The 12 Scout Laws (And What You Need to Know About Them)


A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Often called the fundamental principles of Scouting, the Scout Law describes the values that every scout should follow to become an upstanding member in their community. While most scouts can easily recite the Scout Law, very few truly understand it.

Let’s briefly recap the Scout Law. Then, later in this article, I’ll be breaking down each principle and giving you an example of how you’d be able to use the idea in your day-to-day life! None of these points will matter if you don’t put them into practice.

What is the Scout Law? The 12 points of the Scout Law represent a scout’s purpose and guiding principles. Every scout must memorize the Scout Law. It goes, “A scout is:

  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Friendly
  • Courteous
  • Kind
  • Obedient
  • Cheerful
  • Thrifty
  • Brave
  • Clean
  • Reverent”

By following each of these points, a scout acts with integrity and becomes a role model for all those they’re around.

Right after joining Scouting, I was asked to explain each of the Scout Law principles. I couldn’t. When trying, I realized how difficult it was to understand and apply the values in my own life. I knew the words but wasn’t living its message. My journey in Scouting put me on the road to uncover these answers, and I did.

On the path to becoming an Eagle Scout, I’ve learned actionable ways that every person can incorporate the 12 Scout Law principles into their life to succeed and become a better person. In this article, I’ll be sharing with you examples of how you can use every point in the Scout Law to quickly grow in being a better family member, friend, and citizen in your everyday life.

Afterward, if you’re interested in some bonus tips on quickly advancing through Scouting and earning your Eagle, check out the 5 keys here (opens in new window).

A Scout is Trustworthy

Trustworthiness means avoiding any sort of lies, large or small. When we say things that are false because we believe they’ll make us look better or keep us out of trouble, we’ll end up worse off than if we just spoke the truth from the start. Because you’ll always know when you’re lying to yourself, you’ll never completely get away with a lie. 

Trustworthiness also means staying true to your word. Follow through with what you will say and people will begin to take you more seriously. Personally, it was only when I committed and followed through that I was able to form truly meaningful relationships. If you stay trustworthy in your actions and words, good things are sure to follow.

Put it into action: Think of the last commitment you didn’t follow through on. Now, reach out to that person. Let them know that you recognize you weren’t able to keep your word in the past, but that you’d like to make it up to them. Follow through on your next commitment and rebuild trust.

A Scout is Loyal

Loyalty means being there for those who‘ve supported you. In life, you might encounter opportunities to get ahead by leaving behind those who helped you in the past. In making an effort to be loyal, you’ll do everything in your power to be there for those who were there for you.

Not having loyalty could mean canceling plans with a friend in order to hang out with a cooler group. Or leaving your scout troop right after earning Eagle. Maybe you’re just avoiding responsibilities. In any case, not being loyal will cause you to lose trust with those you’re closest to. Remain loyal though, and you’ll build strong, long-lasting friendships for life.

Put it into action: Think of an old friend that you haven’t made the effort to speak to in a while. Shoot them a message saying that you were thinking of them, wanted to thank them for the good times you’ve shared, and then, sincerely wish them well. Being loyal in your relationships will give your life more depth and meaning.

A Scout is Helpful

As my mom often said, “if you see the need, you do the deed.” Being helpful means always looking for more ways to contribute. One of the biggest indicators of your character is how hard you’re willing to work when you’re not being forced to. Trying to be more helpful and putting in the extra mile will clearly differentiate you from others.

Do you ever see people standing around when others are working? Just talking to each other on the sidelines with their hands in their pockets. Resolve not to ever be one of those bystanders. By going out of your way to help others whenever you see the need, you’ll become a person of action.

Put it into action: Next time you’re doing a service project and finish your task, find someone else who looks like they might need help, and offer to give them a hand. You’ll be shocked by the look of surprise and gratitude they give you. Your small gesture will have a huge impact, as there’s literally no one that dislikes a helpful person.

A Scout is Friendly

The superpower that all friendly people have is the ability to put those around them at ease. By making a small effort to be friendly, you’ll become more liked and respected by your peers. I’ll let you in on a secret: The easiest way to be friendly is by greeting people first. Your next step will be to simply take an interest in learning more about them.

I’ll admit it, I wasn’t the most outwardly friendly person growing up. I often felt shy and was bad with names, so it was difficult to quickly open up to others. However, I later realized that being friendly and relating to others was a muscle that needed to be constantly practiced in order to grow. After that, I always tried to look others in the eyes, smile, and greet them by name.

Put it into action: Next time you’re with a group and someone you know arrives, be the first one to say hi. Say their name, and tell them you’re glad they’re here. It’s a small amount of work on your part, but I promise it’ll make them happy to be acknowledged.

A Scout is Courteous

Courtesy is the way that you can show respect to others. Being courteous is important for being taken seriously, especially when dealing with adults. By taking the time to say please and thank you, as well as acknowledging what others have done for you, you demonstrate your appreciation and respect for the other person.

If you’re like me, you might have a few friends that you’d cringe to bring around your parents. These friends seem to have no filter and lack of sense of courtesy. if you know someone like that, resolve not to be the same way. Be courteous to every single person, and they’ll extend that same respect back to you.

Put it into action: Next time you see any workers that are typically unnoticed, such as janitors or bus drivers, give them a sincere thank you for the job that they’re doing. A little kindness can go a long way.

Speaking of kindness…

A Scout is Kind

Let me tell you, it’s easy to be selfish but hard to be forgiving. As a scout, kindness should be one of the main principles that you should work towards every single day. Being kind means trying to understand the feelings of others, then doing everything in your power to treat them as you’d want to be treated.

