The BSA Scout Oath begins with these words “On my honor, I will do my best”.
Our honor is largely based on whether we are consistent in our actions and can be depended upon to keep our commitments. If I break my promises then my word of honor isn’t very strong. Likewise, many of the points of the scout law (i.e. Trustworthy, Loyal, Obedient, et.al.) encourage us to behave consistently and properly. When we really do follow through on our word consistently then we should be building a strong reputation for being scouts of honor – showing loyalty, honesty, dependability and such.
The second part of the phrase is that “I will do my best”.
- When do we need to do our best?
- At all times?
- In all circumstances?
- Only with regard to the rest of the statements in the oath (or points of the law)?
I think that we’re called to walk worthy and “do our best” in every circumstance no matter how scary, troubling, awkward or difficult.
If you’ve ever made a mistake or had an accident (think hitting a baseball through your neighbor’s window, etc.) you know that you need to do “the right thing” but it can be difficult to summon the courage to make things right.
If we are fortunate, we learn from experience with “little problems” (with constrained consequences) before we have to deal with “big problems” (with serious consequences).
Through it all, we need to discipline ourselves to “do our best” and never to shirk responsibility even when we might feel like hiding, running away or be tempted to deflect blame towards someone or something else.
How have you dealt with troubles in your own life? Do you find that it is easy to always “do your best” or have you struggled at times when you’re really upset, afraid, or even angry? If you’ve been the person wronged by someone else, you still need to “do your best” to deal with them fairly and responsibly — maybe even by forgiving their error while you deal with the consequences of their actions (or failure to act).
From a Christian’s perspective [Note: you don't need to be a Christian to be a scout] we could consider (as an example) the troubles that the Apostle Paul went through as he traveled and preached about Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-29 it states;
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?
Clearly, he suffered through a lot of adversity. At the end of these statements, he summarizes with verse 30; “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.” In simple terms, he recognizes that these difficult times help him to grow closer to God and learn how to depend on Him more completely. We don’t often grow as quickly (or in the same ways) during peaceful times as we do during difficult times.
Doing our best in all circumstances takes courage and commitment. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Christian scouts have many reassuring promises from God that He will sustain us as we go through these trials of life:
- James 1:2-4 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
- Psalm 34:19 – “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
- James 1:12 – “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
- Psalm 118:5-6 – “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
- Psalm 119:114 – “Your are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word.”
- 2 Cor 4:7-10 - “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
- Philippians 4:12-13- “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
- 1 Peter 5:10 – “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
- Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
So, we should do our best at all times, even during times of adversity. We know that God will help us to grow through the difficult times, too.
I wanted to add one last thing that is really important. What happens if we do our best and fail anyway?
It would be hard not to be discouraged by the failure, but we know that if we’ve really tried to do our best then we ought to learn from the failure and work to be better prepared for a similar situation that could occur in the future. My point is that we shouldn’t get angry or frustrated by failure – it’s really an opportunity for leaders to learn and grow (and there’s even a book on this concept called “Failing Forward” by John C. Maxwell)