What does Fortitude have to do with Freemasonry? It is usually not a trait that will typically come to mind when one considers Freemasonry, especially those folks with little or no firsthand knowledge or experience of the craft. I look at it as one of the cardinal virtues like diligence, prudence, and temperance. We hear those virtues spoken at every closing of lodge. I also look at fortitude as, yet another cardinal virtue and it is also an important Masonic value.
Fortitude is important for Masons because of the obstacles that we Masons face. Whether its goals not being met, or setbacks in our Lodge, threats from anti-Mason rhetoric, disputes between Brethren. It could even be just the struggle of memorizing ritual and fortitude is needed to overcome these setbacks or struggles.
Fortitude, therefore, is that quality of character which gives a person strength to withstand temptation and to bear all suffering in silence. Fortitude is a virtue, for it permits one to do his duty undisturbed by evil distractions. It is in great measure a frame of mind to regulate one’s words and deeds with courage and with determination. It is both a positive and a negative quality in that it creates courage to do what is right and creates strength or character to withstand intemperance. Above all else, it also creates the mental attitude to bear one’s burden bravely when all other remedies fail.
“The longer I live the more I think of the quality of fortitude … men who fall, pick themselves up and stumble on, fall again, and are trying to get back up when they die.”
Being strong does not mean that we never stumble or fall. In fact, we are surely going to stumble and fall. I have many times and still do, and I realize that I am human and imperfect. Being strong means that we learn from our mistakes, pick ourselves up and carry on until the problem or obstacle is overcome. Setbacks happen all the time in life we all have a story to tell,I’m sure. Loss of a job, friends, or family pass away, misunderstandings occur in relationships and threaten the relationship. I can go on and on with anecdotes and as such we get tired before the job is done and are tempted to call it quits.
So, what do we do to overcome this notion of quitting? We push on to be the best we have to offer and strive to be the best we can be. Find another job if the current one does not suit you. Honor the memories of friends and family who we miss and are gone. Finish your work and feel good and rest easy knowing you completed the task to the best of your ability. Mindset plays a big part in being strong for it can make or break you. I can remember my parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, bosses uttering the words:
“You have the intestinal fortitude to do great things.”
Without fortitude life would be a hard place to navigate. Without it we would pack our bags and give up and live a sad existence. Harsh and extreme maybe but when the tough gets going the going gets tough. Before sitting down to write out my Master’s Voice, I sometimes struggle to come up with a topic. I choose to write about what I have learned from Masonry ritual, stories from Brothers, experiences I have had in my 53 Years of life. I’ve had many great experiences and equally bad ones. Fortitude had helped me get through them all, we each have our struggles and setbacks in life no story is the same.
I leave you with this a quote from the Little Engine That Could; fortitude in a nutshell:
As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it kept saying, "I—think—I—can, I—think—I—can." It reached the top by drawing on bravery and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, "I thought I could, I thought I could."
WM Nick Lamson
Trenton Cyrus #5