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About Relating Like a Boy Scout

Updated: Jun 25

"So you want to date my daughter huh?"



Many parents ponder and plan the inevitable meetings with prospective boyfriends seeking to date their daughters. Some envision cleaning their rifles during the conversation, others plan to include references to their prison time, and still others want the meeting to resemble an CIA job interview. I have two daughters. My spiel to potential suiters was centered on a foundational principle of the Boy Scouts.


To be clear, I was not a Boy Scout myself, but my son was. I guess I heard the principle second-hand. During that chapter, I learned that the Boy Scouts have a camping motto: “Always leave a campground cleaner than you found it.” This maxim has obvious applications to camping. If you find a messy campground, even if you are not responsible for the mess, you clean it up. Following the principle means you intentionally improve the campsite for the next group of campers. In addition to camping, this profound idea can be applied to a wide range of other situations.


My message to each young man was “leave my daughter better than you found them.” I would ask him to imagine meeting my daughter’s future husband in 15 years. “What will this man say to you?” I would encourage him to “date my daughter in a way that causes this man to thank you - not punch you in the throat.” If this eager young man adopts this Boy Scout mentality while dating my daughter, I’d be one of his biggest supporters. However, if I find that he is dating my precious daughter in a way that is contrary to this motto … well … we’d be in opposition. It was in this context that I learned the value of the “Boy Scout model of relationships.”



So, what about you? Imagine the impact this simple Boy Scout motto could have on your friendships and family relationships. What could happen if you continually thought about leaving people around you better than you found them? Deep down, don’t we all hope to be a positive influence on those around us?



Do not let any unwholesome talk come out

of your mouths, but only what is helpful for

building others up according to their needs,

that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)



This Boy Scout motto only works if we intentionally apply it. Rarely, are we a good influence on others accidentally. To achieve positive results in the lives of others, we must intentionally remember the motto’s goal and apply specific strategies. Here are a few practical ideas for harnessing the positive power of this motto to benefit your family relationships and friendships.



1. Affirmation - We live in a very negative world. Rarely do we hear comments about what is good about us. We all long for others to see our personality traits and value us. Intentionally weave affirming comments into your interactions.


2. Encouragement - Better than the modern shallow idea of encouragement, the word used to be filled with depth and practical benefit. Encouragement was used to inspire courage in others with the goal of moving them forward towards a future vision. “Look at the great destination ahead of you. Get up and get it.” Encouragement also included practical accountability. Encouragement should stir others to take practical steps forward. Empower those around you focus less on their failures and more on learning, growing, and progressing.


3. Positive mindset - We are all surrounded by people who are negative, complain, and focus on the dark side of life. Decide to be a friend who reminds people to be positive, thankful, and hopeful.


4. Remind others of a balanced lifestyle - It is easy to get focused on one aspect of life and forget about the others. Try to be a friend who reminds people of a balanced multi-faceted life. A full life includes physical health, intellectual growth, peaceable social connections, emotional fullness, and spiritual vitality. An old Hebrew word, Shalom, communicates that all areas of life are abundant and integrated. Decide to be an agent of shalom in the lives of others.


5. Modeling - Part of making people better is to raise the bar for what is expected from others. After being in relationship with you, your friends should have higher than usual expectations of future friends and relationships. Respect and honor those around you so they will not settle for less from others. Be so safe that your friends can be really honest with you, and therefore get comfortable with honesty.



Applying the motto “leave a site better than you found it,” Boy Scouts show up to a campsite and intentionally remove junk and improve the site for the next campers. Will you make a commitment and develop strategies to apply this motto to your relationships?




Take another step…

  • Who helped you be a better person? Can you adopt some of his/her methods of helping you?

  • With a friend over coffee, talk about one of the five practical ideas mentioned in this article that you would like to explore and develop.

  • Look up Ephesians 4:29 in a couple different versions. Then create your own relationship motto.


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