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Usually the question is "How do I become a Mason?" but sometimes, it's "Why should I become a Mason?"
To a great extent, if you don't already have the inner desire to join the organization, addressing this question borders on recruiting which is something that Freemasonry historically simply does not do. Freemasonry expects that petitioners will have formed a favorable opinion of the organization by having seen it at work in the world so that they will come 'of their own free will and accord, uninfluenced by mercenary motives'.
So, in a nutshell, asking "why" is a bit like asking why you might want to read a book. You know it will improve you and you think you've probably got the time to do it. You've looked at the cover and what the book addresses seems to be of interest. You might have even more motivation if a friend or relative is reading or has read that particular book and has told you about it. And while Masonic lodges might have annual or bi-annual 'open houses' where you can come in and ask questions, no one can tell you why YOU should join.
I can tell you why I joined and others can tell you why they joined. If these explanations resonate with you, then perhaps you should consider it. If they don't - if it seems foolish or inconsequential - then it's simply not your cup of tea. Move on. Don't try to put the proverbial square peg into a round hole.
And what you should know too is that if you don't like what you see at first, you're not going to be happy after joining. Sometimes society encourages people to get involved to make change. My friend, this is a three hundred year old organization that has existed FAR longer than that platitude and there's really no need for you to feel you need to make changes. When we get e-mail asking why a person should join if they object to, for example, the toleration of others that Freemasonry teaches, we tell them flatly that they SHOULDN'T join. This, of course, comes as a great shock in a society where every organization cries for new members. Freemasonry doesn't work that way and - despite regular ups and downs in membership numbers - still survives quite nicely after three centuries.
But I can make a difference!
Emails sometimes arrive with breathless proclamations of what significant improvements an individual can make to the organization. These are always comical and surprisingly aren't limited to pre-pubescent teenaged boys. Here's the deal: if you can make such a huge difference in things, please don't limit yourself to Freemasonry. Go out and eradicate cancer or stop world hunger! There are many things that are more important in the world. Oh, and did we mention: Freemasonry has done ok for itself for some three centuries without waiting for the arrival of that 'one great leader' who will take us on to a brighter future.
I want to be rich and famous like the Masons....
This is almost always the underlying theme of the dozen emails we get each day from Nigeria, Ghana, or other impoverished countries. Here's the TRUTH: membership as a Freemason will NOT guarantee you fame or fortune. In fact, while there are many famous Freemasons throughout the centuries, there are just as many who pass through this world with little except the brotherhood, friendship and fraternity of other Masons. They struggle to pay their dues, they generally manage - even in the worst of times for themselves - to be charitable, and they live each day trying to leave the world a bit better than the day before. It's easy to look at the leaders of Freemasonry and make think that they're all rich but the reality is that many Grand Masters arrive at that place because of family money or simply working hard at their jobs - and they had enough disposable time and income that they could do the things that other Masons were unable to do in the midst of caring for their families.
Freemasonry is NOT a road to riches. If you think so then you're going to be very sadly disappointed.
We could write at length about the opportunities for leadership you'll find, how you'll learn to stand up in front of an audience and speak with conviction, and how you'll be confident in public situations. Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie Seminars and lots of other programs and groups can do the same thing.
We can elaborate on the many, many 'good deeds' done by Freemasons including scholarship programs, donations of medical equipment to hospitals and ambulances, providing cancer research, helping children with burns and orthopaedic problems, and so much more - but similarly, there are hundreds of thousands of other organizations that provide care and comfort to those in need.
It would also be easy to talk about the bonds of brotherhood that are shared amongst Masons both locally and around the world, between young and old alike - and about the concept that these 'ties that bind' extend through both the world AND our lives to make Masons want to be better men - but many men find such things through ethnic clubs, Scouting, and other outlets.
And it's not uncommon to point to the ability to meet and share with those from whom you might have otherwise 'remained at perpetual distance' but in like manner, there are all sorts of clubs and meeting places at which the same might occur.
Thus, if you don't already 'know' somewhere deep inside that you WANT to be a Mason, if the things you know about the organization aren't enough to make you want to be a part of this rich history, then you probably wouldn't be an appropriate candidate no matter how many fancy brochures or flowery platitudes were placed before you. Over the years I've often told those who asked that if they were really meant to be Masons, they'd already know that and they'd simply be asking me "How?".
And for those young in body, this "knowing" is not something you wake up one day and decide on: it's something that will be a call to you for years perhaps. While at 14 you may think you know all about yourself and the world around you, please understand if we tell you gently that you don't - and that in just a few more years you will know SO much more than you do now. If you still feel the same, come back then.
Created 22 December 2010
Those who found this page of interest might also want to look at the page titled "Should I Wait?".
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