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Probing Loyalty

Making a list of virtues we desire to emanate in our lives should not be that difficult nor complicated. If there are any obstacles about it, it would be which one would top the list. For some reason, the first item on any list implies it’s the most significant. Virtues, however, ought to be held with equal esteem no matter where they fall on any list.

Some of them may also have meanings which overlap or share common characteristics. Kindness, compassion, and empathy all have similar intentions yet hold individual explanations. Likewise, faithfulness and loyalty are similar in their meanings. Upon closer inspection, there are subtleties which cause them to be used in different situations.

In relationships – especially in our closest and most intimate ones – they thrive when both people are faithful. Loyalty offers a different connotation. It suggests expectations greater than faithfulness and often, it implies a hierarchy in the relationship.

Is loyalty given more consideration as a virtue than it deserves? Is it expected from us even when we would rather choose not to give it? How important is loyalty to you and how vital should it be for others to possess?

The pledge

In many Western cultures, civil servants and those joining the military are asked to take a pledge of loyalty. So too is it required by many groups and business organizations across the globe. While there may be additional qualities involved, loyalty often carries the most weight. It signifies that the group to which one pledges has certain expectations that are demanded from everyone to remain part of that group.

Pledging loyalty means one will do everything to uphold the basic principles and ideologies to support and maintain stability. Without full devotion, there are opportunities for the group to erode or be usurped by others. A pledge of loyalty may not always thwart those attempts but it sets guidelines and provides clear and undeniable expectations for every member.

Family often implies loyalty. Although it differs by culture, loyalty may be considered as important as love. Some will take it to a more elevated level and give it the highest familial value and priority. Individual members are not given a choice and must understand that any deviation will cause them to be banished or eliminated.

One of the few groups of people who are rarely required to pledge their loyalty are consumers. While it is highly cherished and businesses thrive when they create loyal customers, consumers typically remain loyal by choice. Companies incentivize and reward shoppers for their dependability but forcing or insisting on their devotion is often despised and will cause good customers to go elsewhere.

The boundaries

Every virtue we include on our list ought to be there by choice. Loyalty, perhaps more than all the others, can be forced upon us. While that’s not always a negative, too often loyalty can conflict with other virtues. When loyalty is the primary focus, it assumes more importance than other virtues such as honesty, respect, or humanity. Being loyal may obligate us to blatantly abuse or disregard other virtues as well. Loyalty mandates compliance and if that dictates lying, fraud, or deception, one may not always have the option to choose otherwise.

Loyalty may be best suited when considered along with other virtues. It may also be a biproduct of those actions. When utilized with respect, sincerity, and honor, loyalty may simply be the result of keeping other standards and principles.

We all can develop our own idea of what loyalty means and where those boundaries are. There is a well-known expression which helps shape my idea of its meaning. While it may not be something you would consider, the aim is to demonstrate how it influences my definition. The motto is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

If I am asked to do anything inconsistent with or opposing to that mantra, my loyalty will default to the Golden Rule.

In business, if I am ever asked to be deceitful or sweep something under the proverbial rug, would those actions be something I would want someone else to do to me? If my family were the victim of a heinous crime, would I want perpetrator’s family to remain silent and not say anything their family and devastate mine?

I have never lived in a situation which demanded complete and utter loyalty, forcing me to keep silent at the expense, anguish, or suffering of another family. I don’t know what it feels like to depend on a paycheck from a company requiring my loyalty above the rule of law. I cannot recall ever having to ignore my integrity for anyone’s definition of loyalty. Admittedly, I have not always been perfect, but the more I focus on personal integrity the better it helps me stay true to this mantra.

The consideration

Loyalty can have contrasting intentions. However, in nearly all cases, loyalty works best when someone gives it rather than when it’s demanded of them. It is more deliberate when given because there was an agreement from that person to be loyal. When it is demanded or forced against someone’s will, it is more easily abandoned out of revenge or some form of retaliation.

Perhaps it can be thought of more as an ornamentation – a decoration – rather than a main consideration. When we are courageous, it often results in loyalty. Being honest in your actions at work demonstrates loyalty to the company and your manager. Any demand for our loyalty against our will is simply an opening for corruption, deceit, or scandal.

Loyalty is a much-needed virtue and important in gaining the trust and assurance of others. It is an admirable trait when someone exudes it in the toughest circumstances. But it can also be a tool of the most corrupt and despicable, abusing it for their own power and gain. When loyalty works together with other positive virtues, it will be a powerful tool of action. When abused, it can cause devastation at monumental proportions.

My thanks to Sam Goodgame on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your thoughts on the importance you give loyalty.

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