(A Reprint By Midnight Freemason Contributor RWB Michael H. Shirley)
“[T]o love is better than to hate, and Forgiveness is wiser than Revenge or Punishment.” –Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 859.
Like everyone else I know, I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the World Trade Center attack. I was teaching an early class that morning, and was in mid lecture when the planes hit. When class ended, I started to walk down the hall and was waylaid by students who wanted to know if I’d heard. In bits and pieces, we found out that it was a deliberate act, then that one tower had fallen, and then another. Then came the news that the Pentagon had been hit. I was standing there, trying to comprehend it all, when one of my students said, “Dr. Shirley, what does it mean?” “It means we’re at war,” I said, with no real thought beyond that simple statement. As more information came out over the next several days, it became clear that things had changed beyond recovery. I did what so many others did: stayed glued to the television, tried to buy an American flag from stores that couldn’t keep them in stock, thought about what I could do to serve my country. But I kept coming back to the realization that these terrorists had killed innocents, including children, because they believed their cause was more important than people made in the image of God. And I had a choice: to hate them or not.
I wasn’t a Mason then; I didn’t petition my Lodge until 2006. But my time in Masonry has taught me that hate is never the answer to any question worth asking. If I am committed to Masonry, love has to be my only response to everything, both large and small, because if I hate, I become what I hate. I have to see the fundamental humanity, the image of God, in everyone I encounter. Otherwise, I’m not practicing Masonry to the best of my ability.
My sister, an Episcopal priest and Air Force Chaplain, has said that she has to recognize that everyone is equally deserving of God’s love, which is to say, not at all, so acting high and mighty has no place in the world. My mother says regularly that the hardest word to accept in the Lord’s Prayer is “Our.” We all want to be special, but we can only do that if we reject what makes us human. We all need to meet on the level and acknowledge one another as fully human, undeserving of the gifts we’ve received, and just love one another.
So now I pray that I will be enabled to act as if all people are my Brothers and Sisters. For the simple truth is, they are. I don’t have to like them, and if they mean harm to others, I certainly have to stop them, but I can’t hate them without losing the best part of myself. Love, I would argue, is the answer to every question, both in Masonry and in the profane world. Every day, I am presented with the choice of whether to act with love or not. Every day, I can choose to hate, to be indifferent, or to love. I don’t always choose well, but I find that if I pay attention to Masonry’s teachings, I make the right choice more often than not.
Fourteen years ago I chose, briefly, to hate. It was nearly impossible not to do so. But hate kills the hater, and I could not continue. Since 2006 I have cast my lot with Freemasonry, and have been grateful for its work in my life every day since. Lord knows, I don’t always choose well, but I’ve found that if I remember that Love drives away darkness, I don’t make that darkness my home. I’ve found that I prefer a well-lit room. And so I pray for light for everyone, especially for those who have shut it out of their lives and have chosen to live in darkness. I pray—today of all days—to let the Light of Love illumine our world.