Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Taste of Humble Pie

Last evening I was watching one of my favorite TV programs on DVD. The Tudors, from the Showtime network, is a drama detailing the rise and fall of King Henry VIII of England along with his wives. The show is far from DeMolay appropriate, rating NC-17, but it does have some amazing characters and writing. I've just started in to Season 3, so, I'm pretty far into the series. In the first episode of the season I was struck by an amazingly astute observation by one of the characters. It appeared to relate directly to DeMolay and Masonry!

In this particular scene, a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church is talking to a priest. The priest, who is British born, is needed to write a pamphlet on behalf of the Church denouncing Henry VIII's rule and supporting a recent uprising. The young priest accepts and tries to go on his way to begin working on the pamphlet. The Cardinal stops him and says there is more to talk about. The Cardinal then tells the young man he is also going to be dispatched to France and Spain to act as a papal Legate (or ambassador) in an effort to try to sway the politics in England. Hesitantly, the priest agrees to this as well. The Cardinal then says he has one more matter to discuss. The Cardinal snaps his fingers and an attendant comes over with a biretta (a hat worn by Cardinals) and informs the young priest that he is to be made a Cardinal in exchange for his service. The priest is stunned! He says "I cannot accept this." The Cardinal looks at him, puzzled, and says "Why my son?" The priest responds "Because, I am not worthy." The Cardinal smiles and says "Young man, you have just committed the sin of pride. You are not being humble by denying this promotion. Rather, you are being prideful in thinking that your opinion of yourself is truer and better than that of the Holy Father and the Pope, who has extended this opportunity to you. A display of humility in this way is not humble, it's only self serving to make you feel better about yourself." (Editor's Note - I have paraphrased the actual language as I couldn't find the script or a suitable copy of the video to link to.)

Wow. I have never thought of it that way!

Many times in DeMolay and Masonry we are required to make the  "Humble Speech." Now, sometimes this speech is truly humble and other times it's only a show. Let me explain. When we are given an award or recognition in our lives the first response is usually something about not deserving the award, being totally surprised by it, or that you were only doing what anyone would do. In some cases that truly is how people feel, but more often than not, I'm willing to bet, that those speeches are just public shows of humility from the recipients of the honor. Those recipients are thinking to themselves "I'm glad I got this. I really deserved it. My hard work paid off." However, no one wants to hear a person say "You're darn right you should give this to me, because I earned it!" Rather, we go through the motions of a fake humility speech and accept the award with as much as grace as we can muster. That's what society has taught us to do.

Similarly, every once in a while a person will be nominated for an honor and receive notification as such. The person will then say "I don't deserve this honor and I can't accept it." Or, perhaps they didn't like a recent decision or something else being done by the organization giving the honor and use it as a bargaining chip to make themselves look like a martyr - something like "Well, since you didn't give John this honor last year, I can't accept it now." The only person this  behavior helps is the person who is denying the honor. It makes them feel better and makes them feel like they have leverage in the situation because they can point and say "Look, they tried to honor me, but I stood up for what I thought was right and denied it. Look at me, I'm a martyr for the cause!" While that may sway some people, it usually only serves to damage the relationship between the recipient and the organization. Also, it usually puts the organization in a bind because now they have to answer the tough question of why an individual hasn't been recognized for his achievements, or why the person wouldn't accept the award, thus damaging the group the person has worked so long to improve. Now, who does that really help? The answer is no one.

My Brothers, never commit the sin of prideful humility. When given an award or honor accept it, thank the person or organization offering it, and pledge to work hard and continue to validate their opinion of you. That's how we can all grow and better ourselves, our Lodges, our Chapters, and our lives.

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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