The charge read to Master Masons in some jurisdictions includes the following, (which is published).
…it is your province to recommend to your inferiors obedience and submission; to your equals, courtesy and affability; and your superiors, kindness and condescension.Charge read to new Master Masons
This will often sound very strange to new Masons, particularly the “condescension” point. In the modern usage, condescension means to have a patronizing attitude or behavior. How could that possibly work with kindness together?
Remembering that much of the language in Masonry originates long ago, we need to look at where the word comes from to get at what the charge is really saying.
Masons pride themselves on staying “on the level” but this does not erase many forms of social rank. In the real world there are bosses & subordinates. There are masters of the lodge and Entered Apprentices. We may all be equal in value as people, and still not be equal in our abilities & responsibilities.
In short: social rank is real irrespective of our desire to stay on the level, which means that to try and maintain the principle of being on the level, the superior must condescend to the inferior, as a “voluntary inclining to equality”.
The opposite of condescension then would be to lord one’s position or experience over a brother, or to remind him of his lowly station. This would be failure to condescend, and clearly in that situation the two brothers would not be on the level.
As written in the charge, Master Masons recommend condescension to their superiors. It cannot be enforced, but when done correctly, acts as a reminder to the superior brother to behave on the level. And as such, it is a form of “whispering good counsel in a brother’s ear”. If we are to remain on the level, the inferior must be able to speak to the superior.
And that is the importance of “Masonic Condescension”.