Q: I’m being pressured to join the Masons, and I’m not sure how long I can hold out. Do you have any advice?
A: What’s interesting here is that you feel ‘pressured’ to join. Your instincts are trying to tell you that there is more going on here than meets the eye.
Is it your boss who is pressuring you to join? If so, for what reason? Is it that he thinks there are business networking opportunities with the Masons? He is sadly mistaken if that is the reasoning.
Firstly, and most importantly, the Masons exclude women. So you won’t meet, for example, the husband and wife team who run the local Harvey Norman, or the woman who owns a chain of fast food vans, or the woman who inherited the local pub from her father, or your local member of parliament (if female).
Secondly, the Masons are an anachronism, and everyone knows it. The local movers and shakers are far more likely to be cooking sausages at the Lions Club fundraiser, or running the local car boot sale and markets. On Sunday, they are unlikely to be in a church of any denomination, they will be out participating in a fun run, or Clean Up Australia Day. So if it’s your boss, I would try to find out the exact reasons, and if it is people he wants you to meet for networking, suggest a business lunch instead, or some other means of meeting up.
If the person who wants you to join has no economic hold over you, it could be that they like the idea of a ‘secret society’ and they want someone they know to share the secret. Which is all very well, but is that a good reason to join something – because someone else wants you to?
Originally the Masons were the Stone Masons. In Medieval times in Europe these were important people because they built cathedrals that stood up (which the Church was quite keen on!). The secrets of the craft were lucrative, so needed to be protected. In the days before paper qualifications,a secret handshake meant that you were who you claimed to be. Later on, the guild developed into a business enhancement organisation – if you were in the Masons, you met the movers and shakers and the secret handshake could make or break a deal. Not any more though.
I know someone who joined the Masons just for fun. He rang the number in the phonebook. Just think about that for a minute, the number of a supposedly secret society is in the Yellow Pages these days…. Anyway, apart from finding the dress requirements onerous (who wears dinner suit these days except to weddings and funerals?), there were dues to be paid, and all for a collection of old men who basically had beer and pizza evenings without the missus.
As for the ‘mumbo jumbo’ part of the Masonic tradition, you can find out all about it on the internet these days. If you go through any Australian country town, you will find a masonic hall, generally in disrepair. (The disrepair is telling, isn’t it?) They are always 2 storey and the top storey has no windows, so no-one can look in and find out the ‘secrets’ which are, as I understand it, just a basic initiation ritual, of varying degrees. I won’t go into the details here as it isn’t my place, but the information is freely available on the net if you are interested.
I did have to laugh though, when I went into a Telstra store, and there was a great gold G hanging from the ceiling. They meant it to advertise their new 4G network, but I wonder how many people realised the Masonic symbolism of it? Or maybe that’s why Telstra is so expensive, they are trying to take over the world – evil cackle, cough, cough, splutter….
In summary, to answer your initial question, you need to examine the motives of the person who wants you to join. Doing what others want contrary to your own wishes is a recipe for mental health disaster. And oddly enough, it won’t please others if you are a pushover. In fact, it encourages and attracts bullies. So if you join, do so for yourself, and for your own reasons. If, after thinking it over, you don’t want to join, you can politely and firmly decline the invitation, and no one will think any the worse of you, in fact it may increase people’s respect for you.
I would always encourage people to tread their own path, not go where the wind blows or where others push them. This does not mean avoiding challenges or being blind to opportunities (see my article ‘Opportunity Blindness’ ), but it does mean making the best decision for you at the time. Well meaning friends may push you in a certain direction, but don’t be afraid to say that direction isn’t for you.
If the friendship is worth having, this will strengthen the relationship, not weaken it.
It’s certainly a tricky social situation, so tread with care, be polite, and above all, be firm.