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CHARACTER

by Dr. Phillip Kendal P.G.M.

Truth is the light of Masonry. Character is the quality of Masonry and the character of Freemasonry is no more than the prevailing character possessed and practised by Master Masons. One of the greatest intangibles of Human life is character. Can you tell what it is? I can not circumscribe it for you - it is as varied as human beings themselves. It defies measurement and definition. Yet it is capable of recognition. If I were to attempt to define it, I would say that it was the composite of all the intangible qualities of good with which man has been endowed. If he takes the time and trouble to develop those qualities which he often does exhibit in his moments of greatest inspiration. In a speech before his death Charles Lindbergh made the following statement, "that long term survival depends alone on the character of Man." Yet how many of us have given it much thought!

How many people of the earth are willing and humble enough to admit that our inability to get along is due to our failure to develop the important and intangible forces that lie within the character of Man?

Some one has aptly said no man can climb beyond the limitations of his own character. If that be true then we must see to it that the attainment of good character is a primary and not a secondary activity of man.

Masonry - has in this 20th century - been accused of inactivity. A century which is noted for its services to Humanity. It has been quoted as the age of Service Clubs. Many members propose a similar program for the Craft. They accuse of being inactive. They say let us do something spectacular, that the public can see.

Brethren, the Masonic design is the development of character and the improvement of life and conduct.

Artemus Calloway has this to say, you can't give character to another man, but you can encourage him to develop his own by possessing one yourself.

Boardman puts it in verse this way; "Sow an act and reap a habit, sow a habit and reap a Character, sow a Character and you reap a destiny."

Henry Ward Beacher, (Anglican Clergyman) has this to say about character; "A man's character is the reality of himself. His reputation is the opinion others have formed of him.

The circumstances amid which you live determines your reputation. The truth you believe determines your Character.

Character, whether Christian or Masonic is not imparted by merely a confession of faith or by taking degrees. It is something received from others, it must be personally acquired through long years of tedious patient endeavours and strenuous effort.

A definite objective is always essential to any great achievement.

People talk about building character or personality, but how is it done? Every impulse acted upon, every resolution carried out, every time emotion that gets us somewhere is weaving itself into the pattern of our character. This is not the product of lectures or sermons but of well directed effort. Character takes in the whole man. Perhaps character is best summed up in the sentences which Plato - tells were inscribed in the "Temple of Apollo at Delphi," "Know thyself .... nothing in Excess."

Shakespeare had this to say about Hamlet, Old Polonius - speaking to his son Laoertes: "This above all to thine own self be true, Thou canst not then be false to any Man."

This involves self discipline and self discipline means doing things we would rather not do.

Character is the greatest of all human attributes. It is greater than riches, for riches may be a curse to one deficient in character. It is greater than religion for church buildings would rot and decay if persons of character did not stand as the "Bulwark of religion."

It is greater than our social fabric for were it not for character, men would fear to associate with one another.

Today, the building of Character is far more difficult than ever. Pleasures are too common, life too free and easy in this promiscuous society. Great characters were built in the days when men and women travelled in covered wagons, they drove back the frontiers and carved homes out of the wilderness. In days when food and clothing were of the coarsest. When school children walked two or three miles to school and sat on benches hewn from logs. When a preacher travelled long distances covering his circuit. When men and women produced their own pleasures and the bible formed a large part of the family reading.

When there was a greater belief in the power of prayer than in the power of self great characters - are built in overcoming trials, in hurdling obstructions that others said could not be overcome in achieving great ends against great odds.

We can build character by doing things others have done, but we can't build character by doing things merely because others have done them.

We can build character by doing the things which each of us knows he should be doing and there are ways and means at hand of learning how to do them,if he will but take advantage of them.

In the volume of the sacred law we oft find the thought of human life and conduct expressed as a building, something that is raised and fashioned gradually, stone by stone, by each individual, as masons, we are all builders with our thoughts, our emotions, our words and our actions, they are constantly working away at a house not made with hands, this is the "house of character."

"Talent maybe developed in solitude, but character is created in society. It is the fruit of fellowship. Genius may shine aloof and alone, like a star, but goodness is social, and it takes two men and God to make a brother." When a man is determined for good, what can stop him?

Cripple him and you a Sir Walter Scott, put him in prison and you have a John Bunyan, bury him the snows of Valley Forge and you have a George washington. Load him with bitter racial prejudice and you have a Disraeli, afflict him with asthma until, as a boy he lies choking in his father's arms and you have a Theodore Roosevelt, stab him with Rheumatic Fever until for years he cannot sleep without an opiate and you have Steinmetz.

There can be no doubt that Character determines destiny.

The future of the world certainly depends far more on the development of character than on anything else, without it no plans that statesmen can lay down for a better world can possibly succeed. We can build more and better houses, thus raising the level of citizenship, but the "creation of peoples" does not come about that way. We do not build citizens from bricks, mortar and lumber, but from stones of honesty, truth, love and beauty, courage and industry, as freemasons, let us in the years ahead apply ourselves to the task of building a temple worthy of the G.A.O.T.U. always keeping in mind, that every man is the architect of his own temple in which he has to spend eternity.

We are all blind, until we see that, in the human plan, nothing is worth the making, if, it does not make the man. Why build these cities glorious if man unbuilded goes? In vain we build the work, unless the builder also grows.

"Edwin Markhan puts it this way: My brethren, freemasonry is founded upon the dignity of the individual, upon the brotherhood of man in the family under the fatherhood of God. May I suggest: that we continue to dedicate and rededicate ourselves to the attributes of character and standards of conduct which enable us to live the way of life befitting a skilled craftsman. A man can only reach as high as his ideals. Therefore, let us dedicate ourselves to the ideals of men of courage, men of conviction, yes, indeed, men of service. Let us be builders of men of God.

"We are building every day;
In a good or evil way,
And the structure as it grows,
will our inmost self disclose.
Until in every arch and line
All our faults and failings shine.
It may be a castle grand:
Or a wreck upon the sand,
You may ask, what building this,
That can be both pain and bliss
That can be both dark and fair?
Behold! its name is "Character"
Build it well, what ere we do
Build it strong and straight and true.
Build it sound and clean and broad,
Build it for the eye of God.

In closing my Brethren we would do well to heed the admonition: - that - If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the Character, if there is beauty in the character there will be harmony in the home, there will be peace in the Nation. If there is peace in the Nation, there will be peace in the World.

My brothers, so long as you and I continue this kind of building, then indeed will Freemasonry have built its Temples in the Hearts of Men."

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