As is often the case at this time of year many will pause for a moment and reflect on what was accomplished in the previous year. They’ll look at the ups and downs, share a few memories, show some videos or pictures, and then move on to the tasks at hand. It is something of a tradition, something we nearly all do, and something that many organizations do as well, but there is a dark side to it.
Many continue to live in the glory of the past.
While the college athlete that continues to talk about the touchdown they scored to win the big game may be annoying to their friends with stories told one too many times, the real danger is when organizations do it. An organization that continues to spend the bulk of their time and energy looking back ceases to move forward.
Please, don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in that we all, not just Freemasons, need to look to our past. We need to do that so we can understand who we are and where we come from. It’s when we take those moments and individuals from our past, hold them up on pedestals for the world to see and then stand there reliving our accomplishments that the danger comes. We have to understand that while they got us here, they won’t get us to where we want to be.
This is the pitfall of spending a lot of time looking at the past. There are many historians in the Fraternity who can tell you all the Presidents who were also Freemasons, they can quote from Anderson’s Constitutions, and they can likely tell you every major event that occurred in their Lodge for the last 100 years and while that information is important, even vital to the character of a Lodge, it cannot replace planning and forward thinking.
It also cannot replace the very real need for each and every one of us to know and understand what the Fraternity’s past means but also be able to speak to the future.
When a potential candidate asks about Freemasonry, do you go on and on about the history of the fraternity? Do you spend so much time talking historical figures that were also members and where we trace our roots that their eyes glaze over?
Is it important to know those things? Yes, but also be able to speak to the very real skills that someone can learn as a Freemason to improve themselves for the future. Skills such as leadership, public speaking, and project management to name a few. These are the things that will shape each individual so that they can help the future, their own and that of Freemasonry.
So yes, we should take the time to reflect on the past, but don’t live there. It’s a wonderful place to visit with sites and sounds that many will find interesting but it is fixed. We should also focus on gathering the stones for the building of the future, so that those that come after us have something to reflect back on.