Keystones of a Scout: The 10 Virtues That Make a Scout | Duty

It’s been a while since the last installment of this series, and for that I apologize. Out of all the series here on Scouting Rediscovered, the “Keystones of a Scout” series is the most important to me. Back when I first started this series, I wrote:

In my own Quest to rediscover Scouting, I have gone through many writings of Scout Leaders from the past, and have learned more and more about the essence of what Scouting is and the essence of what a true Scout is. I wanted to know: At his core, what is the true essence of a Scout? What is the Spirit of the Scout? In fact, this is the very reason I set off on my quest to rediscover Scouting; I wanted to find the essence of what a Scout is, and I wanted to become that.

Now, I am almost finished with this series, and I am almost 18 as well. Since I have started this website, I have learned a lot, and these Keystones just become more and more relevant and valuable to me.

In this post, I will talk about the second to last Scout Keystone: Duty. Duty to what? Why is this a Scout Keystone? I hope to answer these questions in this post as a continuation of the series:

Keystones of a Scout: The 10 Virtues that Make a Scout, which I introduced: here. Previously in this series, I talked about Endurance, Self-Discipline, Exploration, Observation, Initiative, Deduction, Ingenuity, and Chivalry.

Each of these are traits or virtues that I have shown to have been with Scouting from the beginning, and each of these traits are necessary for a Scout to do what he should do and to carry out his Oath that he swore as a Scout.

What is a Scout’s Duty?

What does it mean to “Do your duty”? Well, simply put, to do one’s duty is to fulfill one’s obligations. Everyone has their own particular obligations, and Scouts in particular have formally taken on some very important obligations. When a Scout takes the Scout Oath, he promises to do his best to do his Duty in three areas: his Duty to God, his Duty to others, and his Duty to himself.

What, then, do these Duties consist of? Well, one of the best summaries I have found is in an old book that features quotes from different Scouting publications written during the first 20 years of Scouting’s History:

His Duty to God is in no way satisfied by a passive reception of religion and the formalism of prayers, however good. It demands active, constructive ideas built on a sound basis, and vigorously carried out in everyday – not on Sundays only. It is a matter, not for spasmodic fits of emotion, but for clear, cold REASON translated into continuous action.

In the way of Duty to other people, the average citizen’s virtue lies more in the omission of bad rather than in the commission of good. Good Citizenship is shown by voluntary service, and by functioning in one’s Rights and Privileges to the best of one’s ability. [He] must, therefore, have an intelligent, instructed interest in all subjects that concern the community, especially the community in his immediate neighborhood.

His Duty to himself is of great import, because he must BE right before he can DO right. He cannot render service before he has trained himself for the purpose. He has his soul, mind and body to look after. He and no one else is responsible for that.

There are a countless number of ways that Scouts do their Duty in each of these three areas. Sometimes, there are Scouts in the news who have performed some great act of service to others. Most often, though, when Scouts do their Duty it isn’t widely known or glamorous. True Scouts don’t seek the spotlight for doing the right things. They do it simply because it is their Duty to do what is right.

Although there is a countless number of ways that Scouts fulfill their Duty, they are all guided by the principles in the Scout Oath and Law.

Duty to God

First off is Duty to God. Scouts and Scouters have gotten a lot of criticism for insisting that one must recognize a Duty to God in order to be a Scout. This belief, however, has been with Scouting since the beginning and has stood the test of time. Baden-Powell said in “Scouting for Boys”:

No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws. So every Scout should have a religion.

He further expanded upon this in his book “Aids to Scoutmastership”:

The Promise that a Scout makes on joining has as its first point: “To do my duty to God.” Note that it does not say “To be loyal to God,” since this would merely be a state of mind, but to do something, which is the positive, active attitude.

This sense of “Duty to God” is what the whole of Scouting’s high character standards are built from. In order to do our Duty to others and to ourselves, it is necessary to acknowledge that there is a higher power to which we have a Duty to. This is why John Thurman said:

“I just want to say to you about duty to God: ‘Be as proud and genuine about this as you are about anything else in your Scouting, because if you don’t really do your duty to God – well, the rest of your Scouting is a waste of time.’”

Duty to Others

Scouts also recognize a Duty to other people. Baden-Powell said in “Aids to Scoutmastership”:

The curious thing is that this duty of Service for Others through Good Turns is the one to which Scouts rise with the fullest alacrity. On this seemingly small foundation (the giving up of small personal conveniences or pleasures in order to render service) is built the character of self-sacrifice for others.

Some people, looking in on Scouting from the outside, might think of Scouting as simply made up of camping, hiking, and tying knots. These things are just a little piece of what Scouting is, however. Scouting deals with character, and each Scout sets high standards of character for himself when he takes the Scout Oath and Law.

In fact, this is what drives all of the skills that a Scout learns. He does this, not only to improve himself (as we’ll talk about in the next section), but also to prepare himself to help and serve others. For one, Scouts train to rescue others from life-threatening situations. Baden-Powell emphasized this in “Scouting for Boys”:

Plunge in boldly and look to the object you are trying to attain, and don’t consider your own safety first.

Boys have an idea that they are too young and too small to take part in saving life. But this is a great mistake.

Since I wrote this book many thousands of cases have occurred of Boy Scouts plunging in to save drowning people where the crowd was afraid to help. In the Scouts, we have medals for gallantry, which are granted for acts of heroism and life saving.

Let every Boy Scout prepare himself to win one of these. Some day an accident may happen before you to give you your chance. If you have learned beforehand what to do, you can step forward at once and do the right thing and possibly earn the medal. In any case, you will have what is far greater than a mere medal—you will have the satisfaction of having helped a fellow-creature at the risk of your own life.

In addition, Scouts put in many hours of community service. This is not done for a reward or some kind of recognition; it is done because it is a Scout’s Duty.

Scouts helping after a disaster.

Duty to Yourself

All of these three Duties that Scout’s commit to all tie into each other. In order to properly do our Duty to God  and to others, we must do our Duty to ourselves. As was quoted earlier: “His Duty to himself is of great import, because he must BE right before he can DO right. He cannot render service before he has trained himself for the purpose. He has his soul, mind and body to look after. He and no one else is responsible for that.”

Doing your Duty to yourself lies in Being Prepared both in body and in mind. Baden-Powell put it this way in “Scouting for Boys”:

Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.

Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.


So, behind all of the things usually thought of when Scouting is mentioned, Scouting is a commitment to a higher standard; one in which Scouts have a Duty to God, other people, and themselves.

The way each Scout carries out his duty is a little bit different, but behind it all is underlying principle of selfless service. Strong Character, Self-Improvement, and Selfless Service are what make up the heritage of Scouting that we have today.

Unfortunately, some of this has been forgotten. The high standards and character that Scouting has stood for since the beginning of the last century have been lowered by many, abandoned by some.

Now is the time when we’ve got to decide what heritage we will leave for the future. Scouting is only as strong as the timeless principles and standards it holds to.

Let’s Rediscover our Duty and show the world that Scouts will never fail in doing that Duty!

Please stay tuned, the next and last installment of the “Keystones of a Scout” Series is coming up soon and will be on: Honor


Thanks for reading this post! Do you have any comments, thoughts, or questions? I’d love to hear them! In what way do Scouts in your Troop fulfill their Duty? Please share it in a comment!

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Thanks again! Scout on, my friends!

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