had made to his life. In his case, he has examined himself, faced up to his personal problem with alcohol and has never had another drink.

Brethren, in this case an extreme story had a satisfactory ending, but in life this is not always so. All of us have faced situations which we wish we had handled differently. We have “done things we ought not to have done or left undone those things we ought to have done”. As Freemasons, how are we responding now? Have we learned the relevant lessons? Have we addressed those wrongs that we can put right?

Freemasonry does not demand that we are perfect people. Indeed, it acknowledges that we are not. What our beloved craft does do is to set moral and ethical standards for us to strive towards. It provides us with tools to assist us as we endeavour to improve ourselves. It exhorts us to get to know ourselves so that we can be better able to assist others. It provides a support structure for us as we strive to make a difference.

Inevitably, life has its ups and downs. We have regrets, and many past mistakes we can now do nothing about. Other than exhorting you to learn from your experiences, tonight’s message is not about your past.

Tonight’s message is about your present and your future. Examine yourself. What are your strengths and how can you apply them best for yourself and others? Are there wrongs that you can put right? Do you make the most of your relationships or do problems occur that are unresolved due to pride or uncertainty on your part? Are there people who you could assist but who you ignore for selfish or invalid reasons?

Brethren, who knows what the next day holds. Tomorrow may be too late to address that which should be done today. Thank your Creator for the time that he has allocated you – and endeavor to use it as best you can. Build on your strengths and, as with the brother in my story, remember the lessons that you have learned. Always remember the lesson taught you in the first degree. Brother, Know Yourself - apply the principles taught to you in your Lodge and, with self-knowledge, continually strive to be a better man.

R Wor Bro Geoff Edwards