1969 there was a song released by the Hollies. “HE AIN’T HEAVY HE’S MY
Wikipedia gives an
explanation for the title of the song as coming from a Vietnam War photo.
Supposedly, the image depicts a wounded Vietnamese man being carried on the back
of a GI. The photo journalist asked if he had been carrying the wounded man far,
the soldier smiled at the camera and said, "He ain't heavy, he's my
brother. Try and picture the scene. And read some of the words.
If I'm laden at
I'm laden with sadness
It's a long, long
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.
words of the song draw a picture of compassion and love amongst the mayhem of
war. Picture a scene similar to what you have recently seen on your television
screen of Gaza City. Love demonstrated by one man on a
mission to kill and another from the enemy side cannot exist without a great
deal of love and tolerance.
One of the
fundamentals of Freemasonry is tolerance. We don’t speak of it much in lodge,
but it is inherent in the very way our lodges operate. We teach prudence,
justice and temperance and advocate brotherly love and good neighbourliness in
Freemasonry. But for one reason or another there is no mention of tolerance as a
Masonic virtue or tenet. The closest we come is to teach “Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
love is when a brother can show tolerance to another human in spite of the
others conflicting opinions and failings, even if this means a case of applying
the old maxim in practice: Hate the sin
but love the sinner.
Tolerance is the
unwritten law of Freemasonry. There can be no Brotherly Love without it. Many a
Mason will articulate Masonic tolerance firstly in terms of religious tolerance
or political tolerance. That is only part of the pie. As we begin to fully
appreciate the customs and traditions of Freemasonry, we realise how much deeper
the meaning of tolerance goes.
instruction from the VSL we are told to “Love
our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully
use us” (Luke 6:27-28)
The Old Testament
tells us that we should conduct ourselves: …with
all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in
love”, (Ephesians 4:2)
The conclusion we
can draw from VSL is that there is a direct link between tolerance and love.
defined in the dictionary as: being
patient and indulgent toward those whose opinions or practices differ from
one’s own. It also means being free from bigotry, or severity in judging the
opinions or conduct of others. Being tolerant also means we show forbearance.
John F Kennedy
summed it up as “Tolerance implies no
lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns oppression or
persecution of others”
A Mason should be
one who tolerates opinions or practices differing from his own. He should also
be prepared to defend another’s right to have a differing opinion. Tolerance
can be said to be a Mason’s recognition of the right of private judgment
including his own. The story behind the song “HE AIN’T HEAVY” illustrates
the soldiers tolerance without surrendering his own belief
weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother”.
We need to be
tolerant of others, but we also need to be tolerant of ourselves too. Tolerance
is not about surrendering our own beliefs or compromising our own values. It is
more about respecting another’s right to hold differing views.
In the Thesaurus
we find that Tolerance has the following synonyms Broad
Mindedness, Open Mindedness, Lenience, Acceptance, Forbearance, Charity,
Patience, and Easiness.
The opposite of
Tolerance is Intolerance, Bigotry,
Prejudice, narrow mindedness, Fanaticism, Small mindedness.
As masons we
should ALL fall into the first category. We must ask ourselves. Is it possible
in a world of free and independent thinkers, to establish a relationship of
friendliness and tolerance with another whose views are diametrically opposed to
The answer is YES
it may be difficult at times, and it will take a determined effort. It’s easy
to be positive and tolerant when everything is going your way, but not so easy
when they don’t. That’s when we need become alert and try to figure out
where the other party is coming from.
If there is an
irritation what is the source? Review the situation.
Are you expecting
things to go your own way? Remember, always remember to practice understanding.
If you are
inflexible and your values and your beliefs are neither rational nor negotiable
then any confrontation involving them will only result in a heated and fruitless
exchange. Understanding what is really behind the irritation will go a long way
suggesting a way forward. The best way to assess a situation is to reverse it.
