How to be a (NON) Grumpy Old Past Master & Why Everyone Else Should Listen to You

I’ll try not to rant about this, but I am tired, absolutely tired of hearing lodge officers talk about wanting the Past Masters to “get out of the way” and let the current officers lead.

Why does hearing this make me cringe?

There are two reasons

  • The first is the statement could be true. A lodge Past Master or several could be meddling, complaining, or just well, grumping around because the current leaders are making changes they don’t like.
  • The second reason is the Past Masters could be making valid suggestions, offering solid advice, attempting to mentor young leaders or just trying to “whisper wise counsel,” and the current officers are not even listening because they have been taught just to ignore anything a Past Master says.

Both of these situations are detrimental to the long-term health of the lodge. And, both of these situations are occurring because of improperly trained leaders.

The Past Masters who are grumping around, pontifically spewing advice without having established themselves as thoughtful, caring, respected leaders in the first place should shut up. They didn’t earn the respect of being heard because they didn’t understand and still don’t, how effective leaders establish a mentoring relationship that earns respect and trust.

The current officers adopting the “one size fits all” attitude and painting all Past Masters with the same broad brush of meddling, may just miss hearing from that Past Master who did do it right.

What Did the Non-Grumpy Past Master Do Right?

  • He understood from the beginning that a title in no way makes you a leader
  • He also understood that the only title he needed was the same one everyone else in his lodge has
  • He began his leadership journey by continuously communicating and connecting with every lodge brother he possibly could
  • When he connected with his Brothers he listened carefully and was intensely curious to learn from them
  • These connections allowed him as a leader to understand how he might be of help to them
  • When he was asked for help he gave it, careful not to second-guess or meddle but to teach and mentor
  • He shared information about himself, even about his shortcomings as a leader
  • He let others lead when he knew they would do a better job than he would
    He offered praise when due, and when he needed to be critical, he did it with candor and friendship
  • He understood as a leader he was being observed and made sure his conduct was consistent with the Masonic values he was asking others to observe

So, at times when a Past Master is a little out of sorts, you know, grumpy, the Brothers should look at him as a Brother who needs their help, not one who needs to be labeled a Grumpy Old Past Master.


  1. Andrew

    Dear Brethren all.
    As a Past Master of an Ancient Lodge and Grand Inspector and Officer of a foreign Grand Lodge I can agree on several points but, if you allow me to explain what I have seen as a member of a local Lodge, Freemasonry here in the US, especially in the Southern part of this beautiful country, is almost a farce. It is empty without any ritual, tradition, dress code and discipline and corners of our rituals have been cut over the years because most Brr.: of the Blue- and/or Scottish Rite is always in a hurry to get home again. I bet with all of you that in case the Lodge would not provide a meal before starting their Stated meetings, 65% of the Brr.: would not even consider coming to the Lodge anymore. As a Worldwide traveling Br.: I have visited Lodges where Brr.: requested the Worshipful Master to “hurry up a little”. I have seen – and still see Br.: coming with their media devices to the temple because Stated meetings are boring. Where is your Ritual work? Why we don’t work in 1 of the 3 Degrees instead of just in the Master degree?

    No wonder that Old-old Past Masters get grumpy because they know from their experience back in the time how it uses to be. The steady declining numbers in the Freemasonry in the US is a sign that Freemasonry, in the form I have seen, is not interesting anymore. We should listen to what the Old-old Grumpy Past Master has to say and try, with little changes only because my experience has shown that 90% of the Brr.: do not like changes at all and repeating themselves always with the same slogan, “Yeah…but we have always done it that way”, to change course and make Freemasonry interesting again.
    We are not the Lions or Rotary club but one of the oldest craft on earth.

    But like my previous comments on similar questions and posts in the past, I am sure that nobody is willing to respond to my comments because it is a sensitive point to discuss. I would, therefore, advice every traveling Br.: to visit a Freemason Lodge outside the US and see how beautiful Freemasonry can be.

    You better listen to the Old-old and Grumpy Master Mason.

    So Mote It Be.

    • Mike Clevenger

      Thank you Worshipful Brother Cobb for all of your comments. For 15 years I have been working to raise the level of leadership in the fraternity and often mention that the fraternity suffers because we have made it too ordinary. We have forgotten that formality, pageant, discipline, excellence, and meaning is what will distinguish us from other fraternal organizations. The lodge should be an event, not a meeting. Being in a lodge should inspire us, it should cause us to pause and contemplate and educate us. It should not be a place of hurry and haste, but one of measured, purposeful meaning delivered in an awe-inspiring way. Please keep commenting and I for one will continue to listen.

      • Andrew

        Perhaps you should try any oversea lodge. F.e. in any country Europe? Brazil? Japan, ….What we do here is not related to the old craft and traditions anymore. Brr.: have not only lost their tool, but also the meaning of it.. learning 3000 words for a proficiency test doesn’t make you a mason. Being a master mason in the shortest possible time, doesn’t make you a member too. Getting your 32nd degree Scottish rite in just 2 weekends (after the br.: was raised in the master mason degree in his blue lodge just few days before) is ridiculous. Each degree should take at least 8-9 months. You cannot get you engineering degree in just a couple of weeks too. A 32nd degree SR mason from the US will NOT be allowed to join ANY SR work in Europe. Because they don’t recognize the US system and the idea how SR members with the numbers are added to their temples. Esoteric and Masonic education is in many lodges just a word. Empty and meaningless because most of the Brr.: do not understand what it means. Since last year I have cut my visits to other lodges in our districts to an absolute minimum because I cannot recognize much of the old craft and trying to correct the smallest thing, brings bad “but” comments…such as “ but we have always done it like that”


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