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Tolerance - A Cardinal Virtue?

Today in Masonic History we discuss Tolerance - A Cardinal Virtue?

Freemasonry has four cardinal virtues - Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude and Justice.

Throughout masonic ritual we are taught the concepts of brotherly love and affection. The idea that we give our brothers respect for their ideas even when we don't agree with them is represented by the symbolism of the level. When we restrain ourselves from making a negative comment or from interrupting because we feel we know better than another person we may be exhibiting Temperance, Prudence and Fortitude, depending on how strongly we disagree.

All of this boils down to one word, which we rarely use in masonic ritual, Tolerance. The word Tolerance embodies much of what we talk about in our masonic ritual. Whether we agree or disagree with those within or outside our fraternity from time to time, the principles of Freemasonry teach us to be tolerant of those other beliefs or ideas. Unfortunately in the modern world Tolerance sometimes takes on an odd new meaning, that of inaction. Often out of an abundance of Tolerance we sit back and are inactive in the face of vicious intolerance. Or, even worse, in the face of intolerance, we ourselves become intolerant.

In all of the known history of mankind, intolerance has never defeated intolerance, hate has never defeated hate. Generally one form of intolerance or hate just replaces another. At times in the history of our planet we have seen the cycle of hate, intolerance and associated violence, happen over and over again. Only when true Tolerance is brought out that the cycle of hate, intolerance and associated violence is broken.

Human beings are hard wired, for whatever reason, that hate is an easier emotion. Perhaps it is fight or flight, or perhaps some other reason. The fact is that hate can easily be brought out in us, it can then be misguided by ourselves or by outside influences to cause us to act on that hate. It is no wonder that when you look at the dictators around the world in the past and today that you see they give the people following them a villain, someone or something, to hate so the people following them can be more easily manipulated into the violence that comes with hate and intolerance.

Standing up to intolerance and seeking Justice for all is the only way to truly triumph over hate and intolerance. Unfortunately too often we as human beings try to group people, which leads to further intolerance. Seeking Justice means that the specific individuals to blame for the injustice are found and punished accordingly. Making a generalization based on what or who the perpetrator of the injustice is, is just another form of intolerance. The fact is Justice needs Tolerance in it's verdicts and without Justice there is no Tolerance.

It is so easy to turn to hate and intolerance in the face of the events going on in our World today. Possibly at no other time has the ideas of Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, Justice and Tolerance been so important, not just for Freemasonry, for the entire World. In the face of the vicious killing of innocent lives, whether it be a man in a truck, a gunmen who decides to punish others for the life they live, someone who guns people down for the uniform they wear, or someone who is unjustly killed while living their lives under the laws of a free society, it is so easy to turn to hate and intolerance. As Freemasons we need to rise above that and set an example as we stand as upright citizens by the virtues that we should hold dear!