How often do we find ourselves in a confrontational situation, which we feel was out of our control?
How can we use Masonic leadership skills to avoid confrontational situations?
cautiously to avoid all occasion
which might inadvertently lead you so to do
Masonic Lodges are made up of mature adults, from all walks of life, various educational backgrounds, and social upbringing; each with their own ideals and opinions.
It is that rich tapestry of membership that makes Freemasonry what it is.
We hope to be able to meet and work with that love and harmony, which should at all times characterise Freemasonry – it is a principle tenet of the Craft.
But we have to accept it will not always be the case, so we must learn how to handle the situations when we are faced with a confrontation.
In many cases, this confrontation will accelerate from zero to full on in a matter of seconds, and the fallout can last for years.
The best strategy to handle conflict is to avoid it before it happens.
To be able to identify situations which may lead to a high chance of confrontation, is the skill we can learn.
Masonic ritual provides a number of lessons to help us do this.
Audi Vide Tace
– good words for the wise Mason
Starting with the Freemasons moto: Audi Vide Tace – Listen, observe, be silent (if you would live in peace).
This is the best used by all Freemasons, seasoned and the inexperienced, when they find themselves in a new environment or in a situation where they do not know others in the group.
Use the time to assess the situation, figure out who are the alpha-males, who are submissive, who can articulate a logical conversation, and frankly who are full of BS.
by abstaining from every topic
of religious or political discussion
There are a few reasons why this condition is contained in the charge after initiation.
The Unlawful Societies Act of 1799 in England would have had an influence – to reassure King George III that Freemasons were not plotting against him to overthrow the crown.
But on a practical level both topics, religion and politics, will cause a conflict between Brothers who hold opposing views.
The best strategy is to avoid these topics of conversation, not only in the Lodge room and festive board, but in social media posts.
We see brethren, who we would have considered to be well-reasoned and experienced brothers, reposting and sharing some of the most extreme political propaganda on Facebook – that diminishes the respect we had for them.
Not because of their political views, but for their weakness, as being so easily manipulated in sharing and perpetuating these extreme posts, and their lack of understanding why we should keep our personal religious and political views personal.
It should be noted, that not all obedience’s abstain from political discussion.
Certain Liberal Grand Lodges do not impose such conditions; they have more liberal rules and views. Those rules are respected.
In some cases however, their political views and Freemasonry collide in their national Press, and does not always end well for Freemasonry, or the individual Freemasons.
The fallout is that all Freemasons get tarred with the same brush. Then we wonder why the Press takes such a negative view on Freemasonry.
subdue your passions and prejudices
A valuable lesson Freemasonry teaches us, is to learn to subdue our passions and prejudices.
On the surface, some might think this means to dampen and reduce our emotions.
The dictionary definition of ‘subdue‘, is to ‘bring under control‘, conquer, overcome.
The Common Gavel, a working tool for the Entered Apprentice Freemason, is used by operative Masons to knock off all superfluities (unnecessarily or excessively large amount or number of something), which can be applied to extreme opinions.
People who express extreme opinions, either for or against a particular view, can be viewed as someone with strong convictions, and of course they have a right to hold those convictions.
But when engaging in conversations with people who do hold extreme opinions, these conversations can often deteriorate from a healthy discussion (a discussion is to establish what is right) into a heated argument (an argument is to prove who is right) which leads to confrontation.
Freemasons who can subdue their passions and prejudices, who can moderate their extreme views, who have the mental maturity to comprehend an alternative concept, will encounter fewer confrontational situations, both inside and outside the Lodge.
Betari Box, though not specifically found in Masonic ritual, is nevertheless, a human behaviour device, used to help understand and subdue confrontational situations.
The foundation of the Betari Box pertains to the idea that human behaviour influences one’s own attitudes.
One person signals and interprets the behaviour of another and that forms the start of the cycle.
After all, people act based on other people’s behaviour; it influences the actions the other takes. This, in turn, influences that person again.
The Betari Box provides insight into the attitude and the behaviour regarding each other’s actions, represented in a closed cycle.
It teaches people how to gain more insight into their own actions and to improve the ambience, for instance, at the workplace, in lodge or at home.
The Betari Box helps us to understand what influences our own attitude and behaviour has on the attitude and behaviour of those around us.
Although the idea of the Betari Box is fairly simple, it’s a useful tool when contact with others isn’t smooth or when people find themselves in a negative cycle.
The best strategy to handle confrontation is to identify the possibility of it occurring, and taking the necessary steps to avoid it.
But sometimes, in a matter of seconds you find yourself caught up in the cycle, and spiralling out of control fast.
Anyone who has brought up children will have experienced this from the age of six. The adult in this situation, must take control and break the cycle.
Of course, the Betari Box cycle manifests in much more complex situations over a longer period of time.
These situations can be identified, which is a skill that can be learnt, and measures taken to break the cycle.
The use of the Betari Box is about recognising negative cycles, taking control of your own attitude, to break the cycle.
Human attitude plays a major role in the behaviour we display. It’s about action-reaction patterns.
When people are cheerful and positive, this will positively affect behaviour.
These people are kind and pleasant to others; they smile and pay compliments.
Subsequently, others will reciprocate with the same behaviour; after all, it’s hard to be unkind to someone so friendly.
who got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning ?
The reverse is also true. When a person isn’t feeling well, is moody or sad, they are less capable of obscuring this from the rest of the world.
In their behaviour, they are short with others, unkind or even unjustly angry towards the people around them.
These people, in turn, respond in the same way and will start to avoid this person or confront them. This could give rise to confrontational situations.
Human attitude shows in our external behaviours. Think of facial expressions, use of voice and intonation, or the use of certain words.
This particularly occurs in actions related to other people.
Everything we display in our own behaviours affects the attitude of others.
Before you reply to a negative response, ask yourself, do they have the mental maturity to grasp a different concept or perspective?
If not, then remain silent.
Article by: Nicholas J Broadway
Nicholas was initiated into Freemasonry in 1989 in Stonewell Lodge No. 9137, Essex England (UGLE) and was Master in 1995, 2011 and 2016. He also joined other UGLE Lodges and is a PZ in the Holy Royal Arch.
He acquired the title of The Square Magazine in January 2020 and oversees the technical running of the digital publication.
He lives in West Sussex and assists the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex Communications Team with Social Media activities.
The Unlawful Societies Act of 1799
Pitt’s Unlawful Societies Act sought to proscribe Freemasonry. Introduction to the Act and the impact on Freemasonry.
The Square Magazine September 2020 Issue