There is a lot of talk of values these days in our popular culture. Often the discussion breaks down into an argument about whose values are correct and a lament that some certain value of the past has been lost. The same is true for Masonry. Many Masonic authors talk about Masonic Values and what they think they are and if we are upholding them. When Masons talk to non-Masons the issue of Masonic Values often comes up as well.
So what are values, Masonic or otherwise? How do they affect our actions and as Masons do we have certain values that are unique to our Craft?
First, we must understand the definition of the concept of a value as it relates to our belief system:
A value is an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct is personally or socially preferable to another. Think of this as a shared code for behaving and operating. A value possesses intrinsic worth, desirability, and utility to the individual or group.
In 1966, psychologist Louis Edward Raths formulated a seven-step process to determine values:
- Prized and Cherished. A value is something that the individual or group prizes and cherishes.
- Publicly affirmed. The individual or group must be willing to publicly affirm the value.
- Available alternatives. A value is not mandated. One must be free to choose other alternatives.
- Chosen intelligently. A true value is chosen after intelligently considering the consequences.
- Chosen freely. Individuals and groups choose values freely after considering consequences.
- A true value means acting on one’s belief. The final test of a value is action.
- Repeated action. A true value demands repeated action in a consistent pattern.
So values guide our actions both as individuals and as a group. They can influence us for the positive or the negative but once formed they rarely change. Values are considered non-negotiable parts of our belief system
We all joined Masonry for different reasons but at the core of nearly any candidate’s actions are an attraction to the values that Masonry holds. These values work both for individuals and for the group creating a shared experience that reinforces the stated values and helps us to act upon those values in a consistent manner.
- Given this framework, what are the values of ritual and practice of Freemasonry and do they meet the requirements of this definition?
- Sit down with your ritual and some Brothers and see how many values you can define that fulfill the requirement of the seven points above. Then, discuss which are group values and which are individual values or both.
- How can we express our belief in a certain Masonic value in our life?