The Spoken Word and the Only Thing You Can't Take Back

The Spoken Word and the Only Thing You Can't Take Back

It happens all the time; we say something and don’t understand or realize the severity of the words coming out of our mouths. I’m not just talking about an “ugly comment” or one of the many times during our day when we berate a peer or the guy that cut us off… I’m talking about the things we read, the oaths we take, and even the promises we break.

Last night during our regular Lodge meeting, we initiated three brothers into Freemasonry. During the ceremony candidates are required to take an oath belonging to the degree, before God and man, and without revealing too much, we are simply stating that we won’t reveal any of the secrets of Freemasonry, in ANY form, to anyone that is not “worthy”; also known as a fellow Mason. But how often do Masons reflect on those words, especially the oaths of any of the other two degrees of Freemasonry? They aren’t just words to repeat at an altar, they’re essential to maintaining the framework of our Fraternity as well as the system of morality which we exemplify.

How often do we pray and “go through the motions” and not sincerely reflect on the words we are saying? Take “The Lord’s Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 where Jesus instructed us how we should pray, essentially providing a framework for our devotion. Do we really understand the words we are saying? Do we really want God’s kingdom to come right now? Do we really want God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in Heaven?” There are several sermons on the subject that provide much needed insight into each stanza that show us how intense the words really are.

In either case, the oaths, promises, and obligations we speak or say privately aren’t just words or we should simply refer to them as such. Rather, we often times repeat these things frivolously and without an ounce of sincerity leaving us open to accusation for failing to meet the standards of these requests or obligations. For example, as a Mason I am obligated to “help, aid, and assist all poor or distressed Brother Masons” as much as possible “without causing material injury to myself”. But how many times have Brothers called on us for help and we’ve made up an excuse for our own comfort? How many times has the church reached out to us to help out in the nursery one Sunday but we didn’t want to because we didn’t want to spend a Sunday morning changing a diaper or coloring a picture with a child?

The point is, if they are simply words to regurgitate for the sake of “checking a box” or appeasing someone around us then save your breath. If you have no intention of keeping your promise then don’t bother uttering the words. Our children are the greatest victims of our broken promises. They live day after day with broken promises, and not the “I promise I’ll make your baseball game” but simple “yes, we’ll do X, Y, or Z today”. I’m the worst at it and play the “wording game” where I change “we’ll do” to “we’ll try to do” something. I may have no intention of complying with or fulfilling the request but I just want them to stop asking! Well, that’s wrong.

Children, being the greatest victim of all scenarios since they are unable or incapable of controlling the events surrounding them, live a simple life of learning. They learn from our interactions with one another, our spouses, their siblings, and especially media. If we, as parents, are in control of these influences (or we should be) then we should make an extra effort to ensure that we are modeling upright and worthy behaviors. I think it’s a general consensus that we don’t want our 10-year old daughters modeling Miley Cyrus’ behavior so why would we allow them to listen to her music? Why would we not moderate their media input and do our best to regulate social influence? I’m not saying we, as parents, should lord over them on the playground because valuable lessons are learned from making mistakes. However, if we let our children “go over to Timmy’s house” and we know his parents smoke, for example, what are the chances of our children asking us if it’s wrong before they try it on some playground out of our sight or on a walk home from school? Sure, we should discuss habits like this and perhaps even condemn them (if that’s your opinion) but at least moderate their social influence by heading off these potential bad habits before they begin. Here’s a good personal example; at our Lodge we meet about an hour or so before and enjoy cigars together. At home, I do my best to wait until after the kids have gone to bed and my wife and I will retire to the porch to chat where I’ll no doubt indulge in a cigar myself. Unfortunately, on more than one occasion a child has wondered out of bed to “ask Mommy a question” and “caught” me smoking; a habit we have explicitly described to our children as “bad” that has numerous health risks. Now, cigars and cigarettes are two different demons but they both have negative health risks associated with them, that’s obvious, but I’m an adult and can assess and accept my own risks. Children are not that enabled. At any rate, on one of the many “out of bed” incidents, our 5-year old son has observed me partaking in such activities and one day announced that he “can’t wait to smoke”. Uh oh, someone’s in trouble…. Caught in a unique situation of operating against the standard of “smoking is bad” I was forced to inform my son that cigar smoking was “ok” and the only excuse I could come up with (because, let’s be honest, it’s just an excuse) “when you’re a Master Mason you can smoke cigars at Lodge.” Well, he was happy to comply with that and now he can’t wait to be a Mason. Win one for Freemasonry, strike one for parenting.

Throughout my children’s lives I will be the male-example or “role-model” for their behaviors. My promises and obligations must be met with sincerity and if I consistently act contrary to the rules I outline for them, how successful do you think I’m going to be? We see it in social classes as well and dismiss our racism for “that’s so typical of them” comments. The point is it happens every day and we’re the worst kind of criminal for committing the crimes… the crime of broken promises and dismissed obligations. Matthew 5:33-34, and 37 tells us “…don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true…. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

#promise #brokenheart


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