Updated: July 26, 2021
News Flash – Laughter is Not Against the Code…
It’s a real oddity, the fact that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows may take themselves a bit too seriously. The name alone should signal congeniality. Other groups, such as E. Clampus Vitus (“The Clampers” – 10 times bigger than us), The Shriners (look at their funny hats and tiny scooters in parades – 7 times bigger than us), the Freemasons (41 times bigger than us, like to still display a vast array of mysterious symbols).
Why would it be, then, that our group, the smallest of these four, insists upon taking things more seriously than other groups much larger? And how does taking things too seriously attract new members?
Anyone who has served as a statewide appointive or elective officer has encountered many lodges in their journeys. Those of us lucky enough to have done so certainly have encountered a varied selection of members, meetings, and Odd Fellow events.
What surprised me in my own journeys was the almost stupefying belligerence, and outward critical nature some members seem to have. Of course, there are many wonderful members, always congenial, outgoing, and happy to see new faces. But there are some who seem to resent anyone and sometimes everyone.
If we are serious about wanting to encourage growth, we need to lose this type of outward resentment many of us have. Clearly, there are a myriad of reasons for resentment in life, but really there should be no logical reason for resentment in lodge. And yet, it seems like at almost every IOOF event and lodge there is someone really upset about something. We need to give serious thought about how best to approach our fellow members without causing friction. A few pointers might help.
- Our individual mandate is not to police the order. Too many times, I have seen people belittle others because perhaps one party is poorer than the other, or they feel they are less fitting to be a member. But this is not the case, and it is not our job to get rid of people, or even to pass judgment. Friendship, Love, and Truth, remember?
- Lodges often become hotbeds of gossip. But this does nothing but cause animosity among those attending. Nothing constructive comes from animosity.
- Longstanding members tend to air grievances publicly, and talk about their take on our code, rituals, and by-laws as if they are the only ones able to interpret them. These documents are merely guidelines and not meant as bludgeons with which to wield punishment.
- Nothing really is required of a member. Many members like to guilt trip other members into attending events, often because otherwise the events may be ill-attended. We are all volunteers in a fraternal group. We should seek nothing but our own happiness. If something we do seems like just a boring chore, eventually we will stop doing it. It is inevitable.
- Have fun. That should seem like a no-brainer, but many of us have forgotten how to do so. If you are unhappy within your lodge, ask yourself what would make you happy? Others may be happy to join you in whatever idea you may have.
- Young people have new ideas. This does not mean that the young are crazy. Being elderly does not make us better. All members should be treated equally.
- Try something new. Just because an event has been held since the landing of the Mayflower does not mean that it should continue ad infinitum. If attendance is waning, perhaps it’s time for a new event.
Shake things up but be happy. There is no need for unhappiness in a lodge. If you are unhappy, help make changes. This order can survive if we just remember that we are here mainly for our own enjoyment.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
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