Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
For over 10 years I have been writing about our existential need to add more members to our Lodges. Without question, a lodge in a fraternal order must add new members year after year or the lodge will surely diminish and, inevitably, die. But there is one other major lodge killer out there, and I have written about it from time to time. It is just as insidious, and it is just as detrimental to the continued good health and, ultimately, viability of a lodge.
This other lodge killer can be summed up in one word, but it can manifest itself in many different ways. What is that one word? It is “negativity”. And it is toxic to a lodge. If you see it in your own Lodge, it must be halted and the source must be marginalized, and if necessary, invited to change his/her ways or depart the Lodge. Because if the source continues the negativity, the Lodge will surely suffer and the friendship, love and truth to which we aspire will be but an illusion.
How does negativity present itself? Let me count the ways:
Bullying at Meetings. We are all equal. No one should dominate the Lodge, nor should anyone dominate the meetings. Do you have a member who talks on virtually every subject that is raised at meetings? Does that member constantly offer his/her opinion on all subjects and insist that it must be the member’s way or the highway?
Behind-the-back Talk. We are brothers and sisters who are obligated to display friendship, love and truth to each other. If a member has something to say to another member, it must be done kindly, quietly, confidentially and face-to-face. Talking about a member behind that member’s back is unfriendly, and it can be hurtful.
Shooting Down All Ideas. Have you attended a meeting where one or two members essentially say “no” to every new idea, suggestion, or program? Well, they are not the font of all good ideas. Other members are entitled to present their ideas and have them considered openly without Mr. No or Ms. No heading them off at the pass.
Spreading Rumors. Rumors are almost always negative. Spreading those rumors can serve no good purpose, and may be painful to members who are the subject of rumors. The rumors certainly do not foster a feeling of friendship. Lodges are meant to be peaceful places where members can escape the turmoil of everyday life. Continuing to spread a rumor is poisonous to the camaraderie we seek in Lodge life.
Never Letting Go. No one is indispensable. Yet, a few members think that they are. Do you have members who have served as Secretary of the Lodge, or Noble Grand, or Treasurer who simply won’t relinquish that office to anyone else? Holding on too long creates a choke point for the future of the Lodge. Other members – particularly newer members – need to have their opportunity to serve and to lead.
Failing to Practice FLT. And we all know the member who is just not a nice person. He or she may always be looking for ways to critique or to criticize. He or she may never have a friendly smile or a pleasant greeting to another member. One has to wonder why they became an Odd Fellow in the first place. Or what caused them to change over time to become the curmudgeon they are today?
What can be done if some or all of these negative traits are displayed by a member (or members) in your Lodge? The situation may be uncomfortable and even dire, but it is not unsolvable. Step One is for you to directly talk to the person who is showing this negativity. The conversation should not be itself negative or confrontational. And it should be done in private, in the spirit of FLT. Sometimes, this direct and friendly communication works. If it does not, however, then Step Two if for you to take the matter up with the Noble Grand or another trusted and respected elder of the Lodge. And ask that NG or elder to have the conversation with the negative person. Step Three, if none of the other steps achieve results, is to th raise the issue to the level of the District Deputy to provide some intervention, or mediation.
Let’s face it: Our numbers are too few to waste our time and energy on negativity.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California