“No Way!” James almost shouted at his best friend, Robert. The boys, both eleven, had been friends since pre-school. They were walking home from school and Robert had made a ridiculous suggestion that they should join the Boy Scouts.
“Scouts are just losers and dorks,” James continued. “Besides, they would never accept us. We don’t know anybody in Scouts!”
James had always felt like a loser. Well, not always. Just since his mother had married that guy. James never knew his dad who had died when James was a baby. For three years it had been just James and his mom. Then she married again, and James’ life had taken a turn for the worse.
The guy never physically abused James. He just never accepted or approved anything James did.
If James built a stack of blocks, the guy would get up to get a beer and kick the blocks as he walked by.
Whatever James was watching on TV, the guy would always change the channel telling James he was watching crap.
James couldn’t sit right (quit squirming), eat right (don’t eat so fast; or don’t mess around with your food), play right (you throw like a girl), or sleep right (don’t wet the bed, even though James never did).
He either ignored or ridiculed James’ good school work and simply ignored the rest.
Whenever Mom would pull James into her lap and cuddle with him, the guy would tell her to stop wasting her time on that loser and then stomp out of the room. Mom would sadly slide James out of her lap and follow the guy.
James felt like everything he did was going to be criticized or put down. He did his school work and prayed when he turned it in that Teacher would not call on him to read his report or even to answer a question.
He didn’t like sports because there were too many opportunities to screw up. He and Robert played ball, skated, and shot baskets together, but James wouldn’t put himself at risk in front of anyone else.
So James truly believed himself a loser and then later when he and Robert began playing video games, he decided he had become a nerd, too.
James and Robert were great friends and spent all their free time together. Robert was only a little less a loser than James, in James’ opinion, but that was okay. They were comfortable doing things together and could talk freely.
Robert once had asked James why he felt he was a loser. James had thought about that a lot. The only thing he could figure out was that when he started to do something, anything, he would think about that guy putting him down. Even just lying in bed thinking about doing something new would flood his mind with the times the guy would belittle him or his mother would give in to the guy. His thoughts always told him he was an incompetent loser.
Even though his mother had divorced the guy when James was eight, even now, three years later, he could still hear the guy calling him a loser.
Now that he had a friend in Robert who accepted him, James was sort of content. Things weren’t great, but they weren’t awful either.
Then Robert had started talking about the Scouts. It sounded interesting to do the things Scouts do, but James knew that it was just a matter of time before they noticed what a loser he was and he’d have to sit on the log in the dark farthest from the campfire.
Today Robert had said they should go to the meeting in the church basement tonight and James had called them all losers and dorks.
Robert laughed. “Then it’s a perfect fit. You say you’re a loser and a dork; and you say they are losers and dorks. Couldn’t be better! I’ll come by your house at 6:30 and we’ll walk to the church.”
Robert’s only fault that bugged James sometimes was that he could so easily turn James’ words into a logical argument against him. James shrugged and gave in, even though he certainly wasn’t excited at the prospect.
Robert had somehow come up with two application forms and he gave one to James to have his mother complete. She gave him a check for the enrollment fee and the Scout Handbook like it said in the application.
At 6:30, Robert showed up and they strolled over to the meeting.
It wasn’t too bad. James and Robert knew a few of the boys from school. There were two other new kids. They didn’t know the older boys and some of the scouts were home-school boys from around town who they didn’t know. The adults made all the new boys feel welcome and most of the kids introduced themselves.
One of the older boys gave a presentation about an upcoming camp-out and then they broke up into small groups to work on rank, whatever that meant. James and Robert and a few other boys were in a group called Basic Scouts led by a fourteen year-old named Michel.
Michael gave them new Scout Handbooks and they looked at the section for earning the first rank of Scout. It involved mostly memorizing and reciting stuff like the Scout Law and the Scout Oath and James decided he could do that. Maybe he could even recite it in a small group like this.
James and Robert decided as they walked home to work on the Law and Oath and recite it next week at the meeting.
Over several weeks, they enjoyed the meetings and James was able to pass his Scout requirements including one overnight campout. And they started working on Tenderfoot in a class led by Garth, a freshman in high school. There were five boys working on Tenderfoot.
The biggest requirement was a camp-out that was scheduled for a weekend next month. At the campout they would learn all sorts of things like map reading, how to build a campfire, and how to sharpen and handle a knife and hatchet. They would learn the first aid stuff and other stuff in scout meetings.
James started getting nervous. Garth picked up on it and asked him about it after the meeting. James told him that he didn’t usually do well on new stuff and he was afraid he would make a mistake. Garth assured him he wouldn’t let James to that.
The next week, Scoutmaster Jenkins came over and watched the tenderfoot group work. When they finished the practice splints, Mr. Jenkins asked James if he had a minute for a Scoutmaster conference. James didn’t know what this was, but he agreed and they went over to the table where the Assistant Scoutmaster was sitting.
Mr. Jenkins asked James how things were going so far and James responded with the right answers, he hoped. He must have been doing okay because the conversation kept going with both men asking questions about the activities and with James responding.
This was new for him. He wasn’t used to people other than teachers showing him this kind of respect. Then Mr. Jenkins asked James to describe himself as he thought other people saw him.
After a pause, James slowly replied, “I think that most people think I’m a nerd; maybe even a loser. I don’t do things very well and I make a lot of mistakes.”
When James didn’t say anything else, Mr. Jenkins responded, “James, here at scouts, we have not formed that opinion of you at all. I talked with Garth and Michael and they both tell me that you are very capable and that your work is as good as any other new scout.”
