Giving and Taking Criticism
By Worshipful Brother Morris Rozen
Address at Lodge Mutual
19 November 1998
Human as we are, we all make mistakes. There is almost no day that we could not look back upon and wish that we might have done things differently. There is probably no day that we might wish we had not said some things we have said, that we had not done certain things better than we did. Life is sometimes a process of repentance.
The man who thinks he is not making mistakes is certainly deceiving himself. Individually, collectively, privately and publicly, there is no doubt we have made many mistakes and all our difficulties, problems, regrets and uncertainties are in part a payment for the mistakes of the past. The future will surely be better as we would want it to be if we admit our mistakes, improve our actions, and not pursue the same disastrous patterns. By admitting our mistakes, there remains an incentive to look forward with hope and faith to the future.
We are all subject to criticism. The more we do, the more we can expect criticism. The less we do, we may also expect to be criticised. It is natural for people to appraise other peoples performance. No man who lives in this world can escape appraisal of his actions and performances.
By reason of the inevitable impact of his actions on others, every man must expect to be called to account for his mistakes, utterances and actions. No group of individuals should assume themselves to be above criticism or should suppress honest opinions from others as long as it is constructive. The right to criticise or be criticised is very important and democratic at this time. Even if we were able to suppress their outspoken opinions, they would still think their own thoughts and find ways to convey them to others. Before we criticise, we should make sure that we are not prompted by prejudice, envy or even ignorance of any situation. As we hold the right to criticise others, we ourselves must expect to be criticised.
We must also have compassion for the man who has made a mistake. As Freemasons we should always be ready to go out of our way to help a brother who has made a mistake and we should never permit anyone to injure a brother in his person or in his good name because of the mistake he has made.
Let us never forget: "There, but for the grace of God, am I." This thought should keep us humble, and help us to keep to the right of every decision and to the right of every road. Any man may be made an offender for a word; any utterance may be misconstrued; any character may be condemned; and any motive may be misunderstood. Brotherly love is the mainspring of Freemasonry. Without it our fraternity would fall to pieces and the whole fabric dissolve like mist before the sun.
We as committed Freemasons are bound to perform its most imperative duty: that of brotherly love. If a brother is injured we must protect him. If he is defamed and attacked we must justify and defend him as far as may be possible to do without compromising our own interests and beliefs according to Masonic principles.