A Scout is trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him.
The first of the twelve points of the Scout Law sets a high bar for scouts. Being helpful, friendly, or courteous are simple, easily described behaviors compared to being trustworthy. Being “Worthy of Trust” means a promise made is a promise fulfilled. It means a scout will do what he says he will do. It means the scout will see things through to the end.
It is easy to trust someone, even strangers. We do it every day. I trust that drivers will stop at red lights. I trust the cashier will not steal my credit card information. I trust the garbage man will collect the trash every Tuesday. This trust is in place because I’ve experienced the correct behaviors over and over. Drivers ALWAYS stop at red lights, so I trust they will continue to do so. But, the behavior is forced by laws, not by some belief held by all drivers that stopping at red lights is the right thing to do. All trust that we have of strangers is forced, either by laws, contracts, or some similar regulations.
That is where a Scout is different. He is trustworthy not because he is forced to be that way, but because he chooses to be. His honor is the only regulation that enforces his trustworthiness. That is why the words, “On My Honor”, are so important to a Scout – his honor is the only collateral he has to offer to ensure that he can be trusted. If a Scout has no sense of honor, then the Scout Law and the Scout Oath lose their meaning and strength. For that reason, it is a critical task for leaders to explain and demonstrate honor and then nurture and strengthen it in Scouts. By establishing a strong sense of honor, all the other aims and goals of scouting can take place.
When a boy is asked what honor means, the general reply will include doing what is right in difficult situations or making the right choice because it is known to be right. Honor tends to be associated with challenges of moral crisis, such as being tempted to cheat, steal, or betray. Many men, when confronted with obviously immoral opportunities, will choose what is right. The choice is clear and the possible repercussions of being discovered are great. But, personal honor comes into play in everyday decisions as well. In every choice, promise, and action taken, personal honor plays a role.
A trustworthy person arrives on time, commits to tasks he can handle, and completes both boring and difficult tasks on time. He is punctual, prompt, and perseverant. He realizes that fulfilling simple, basic commitments and expectations every day lays the foundation of trust that extends to more challenging situations. When others see that he completes tasks, they trust him with more and more responsibilities because he has earned that trust.
Building the basic sense of honor in everyday situations is a key part of a scout-run troop. The youth leaders should be encouraged to start and conclude meetings on time, not to demonstrate their power of being in a leadership position, but to be honorable. The expectations of a start and stop time are in place and it is our honorable duty to adhere to those expectations. We made a commitment to the scouts that are there on time and to the parents that expect to take their son home at a certain time.
When a scout takes on a task, specific expectations should be set, such as milestones, completion time, and costs. A leader, either adult or experienced scout, should check on progress at pre-defined times to ensure the scout’s success. As a scout builds his trustworthiness by demonstrating his ability, he is given more responsibility and is checked on less often. He does what he said he will do – he is trustworthy.
Once honor is understood and a scout can be trusted, the usefulness of honor can be expanded. Rather than just fulfilling assigned tasks, a scout with honor will begin to look for ways in which he can be of use. His honor requires him to not just complete a task, but improve on what was expected; not just lead a meeting, but make it exciting; not just finish a hike, but encourage others on the hike. As his honor grows and tempers, he develops initiative and becomes a leader.
Of course, not all people have the charisma and desire to lead a group. That is not required to be trustworthy. Whether a president or a plumber, a king or a cook, a senator or a scout, every man can fulfill his role in life with honor and be worthy of trust. When a boy makes a habit of being honest, doing his best, and helping others, he is setting a solid foundation on which he will build his life. Whatever career he takes and whatever challenges life sends at him, his dignity and character can remain solid if his inner sense of honor has deep roots. Those roots should be formed in scouting every day, on every campout, at every meeting, and in every interaction with his leaders.
A Scout is Trustworthy.