Life can be as complicated or simple as we make it. Let me be clearer – if we use our mind to make things more complicated than they need to be, then get exactly what we wanted – complexity and sometimes that complexity creates confusion.
To avoid confusion, we take small steps and build up layers of knowledge. Think about how you’ve learned more and more each year in school – you didn’t start out with calculus, you started by adding.
As we learn more about any given subject, our layer upon layer of intimate knowledge enables us to appreciate those layers of detail – we understand why it was important to learn to add before learning about advanced mathematics.
Over the past several troop meetings, we have spend time looking at the various points of the scout law. These are pretty simple at face value, but through our discussions we’ve dug deeper into what it means to be friendly, courteous, brave, clean and a bunch of other good points, too.
Tonight I want to start to examine the Scout Oath or Scout Promise. This is going to take a while because it’s one of those things that, like the Scout Law, seems simple at first glance, but has many layers to it.
I think you’ll enjoy this exploration of the Oath, and I hope you’re willing to contribute to the discussion.
Let’s recite the whole Oath and then look at its major points.
- On my honor I will do my best
- To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
- To help other people at all times;
- To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
The first line is a pledge or a promise. Simply put, that I’ll do my best to fulfill the oath and that I’m staking my personal honor to this commitment. What’s the difference between making a mistake and deciding to consistently ignore the Oath/Law? What does it mean if I fail to follow the Oath or Law? Are there exceptions to following the Oath/Law? Do you think this first line has other meanings or implications?
The second line starts with my commitment to do my duty to God and my country. Both God and my country are authorities over me – laws established by God and my country have a binding effect on me and society at large (at least in an ideal world, but we’ll talk more about that another night). What about when these laws are in conflict with each other, or I don’t agree with them? What are some examples of duties to God and duties to country? What special promises do you make to God? How about His promises to us?
The second line continues my commitment to obey the scout law. It’s placed here as a reminder that if I don’t have clear enough guidance from God or the government’s rules on how to act or behave, then I will follow the simple rules of the Scout Law. Do you find yourself thinking of the Scout Law when you’re confronted with ethical choices more often now – several months since you joined scouting?
The third line is a commitment to help other people at all times – a reminder to look beyond my own selfishness and to offer help out of sincerity and generousness. Who are “other people?” What do you think that “at all times” really means? What sort of help do you think we should be providing (at our age/maturity level)?
The final line is my commitment to myself. I will live a stronger life (able to help others and fulfill my duties) when I’m physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. How have you been working on this part of the promise? Is this selfish or wise? When can this duty to self become unreasonable/unproductive?
Take time to think about this over the next week or two. Are you following this commitment in your daily life? Have you thought about how this parallels your understanding of what God has asked you to do or how He has asked you to live? Is there something about this pledge that makes you feel uncomfortable, or that you find unreasonable?
Homework for our next session on the Scout Oath – What is honor? What does it mean to pledge based upon your honor? What are the consequences of losing your honor?