Sunday, November 1, 2009

So whose problem is it anyway? (Lodge Bullies)

from the Librarian: With R.W.Bro Goding soon to be in the area I thought this article deserved to be given prominence on the site again.

by RW Bro Greg Goding PAGM

Special Envoy of the MW Grand Master
Chairman of the Membership Committee
November 2008

Too often we see in a lodge a problem between members which has been allowed to go on far too long. When the lodge finally decides that something has to be done about the problem, I am amazed how often that lodge wants Grand Lodge to intervene and sort out that problem. Except in a couple of cases, which I will touch on a bit later, it is not Grand Lodges place to intervene it is the lodges place to sort out the problem.

Grand Lodge cannot win because if it was silly enough to jump in to sort out the problem at the request of a lodge it would immediately be accused of heavy handedness; of being big brother; of sticking its nose in where it wasn`t wanted and if it doesn`t intervene, somehow it is letting down the lodge.

It is the lodge and the members of that lodge who need to step up to the plate and sort out their own problems. Too often a problem which should have been nipped in the bud the moment it started is allowed to fester and escalate out of all proportion because no-one had the fortitude to stop it at that moment it started. One of the reasons that this happens is usually because one of the parties having the disagreement is the resident bully who has been doing the same, totally unchallenged, to many other members for years.

Once again, remember that the world is a completely different place and has changed incredibly in the past 30 years. Bullies might have been able to get away with their bad behaviour in days gone by but in todays world their stand-over tactics are no longer acceptable. None of us want to go to a lodge and have that sort of behaviour inflicted on us and more importantly we are certainly never going to ask one of our friends to consider joining the Craft and cop it.

Those who have heard my Presentation would have no doubt that I believe that disharmony is singularly the biggest killer of lodges and always has been. Sadly there are many examples around this State of that disharmony destroying lodges. As part of my presentation I also suggest that it is one thing to admit that we have a problem in a lodge but far more important is the need to want to do something about that problem.

Many of us know that we have a problem in our personal lives but it is not until that day that we finally decide that we want to do something about the problem that we are able to improve our lot. A problem drinker may recognise that he has a drinking problem but it is not until the day that he wants to do something about that drinking problem does anything change in his life. It really does become the first day of the rest of his life.

The same is the case in our lodges; many of us know that our lodges have problems but nothing will change until we decide that today is the day that we want to do something about those problems. It is then and only then that day that we take responsibility for our own lodge will we start to improve the fortunes of that lodge.

The sad reality is that in many a lodge, when the decision is made to do something about the problem too often the perceived solution for solving the problem is hand- balling it down to Grand Lodge. Too often the lodge wants to abrogate its responsibilities to the Grand Master, the Grand Superintendent of Workings or the Board of General Purposes, rather than to deal with the problem themselves. The solution to nearly every problem is within the lodge itself and as the members of those lodges afflicted with these issues, it is us who must act. It is the inaction; the sitting on the hands; the unwillingness to get involved; the turning of the blind eye which allows those few who create the problems to continue to do so.

If we, the reasonable members of the lodge, stood up to the trouble makers; if we told them very quickly and very definitely at that moment that they are doing it; that their bad behaviour will no longer be tolerated, the sooner our lodges will find that all important harmony and the sooner we will grow as an organisation.

So many problems start off as simply as the wrong thing being said at the wrong time OR something being taken out of context OR someone who has had a bad day being allowed to ark up and spit the dummy. Many of us have witnessed such things and many of us are guilty of not defusing the situation then and there. How different an outcome might have been if we had have spoken up as it was happening and told him, (who was causing the problem) whooooo, hang on, mate, that is not the way we speak with each other? What might have been the outcome if we had spoken up the moment the trouble started?

Sadly I am aware of these types of problems all around our State and in all of the other States which have identical problems. The players are always the same no matter which lodge, which town, which State there is always the bully or the stand over merchant who is never challenged regardless of the fact that many of his members are not in agreement with his way of thinking. They will not challenge him because they don`t want the aggravation; they don`t want for him to turn on them as well they are not there to fight it is easier and safer to keep quiet rather then challenge him.

Like all bullies, they tend to turn their attention on those who they perceive as a threat or may see as someone who might be prepared to challenge their self imposed authority or question their methods. To stand up to the bully is the start of the erosion of his grip on the lodge. In the case of our lodges it is as simple as the reasonable members standing together and saying to him who has caused the problems for far too long that we are no longer going to accept his behaviour.

In 95% of the cases the solution is as simple as I have just stated we stand firm and tell him politely but definitely that we don`t want to see you go but we are no longer prepared to allow you to continue to drive away that 80% of our good members who have left because of your behaviour. However there are always going to be those who don`t see the writing on the wall and will continue their bad behaviour. So what do we do with them?

The Constitution is clear about what can be done. Under the heading of Offences we are told who has what authority. Short of reproducing the full Constitution here Article 516 (Page 115 in the 2008 edition) states Lodge jurisdiction:- Every lodge has full jurisdiction over every one of its members, including the power to exclude any member for sufficient cause with the exception of dealing with the Master of the lodge or a brother who has been convicted of an indictable offence - both of which must be dealt with by Grand Lodge. Grand Lodge is also the body to which a suspended brother can appeal if he feels that his treatment or punishment by his lodge has been unjust or unfair.

If your lodge has a problem that has to be dealt with then become familiar with that part of the Book of Constitution. It is quite clear how the process works and it leaves no doubt that the authority to deal with the problems (with the exception of those two points mentioned) is within the power of the Lodge. The important point is to deal with the problem - deal with it swiftly but fairly - don`t let it fester and destroy your lodge.

Grand Lodge has no interest in micro- managing lodges there would be a huge outcry by the masses if Grand Lodge was foolish enough to want to do so. There are far too many complaints now when Grand Lodge introduces reasonable policy decisions for the good of Freemasonry in General which are misunderstood by some of our membership. What Grand Lodge (which is all of us who are Master Masons by the way) does have is a very keen desire to see our survival. In a modern world our survival will not be guaranteed if we cannot stop the cancer from within which is harming and destroying us.

In todays world we have to find the fortitude to resolve our own problems. It is not Grand Lodges role to sort out all the little problems and the personalities within the lodges it is the responsibility of the lodges to sort out their own problems. As lodges, if we think that we are going to be still here in 5 years and if we think we are going to attract men from the modern world then we need to sort out and stop those who have, for years and years, driven 80% of our good members away.

To that silent majority of reasonable members of the Craft the time has come to take back the ownership of our lodges. Deal swiftly but fairly with those who, by their actions and disharmony continue to destroy the Craft that we love. Isolate them by standing together as the brothers that we profess to be. Victor Hugo wrote there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come the time has come to take back our lodges practice what we preach and side-line those who would destroy this wonderful institution by way of their own bad behaviour and self interest.

Successful lodges sort out these issues as soon as they arise they never ever forget the importance of Absolute & Perfect Harmony for the Lodge to thrive.