Whenever I think about being “Courteous”, I think about holding the door for other people. Unfortunately, that could be interpreted as being kind or helpful – so what distinguishes the concept of courteousness?
In the 1911 version of the Boy Scout handbook, it says;
“A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS. He is polite to all, especially to women, children, old people, and the weak and helpless. He must not take pay for being helpful or courteous.”
Why single out women, children, old people, the weak and helpless? These people needed protection and help in their society (time period). They weren’t as well provided for as they are today, but the underlying theme is caring about others enough to be willing to intervene when you see a need.
In the current BSA handbook it says;
“A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.”
OK, being polite and using good manners makes it easier for people to get along, and we should act to help others when we see a need (especially among the weak and helpless), but what’s the motivation to do so?
I think the answer is respect for others: a desire to demonstrate hospitality and understanding even when the other person/people might be difficult to deal with.
God demonstrated awesome affection for us when He sent His only son to die in our place (God demonstrates his love towards us in that while were yet sinners, Christ died for us – Romans 5:8). We didn’t do anything to deserve the gift of being freed from the penalty for our sins, and we still rebel against God. His love went far beyond “courtesy”. Also, in the Old Testament, it says; “I am the Lord your God who made a home for you and brought you there with all my might and all my soul. Therefore, you shall love the stranger as yourself. You shall be holy as I am holy” (Leviticus 19:1). I think it’s fair, as Christians, to sum it up that our values should mirror God’s values. He cared for others greatly – we should, too.
[Note, you don’t have to be “Christian” to be a Scout; however, in our unit, we’re examining how scouting ideals and our troop family’s Christian ideals parallel each other — there may be similar parallels between Scouting and other faiths, too.]
Additional passages in the New Testament tell us to treat others with special regard:
- 1 Peter 3:8-12 (King James Version) Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
- Additionally, 1 Peter 4:8–9 says, “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another.” Ungrudgingly! That means, be the kind of people who do it and like to do it! In other words the command to be hospitable is not just a command to do something. It is not just a command that can be legalistically fulfilled with “being nice a certain number of times per day”. It is a command to be a certain kind of person, namely, the kind that doesn’t resent having to be hospitable, courteous, kind, cheerful and helpful. The kind of person who doesn’t look at the extra work and grumble. The next verse (1 Pet. 4:10) states; “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”, let your courtesy (acts of service, cheerful attitude, protection of those who are weaker, et.al.) be an extension or an overflow of God’s grace/courtesy to you. Be a good steward of God’s grace.
- Hebrews 13:1–2 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (The use of the word “neglect” implies that we need to practice our hospitality regularly or we might fail to recognize the needs of others – we can become jaded)
- Romans 12:9-21 talks about ways to show sincere love toward others: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
- 1cor 12:21-27 – “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Courtesy includes looking out for each other as members of the same body. Working together and recognizing that we each have a role to play.
A Scout is Courteous. Part of who we are includes looking out for others, treating others with respect and protecting the weak. As Scouts in this troop, we won’t use foul language (even when whispered or when we think no one else can hear us), and we won’t tell mean-spirited or degrading stories. We will place a value on service to others – especially un-rewarded, un-praised service. If we help only to get recognition for our efforts, we didn’t do it out of courteousness – we did it in pride.
Learning to live the Scout Law is the basis of demonstrating Scout Spirit – the only requirement in common for each and every scout rank you can achieve: from Tenderfoot through Eagle.
More importantly than demonstrating “Scout Spirit” is walking in harmony with God – His word gives us clear directions for righteous living. All we need to do is read his word and do what it says, daily.