Often, we don’t even notice how the things we say or do can hurt others. By being kind, you’ll begin to examine and understand the consequences of your actions. Resolve to only build people up and never to break them down. I’m not exaggerating when I say that one second of kindness can change the course of someone’s life forever.

Put it into action: The next time you see someone in pain, be there for them. Simply say, “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’m here for you if you need a friend.” Then, listen to them with your heart. Unconditional kindness is the foundation of lifelong friendships.

A Scout is Obedient

Obedience means thoughtfully doing what you’re told. Emphasis on thoughtfully. It’s important to always try to do the right thing and not harm others,  so don’t follow any directions that you know to be wrong. However, any directions that you do follow should be done immediately and wholeheartedly.

What I found, personally, is that obedience needs to come hand-in-hand with understanding. When I was a kid and thought something I was told to do was ridiculous, I would argue. Try your best to avoid talking back. If you feel the directions are unfair, I’d recommend calmly asking, “I’m not quite sure I understand. Could you please explain to me why you’re asking that?“

Put it into action: Every time you follow your parent’s directions without talking back, they gain a little bit more trust in you. Try to see how long you can go without complaining or talking back. The work will still be the same, but now they’ll likely be much happier with you. 🙂

A Scout is Cheerful

Remaining positive at all times is the mark of a truly wise person. Smiling often, joking around, and not taking problems too seriously will not only make you a more fun person to be around, it’ll also make your life more enjoyable! Always try to be cheerful and look for the silver lining.

Believe it or not, your attitude is a choice. Try to make others happy. Being cheerful, even in difficult situations, will draw others to you and differentiate you as a leader. I have a personal saying, “It’s hard? Good. Keep going.” It reminds me to take on challenges with cheer and persistence.

Put it into action: The next time you’re getting frustrated — maybe something unfair happened, or you’re just working on a difficult homework assignment — give yourself a moment to pause and take a breath. Smile. Say, “I got this.” Know that this challenge will make you stronger. Then, cheerfully start again.

A Scout is Thrifty

Being thrifty means being mindful of your resources. Whether it’s money, time, or possessions, a scout who’s thrifty will not waste needlessly. This means not seeking out status by showing off your belongings, and instead, choosing things based on the value you’ll get from them.

The second part of being thrifty is planning for the future. I often ask myself, how will what I’m buying affect me in seven hours, seven days, seven months, and seven years? If it’ll only give me pleasure in the short term, but won’t help in the long term, it’s probably not a thrifty decision. If you want to track your own budget, I personally use and would recommend Mint.

Put it into action: Before buying anything, ask yourself, would I accept the amount of money I’m paying for this item in return for not buying it? If the answer is yes, save the money you were planning on spending. Keep track of this, and see how much you’re able to save by the end of the month!

A Scout is Brave

Bravery isn’t the absence of fear, it’s doing the right thing in spite of being afraid. It’s standing up for yourself and others even when being criticized, mocked or even hated. In the face of peer pressure, bravely sticking to your values is a true mark of courage.

Like friendliness, bravery is a muscle that weakens without use, but can also strengthen with practice. That’s why I always try to do what scares me. By pushing your boundaries every day, you’ll be more prepared to make decisions and be brave at the times that matter most.

Put it into action: At your next scout meeting, present an idea to your troop. Public speaking is tough, but be brave. By learning to communicate your ideas effectively, you’ll be able to stand up for the things you believe in later on.

A Scout is Clean

Being clean doesn’t only mean that you should shower daily. Cleanliness extends to your thoughts and actions as well. By holding yourself and others to a high standard, you’ll surround yourself with better people and reduce the amount of negativity in your life.

I try to follow this principle by exercising at least four times a week, keeping my home free of clutter, and picking up any litter I come across. By also avoiding negative people or bad situations, you’ll keep your life clean and meaningful. Once you make cleanliness a habit, good things will naturally come to you.

Put it into action: Right now, take a break from reading to go into your room and make your bed. Pick up anything on the floor and use the next few minutes to tidy up as much as possible. Just five minutes can put you on the right path to stay clean and motivated throughout the day.

A Scout is Reverent

Reverence means belief in a higher power outside of yourself. Whether that power is an omnipotent God, a singular essence shared among all living beings, or something else entirely, one should stop to consider the mystery and beauty of their existence. This belief will help guide your decisions and inspire you to live more meaningfully.

By respecting the beliefs of others and acknowledging that everything in the universe is uncertain, a sense of reverence provides you with perspective and meaning. Understand that one day you, and everyone that you care about, will die. Use this realization to deepen your relationships and feel more gratitude through each day of your life.

Put it into action: In the grand scheme of things, none of your fears matter. Count your blessings, and try to feel truly thankful for everything that you have. Then, resolve to deepen your relationship with one other person by the end of this week. 

Conclusion

By using the 12 Scout Law principles in your day-to-day life, you’ll be able to positively impact those around you. Make sure to put into action what you’ve learned, as knowledge without action is useless! 

If you’re a new scout and have found this article helpful, be sure to also check out my five keys for success in Scouting. Alongside the Scout Law, these 5 keys will help you to learn more quickly and make the most of your time each day. Click here to view the 5 keys now.

I hope this article has been useful to you. Keep coming back to ScoutSmarts because I’m constantly putting out new useful tips and merit badge guides to support scouts like you. Until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey!

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content for this website because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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