There will be times when tolerance may seem an impossible exercise, being
tolerant nonetheless remains the key to easing hostile tensions between
individuals or groups.
circumstances there are some who find it almost impossible to exercise tolerance
and put the blame on personality clashes. Yes each of us has our own unique
belief and opinions that make up our personalities. If we clashed with everyone
who differed from us, we would be constantly at loggerheads. In fact, we
tolerate, accommodate, and even enjoy certain differences. Indeed, our lives are
richer and more exciting when we see the world from another perspective.
Clashes can occur
when our deeply-held values or beliefs are being are challenged, or we challenge
others. This can be viewed as a threat, and could result in a hard fight to
prove who is “right” and who is “wrong.” What we are really doing is
seeking confirmation that we have no reason to change our own belief. In our
lives we have all witnessed this in one form or another.
Let us take
another look - In its broadest sense tolerance can be described as
…………… the appreciation of
diversity and the ability to live and let others live. It is the ability to
exercise a fair and objective attitude towards those whose opinions, practices,
religion, nationality and so on differ from one's own. Tolerance is not just
agreeing with one another rather it is a sense of respect for another’s
values. Indifference or silence in the face of injustice cannot be deemed a
tolerance is about how best to work together in harmony. It is about accepting
each other for who they are and what they are, and learning to be a better man
before God and our fellow beings. To build
that temple not made with hands.
reluctance to confront an issue will not make the differences go away. On the
contrary they will fester and destroy the peaceful harmony. We need to
understand one another and work in harmony offering the hand of friendship given
to each of us as an Entered Apprentice.
Intolerance is the
failure to appreciate and respect the practices, opinions and beliefs of another
Freemasons are men
drawn from all walks of life. We possess differing characteristics and opinions.
We are brought together, in an unusual relationship of friendship, harmony and
goodwill. It is natural that differences may occur within our own ranks, as they
do within the best-regulated families. We may disagree but should not be
disagreeable. To bring about a faultless world is perhaps a very tall order.
As Masons we are
reminded that when we were initiated as an EA we were charged to regulate our
actions by the Divine precepts of the VSL, to our neighbour; by acting to him
uprightly; by rendering him every kind office that justice or mercy may require
and always doing to him as you would he should do to you.
There is no issue
(other than perhaps a physical violation against one’s self or ones family)
that cannot be dealt with by a handshake and in most cases without need to alter
one’s personal views. We cannot
bring about peace and compassion without forgiveness and tolerance.
Remember we build
our temples (our character) one brick at a time. Don’t cause the wall to
tumble. EXERCISE TOLERANCE in all your dealings.
Masonry is not
about one person winning over another; it's about everyone winning at the same
time. This is what Freemasonry teaches; this is what it creates; this is what it
holds fast to. If we truly love another person and if we really practice
Brotherly Love with our fellow beings - we will be tolerant of them. Again I
stress, tolerance does not mean endorsing the beliefs, or actions, of others.
However, it does mean a tolerant person will be willing to pardon the offense of
another, be willing to forgive another, and not feel resentment. No
man truly obeys the Masonic law who merely tolerates those whose opinions are
opposed to his own. We must be able communicate and sit together in Brotherly
Love putting aside our differences. Every man's opinions are his own private
property, and it is the right of all men to maintain their own opinion.
Finally, I wonder
if we ever think about our level of tolerance in our everyday lives.
How tolerant are
we of others in the workplace, in society, at home?
How tolerant are
we with others when no one is looking?
When no one we
know is present? Is there room for improvement?
I believe these
questions are important and need to be answered by each one of us because what
we do when nobody is looking is driven by our core beliefs and values.
PEACE, LOVE and
HARMONY are the foundation stones of our Order and life. We have committed
ourselves to always act in such a way as to keep that foundation sound.
We are all
traveling a long, long road
From which there is no return, we know that we are accountable for all our
actions. So while we're on the way to there. Why not share
and the load? Don't let it weigh you down
If you have an
adversary – don’t make Him heavy,
he's your brother.
Think before you
act and always exercise tolerance.