One of the most useful tools in Freemasonry is the compass. Put simply, the compass has two points. You stand at one, and the other circumscribes a circle around you. These are the bounds in which you live. Don’t step over them.
That’s kind of a sketchy explanation, really. I suppose it’s best understood in context.
“Brothers, I really want to get a Trans Am, but my wife is saying we can’t afford it. ”
“Stay within due bounds, brother.”
“Brothers, a Nigerian prince will give me a 10% finders fee, if I give him my account number so he can shelter some money.”
“Sounds legit. But stay within due bounds, brother. He should probably talk to an embassy.”
“Brothers, what you bet me I can jump over all five of them trash cans?”
“Stay within due…you know what? I’m in. Twenty bucks.”
Basically, don’t do stupid stuff. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Remember your responsibilities to yourself, your family, and mankind. It can sometimes be taken as a bit of a dream-killer, but here’s the thing about your circle. You draw it. You figure out how big it is, and what fits inside it. The symbolism is to remind you to be mindful of things. It’s to remind you that some things are out of your scope and control, but some things are in your control, and you should probably control them.
I had a small situation recently which made me think about this. I get a lot of friend requests, especially since my article went a bit viral throughout Masondom. I ignore most of them, because I’d rather actually know the people I’m friends with, but one a whim I decided to accept a few of them. They’re brothers, after all. There’s a better than 50/50 shot that they’re alright. Adding strangers is always a mixed bag of nuts. Some people are just so political. Some people are just boring as Hell, and some people just wont. stop. talking. about. freemasonry! (OMG, get a blog!)
One guy I added seemed alright, and I’m sure he is. A bit political. I am too, but I usually keep that to an opt-in filter (due bounds, guys!). This guy posted a political link. I checked it out. It was fairly vitriolic stuff about our president. Okie dokie. But then a guy comments, not the guy I friended, but someone he friended, and he actually uses the N-word.
And it wasn’t in some kind of quaint-too-stupid-to-know-better way. It was essentially “that’s what happen when you give those people power” but instead of “those people” it was the flipping N-word.
So I unfriended him. This guy didn’t do it, but his friend did. Hey, maybe they aren’t good friends. Maybe he doesn’t even really know the guy. Maybe I was judging my brother too quickly and harshly. I had nothing really invested in him, so it wasn’t much loss, but I believe in being charitable to my brothers. So why did I act so quickly, without comment or warning or chance at explanation? Maybe I was wrong.
But…I really wasn’t. Because I believe that circumscribed circle of due bounds goes both ways. It’s not some sort of cage meant to keep me from doing stupid things. It’s a shield to keep out bad things. Things that would harm me and mine. Things that would do harm to my institution. Things that would hurt my reputation, and possibly even my character. Things that are just…unacceptable.
I’m not a particularly mean, angry guy, and I’ve been very proud at how many old grudges I’ve carried just no longer seem to bother me. If I met this guy at a masonic function, I’d be perfectly nice. If he messaged me about the event and took issue with it, I’d have a great conversation with him. But…due bounds, brother. And my bounds are marked in big, thick marker. And that kind of crap stays on the other side of it. We should never be unwelcoming, but just like we must guard the West Gate of our lodges from those who would drag them down, so must we guard the West Gate of our lives against those who would cause us drama, and pain.
I don’t think the friend of the hater is a bad guy. Hell, I won’t even say the hater is a bad guy. But that crap? It just don’t fly.
Due bounds, brothers. Due bounds.