Guides and God

So, am I all up in arms about Girl Guides dropping their promise to love [their] God[s]?

No, I don’t think so. I suspect God can take it.

This is what the Girl Guides used to promise:

I Promise that I will do my best;
To love my God,
To serve my Queen and my Country,
To help other people
To keep the Guide Law.

Now they are going to say this:

I promise that I will do my best:
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,
To serve the Queen and my community, 
To keep the Guide Law.

This doesn’t seem to me to be particularly troubling. It looks as though Guiding wants to be modern and inclusive. I’m just a little surprised they’ve kept the Queen in there which surely must exclude republicans.

I don’t expect that Guiding will change significantly by changing that promise except to allow some girls to take part who might once have thought that it was not for them because they were not religious.

The “self” has a complex relationship with religion. And Christianity is something of a mixed bag when it comes to the self. On the one hand it is all about losing your self and being lost in God and service of others. On the other, we are told to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, which sounds a bit like a good starting place for a lot of modern therapy.

“Unto thine own self be true” is an injunction that sometimes is wrongly attributed to the Bible. It isn’t, it is a misquote in any case and comes from Polonius speaking to Laertes in Hamlet: “This above all- to thine own self be true”.

I think that God will survive the Guides’ change of wording and I hope that Guiding will flourish as a result of trying to keep up with the times.

However, you can see an enormous shift in ethical thinking taking place between those two versions of the promise. The self is paramount in modern thinking. I think that’s an inevitable thing. I also think that it is a good thing. We’ve not thought nearly enough about the self in the past. Somewhere inside though, I find myself thinking that focusing on the self is not an absolute good. Some things within the self may not be good. Presumably the injunction to serve the community in the Guide promise is an attempt to mitigate that.

If I’d been a Guide taking part in their big consultation about the promise, I’d probably have wanted something included about preventing harm. I think that’s a good direction to follow for ethical thinking and can cover the self and others.

I like the new Rainbow promise though:

I promise that I will do my best to think about my beliefs and to be kind and helpful.

You can find the inside skinny on this from a Guide leader at Some Random Bint’s blog.


  1. I like the change from `country’ to `community’ most of all.

  2. I still remember my Brownie and Guide promises, but think that the Chorister’s prayer takes a lot of beating.
    Bless O Lord us thy servants who minister in thy temple. Grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives, through etc, etc.
    Don’t know why this isn’t an essential part of the Voice for life scheme, same as the Brownie/guide equivalents are to their development process.

  3. Rosemary Hannah says

    The only one of the above I could take (Pam’s chorister’s apart) without serious finger-crossing is the Rainbow pledge. I MIGHT want to serve my community, but it would usually be by challenging it, and that is, based on childhood experiences and why I never got to play Mary in the nativity play (despite being in every other way well qualified) that is NOT what people want from children, generally. Or adults, by and large.

  4. Robin says

    > To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,

    This is meaningless. Beliefs, in themselves, are neither good nor bad. Nor are all beliefs equally valid or moral – people can have horrible beliefs.

  5. Rosemary Hannah says

    Indeed Robin -and similarly, on occasion setting about me with a mace would have been being true to myself, and not a good thing to do, but THINKING about what one believes, and being kind and helpful … yes, let’s stick with the Rainbows.

  6. Robin says

    Agreed. I like the Rainbow pledge.

  7. Rosemary Hannah says

    Yup – promise less, deliver more. Way to go.

  8. Don’t forget these also go with the Brownie and Guide Laws (the Rainbows don’t have a separate law)

    Brownie law
    * A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself and does a good turn every day.

    Guide law
    A Guide is honest, reliable and can be trusted.
    A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.
    A Guide faces challenges and learns from her experiences.
    A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.
    A Guide is polite and considerate.
    A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.

    What I like is the organization consulted with the Guides and even the Brownies when considering changes to the promises and not just those over 18.

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