I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do;
respect myself and others,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.
These words are the best code of behavior I’ve ever seen. While they were not handed down by God on stone tablets, they have an edge over the Ten Commandments because they’re phrased positively: These are things to do rather than things to not do. (Notice that the behaviors and virtues listed are nearly parallel to those in the Ten Commandments, anyway. If the lack of mention of God bothers you, note that the Girl Scout Promise puts serving God first.) The Girl Scout Law has had two major revisions since Girl Scouts USA was founded in 1912, and I think this version is far better than the rambling, 13-part one in use when I was a girl: The wording is very clear yet general enough to cover many situations, and the structure makes it easy to memorize.
I’ve been a Girl Scout leader for five years now. During my first year, the council sent me a postcard with the Girl Scout Law printed on it, and I stuck it in the corner of my mirror so that I see it every morning when I’m fixing my hair. Originally, I did this so that I would memorize the Law, something I’d never managed to accomplish with the old version. Then I found that thinking of the Law every day helps me to remember my Promise to live by it. Now, when I am tempted to do something that might be wrong or to resist doing something that may be right, I use the Law to guide my decision.
Because this was so effective for me, when some of my girls bridged from Brownie to Junior Scouts, I gave each of them a framed copy of the Girl Scout Law. This is now a tradition in our “family” of troops. (I became the Junior leader after that first bridging.) I hope that each girl will give the Law a place of honor in her room, read it regularly, and think about how it applies to her life.
A leader sent in an excellent tip to the leader magazine: When correcting girls’ behavior, invoke the part of the Law they are violating: “Hey, that was not considerate and caring!” That works pretty well, especially when girls recognize it as the Law. (Despite my efforts, most of the girls who have been in my troop for years still don’t have the Law memorized!)
During the 2004 election season, I had a vivid dream about a middle-aged woman accepting the presidential nomination (no, she did not look like Hillary Clinton) with a speech that began, “As your President, I will do my best to be honest and fair!” She gave some specifics about that and went on to, “As your President, I will do my best to be friendly and helpful!” She wrapped up with, “As your President, I will do my best to be a sister to every American!” What wonderful goals for a politician! That’s what really opened my eyes to the fact that this Law is not just for Girl Scouts; it’s a great code of behavior for anyone.
I’ve also found that the Law can be adapted into an examination of conscience. As I lie in bed at night, I can ask myself:
Today, was I dishonest or unfair?
Was I unfriendly or unhelpful?
Was I inconsiderate or uncaring?
Was I cowardly or lazy?
Did I duck responsibility for things I have said or done?
Was I disrespectful to myself or others?
Was I disrespectful to authority?
Did I waste resources?
Did I have a negative effect on the world?
Did I exclude or act superior to other people?
And after I have thought over where I went wrong and how sorry I am, after I have asked God to forgive me, then I can promise that tomorrow will be better. On my honor, I will try. I will do my best. It really helps to have such a clear set of rules for what it is I’m trying to do.