The Meaning of L.I.F.E.

By Brother Lawrence E. Bethune
The Short Talk Bulletin, Vol. 97, January 2019, No. 1

Because of my brotherly love for all of you, I want to give you all a gift tonight. I want to reveal to you the answer to one of life’s greatest secrets; the meaning of life.
I found the meaning of LIFE — Masonic Life — Leadership, Inspiration, Fellowship, and Education. L.I.F.E.
Through remembering the world “LIFE” and the letters that make up the word, I can easily focus every day on the tools I need for helping improve good men through Freemasonry.
Let me start with the third letter of LIFE; ‚F’ for Fellowship. Fellowship is the most important tool in my bag. It is the very foundation of our beloved Fraternity. Fellowship is the breeding ground for all of our glorious dreams, ideas, and advancements. Let us not underestimate the power of good fellowship. Good fellowship directly impacts our happiness — and our effectiveness.
Studies show, that groups of friends consistently out-perform groups of acquaintances, in both decision-making and achievement of their goals. When friends work together, they are more trusting and committed to one another’s success; they rejoice in each other’s prosperity; and as long as they don’t hold back on constructive criticism, and deal on the level with each other, they make better choices and get more done.
Fellowship allows us to develop and practice trust and respect — between and among each other. Trust and respect are the pillars of good human relationships. And good Fellowship can be just plain old good fun for the sake of having a good time.
The second letter of LIFE is ‚I’ for inspiration. The word ‚inspire’ itself means ‚to breath life into,’ to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something. As leaders, we need to inspire the good within the good man, the good that is yearning to rise up, and to flow out of each of us.
We must help the good man find his internal spark, his genuine passion, his true fire.
Let me tell you a very short story to demonstrate this concept of intrinsic, or internal motivation, versus extrinsic or external motivation.
There once was an old man who lived in a house on a quiet cul-desac. Every day at 4:00, he would settle down in his easy chair by the front window to relax with a nice up of tea and a good book.
One day, while reading his book, five neighborhood teenage boys decided to skateboard in his cul-de-sac while blasting their boom-box. These rambunctious boys were very noisy. The poor old man could not relax, he could not read his book; his quiet oasis was destroyed — this was very upsetting.
So, the old man thought — just how could he resolve this problem? After awhile, he went down to the cul-de-sac and confronted the boys. He smiled and quietly told them that he really appreciated that they were skateboarding near his house and making so much noise. He feared he was losing his hearing, but their sounds elated him, he could hear them clearly; he was overjoyed that he was NOT losing his hearing.
He was so thankful that he offered to pay each of them $1 to return every day and be as noisy as they liked. This made the boys very happy, and they easily agreed to be noisy every day, and for the next few days the old man came out and paid them each $1 to be noisy.
After about a week, the old man told them that he could not afford to pay them $1 each anymore, but that he could pay them 50 cents, instead. The boys were not very happy about this but, after thinking it over, they agreed to keep coming every day, and skateboarding, and making noise. The old man paid them 50 cents each for another week.
But, at the end of the second week, the old man told them that he could not afford to pay them at all anymore, but asked them to be noisy for free. The boys were outraged and refused and decided to go elsewhere to skateboard, never to be seen by the old man, again.
We must continuously search for our inspiration and hold onto it tightly. What inspires you? I’m inspired by being among all of you; men of honor and integrity, full of Brotherly Love. You are why I wanted to be a member of this honorable society.
We all know one reason that bad men and weak Lodges do not get better is that they have not found or they have lost their secret inner spark, that ‚good’ that is inside them; and sadly, they are not willing or able, or do not know how to help themselves.
As our Masonic lessons have taught us: though others may assist us, we cannot rise toward the perfect ashlar unless we employ our own exertions; the Grand Architect helps those who help themselves.
The fourth letter of LIFE is ‚E’ for education. I was fortunate to work for the New England Patriots for 18 years where I learned a lot about the differences between instruction, training, and education.
Instruction is when I show you how to grip and throw a football. Training is practicing throwing that football over and over again. But education draws out that which is within you — your drive, desire, innate knowledge, passion, persistence, talents, understanding, and the myriad of other secrets within you that can turn you into Tom Brady.
The word ‚education’ means to lead or draw out that which is within. Every Lodge could morph itself into a Lodge of Inspirational Education. Our ritual and our education need to soar beyond instructing and training. Our ritual is education, and it must inspire. What a beautiful thing it would be if instruction and ritual went hand-in-glove with Fellowship, Inspiration, and Education.
Lastly, the first letter of LIFE is ‚L’ for leadership. We in this room have hopes and dreams beyond fellowship, inspiration, and education, for we have answered the call to be leaders of men.
As Masonic leaders, we must teach good men our wonderful Masonic values. We must proclaim our principles as widely as men will hear them.
I believe that one of the best ways to do this is through leadership by example. We must live and demonstrate our Masonic values every day and through every interaction with others. I want to reflect for a moment on our duty and the magical power that we in this room possess to help good men become better men. We have the power to lead this Grand Lodge to rise to become the Grand Lodge of Inspiration and Education.
You are the leaders who realize what makes Freemasonry different than other fraternal orders. Freemasonry is special because of our love, respect, and honor for true inspirational education dedicated to bringing out the best in ourselves and our fellow Masons. What a glorious and inspiring vision I have before me. Men of honor. Men of integrity. Men full of brotherly love and affection for each other. How fortunate I am to be among such men who are my Brothers and my friends. To LIFE!