Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Making and Keeping Agreements

What is the result of breaking agreements? Who benefits by broken agreements?

Life generally, and Masonic life specifically works within the context of making and keeping agreements. It's not that life will be guaranteed to work if we keep all our agreements, but if we are consious of our agreements and when and why we break them, we can have a window on why things aren't working.

One clue to our attitude toward keeping agreements is our willingness to keep the ones we didn't consiously make, but which are our agreements nonetheless, based on our existence or membership. Such as the law of gravity. This may seem facetious, but I suggest it is a model for all agreements.

We can fight against obeying the law of gravity; we can shout and wail against it. The physical universe will generally enforce it. We can try to break it. We can jump up and down, we can get in an airplance, but we always come down. We didn't vote on it. Our membership in life on earth imposes this agreement on us. Another example is our speed laws.

When was the last time you actually drove under the speed limit? You didn't directly vote on this. It was imposed upon you. It is an agreement you have with the government of your state.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian, father of "situational ethics," explored the question of what agreements it is possible for people to keep. He gave his life for this principle. Mr. Bonhoeffer wrote, in Ethics, (1943), just months before he was executed for being part of the Abwher plot to murder Hitler, that it is impossible for a Christian to murder. When he murders, a person stops being a Christian. Also, it is sometimes necessary for a Person to murder another. It is necessary for that Person to realize that guilt acrues to the act of murder. He is no longer acting in Grace, no matter how good the motive, there is absolute guilt attached to this broken agreement. His Personhood demands what his Christianity prevents.

When faced with this predicament, it is necessary to do what humanity demands, but to understand that it is still wrong from another point of view, and to rely on the loving forgiveness of God. This is of course from a theistic, specifically Christian point of view, but the same applies to less dramatic and more secular actions and results. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer said that "Cheap grace is our mortal enemy." Meaning that breaking our agreements believing that it can be justified easilly makes us sloppy thinkers. It makes us take our responsibility too lightly.

In the Tao Te Ching, p 129, Lao Tzu said:
1. "When a great hatred is reconciled, naturally some hatred will remain. How can this be made good?"
2. "Therefore the sage keeps the obligations of his contracts, and exacts not from others. Those who have virtue attend to their obligations. Those who have no virtue attend to their claims."

If we look only to our own claims, and base our integrity on this, we are without virtue.

Breaking agreements must be done with care. Making agreements must be done with care. We must look to the possibility that we may have to break or violate our agreements, and we must not pretend that this is right or good. We must communicate directly, not with equivocation or secret evasion, our difficulty in keeping our agreements. Our agreements are not made in a vacuum. They are two ways. They bind us to others and others to us. We entered into this relationship in good faith as did the other party. Most agreeements were not imposed upon us. We chose our agreements.

One measure of our commitment is our willingness to remake broken agreements. Or, to accept the consequences of breaking them. Seperation, an end to mutual growth and moving in a different direction are some of the consequences. It may be a good direction, but it is not without the guilt of having broken a freely chosen agreement.

The result of breaking an agreement is an ending. It can mean a new beginging, but represents a failing. Recreation can lead to further growth. Nothing will be the same.

No comments:

What This Blog is About

This blog is the thoughts of a Freemason. It's not affiliated with any Masonic body, and doesn't speak for Freemasonry in any sense of the word. My purpose is to raise questions, not dictate answers. If you read this blog, please comment; please subscribe, so we can look for answers to these questions together.