“James,” he continued, “I don’t want to know your story because that’s personal with you; but I suspect that when you do new things or when you’re around new people, you start thinking about what a loser you are and how you’re going to mess up. Is that about right?”
Sort of surprised about how Mr. Jenkins knew that, James acknowledged, “Yes, sir.”
“James, you did very well with the Scout Law. Can I share with you three more laws that aren’t in the Scout Handbook? I call them ‘Life Laws’.”
Three Life Laws
Life Law 1 – Whenever a thought enters your mind that will cause you pain or keep you from being the best you can be, you say to yourself out loud, “I will not think about that.” When the thought comes back, and it will, you say it again, “I will not think about that.”
Mr. Jenkins explained that this idea had been around for thousands of years and it’s even mentioned in the Bible. “We simply do not have to let negative thoughts control our lives,” he said.
He explained that we can get so distracted by negative thinking that we sometimes aren’t able to do the things what we’re perfectly capable of doing.
“The reason this works so well is Life Law 2.”
Life Law 2 – When you consistently practice the first law, negative thoughts will come to you less and less frequently until you really don’t think about them at all.
He explained that we all have a part of our mind, called the subconscious, which has the role of helping us be happy and content. If our subconscious thinks that we are happy thinking about negative things and getting all worked up all the time, it will keep feeding us those negative thoughts so we can be happy.
But if our subconscious hears us saying “I will not think about that,” consistently, it will learn over time that we don’t really want to think about those things and it will stop sending those negative thoughts to us. It’s like our subconscious blocks those negative thoughts and temptations automatically.
Mr. Jenkins said that he’s sure this works because he has shared the Three Life Laws with his own family and employees and with dozens of scouts; and it works every time. He said they all have learned to break the habit of negative thinking and create the habit of peace.
Life Law 3 – Use your habit of peace to make the best decisions for you and your family.
When we’re not spending all our time thinking about negative things, we have peace. We can use this peaceful time to think about ways to get along better with others, to do the right things, and to better ourselves for the future.
He asked James if the laws made sense to him. When James responded with a “yes,” Mr. Jenkins continued.
“Here’s what I want you to do. Put this index card in your Scout Handbook. Notice that I have put blocks for each day of the week. Every time you discover a negative thought has popped into your mind, I want you to say out loud to yourself, ‘I will not think about that.’ If you’re in class or church or someplace where talking would be inappropriate, put your hand over your mouth like you’re yawning and say softly, ‘I will not think about that.’
“Then put a check mark on the card in the block for that day every time you dismiss one of those negative thoughts. Bring the card back with you next week. Will you do this?”
James probably looked a little doubtful. Mr. Jenkins suggested, ”James, I suspect that you have a negative thought right now telling you that this idea will never work for you. This is a good place to start.”
James smiled and said, “Yes, sir.” As he walked back to his group, he said to himself, “I will not think about this.”
Garth brought him up to date on the camp-trip planning. “James, you have the assignment of helping plan a menu and a budget for making macaroni and cheese for 30 people. Work with your mother and use any resources you have to bring that back to our meeting next week.”
On the way home, Robert was going on about his assignment which was working on a plan to break down the campsite and making sure that everything was back as close to nature as it could be.
Then he asked James about his meeting with Mr. Jenkins. James told him about the Three Life Laws and his assignment for the week. He made Robert promise not to laugh if he heard James saying to himself, “I will not think about that.” Robert promised.
Over the week, he noticed something interesting about his card. The first day he just about filled up the space for check marks meaning he had dismissed a bunch of negative thoughts. The next day, there was two less. He thought back through his day and decided that he hadn’t forgotten anything.
Each day the number of checks was one or two less than the day before. When he gave the card back to Mr. Jenkins at the next scout meeting, Mr. Jenkins smiled and said, “That’s exactly what I expected you to show me.” He then gave James a fresh card and suggested that he keep on applying Life Law 1.
Garth was pleased with his planning for the mac and cheese and he assigned both James and Robert to be on the shopping team to buy the provisions.
The next week, Mr. Jenkins noted his continued progress and told James that Life Law 2 was beginning to work for him; his subconscious was actually giving him fewer and fewer negative thoughts. The card was the evidence.
He began to apply Life Law 1 to other things; like, dreading handing in an assignment, an occasional thought about the guy his mother had married, or worrying that he was going to do something dorky in PE at school.
James and Robert had a great time sharing a tent on the camping trip. The scouts loved his macaroni and cheese. The older scouts led the advancement tasks and all of them congratulated both boys when they passed all their remaining Tenderfoot requirements.
School was more fun and James even surprised himself by suggesting that he and Robert go out for Little League.
James was so excited about the Three Life Laws, he taught him to Robert to use with a couple of issues he had talked about.
James and Robert earned two merit badges that spring and planned to earn more at summer camp. Even though he wasn’t even Second Class yet, James already had a plan for earning his Eagle rank by ninth grade.
As James and Robert walked home from baseball one day, Robert chided him; “James, you know what? You’re not a loser any more; or a dork either.”
James laughed and replied, “I’ll never feel what way again. I know now what to do when of any negative thought pops into my mind.”
He went on, “I don’t know what I’m going to be, but I know I’m going to do something where I can share the Three Life Laws with all the little losers and dorks I can find.”
“Great plan,” Robert said as they high-fived. They laughed and talked about summer camp the rest of the way home.
This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is, in addition to more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.
Children can easily understand the simple principles of the Three Life Laws. The laws work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.
Although the author was a volunteer scout leader in years past, this story in no way claims to be representative of official BSA policy or programs.
This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peace – http://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life laws and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.
The eCourse leads one through a process of turning a habit of being a loser into a habit of success. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right.
Copyright 2014 findingpersonalpeace.com. Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.