I was once told that I could be loyal to a fault. I was confused at the time because I was young and I didn’t understand how a genuine quality such as loyalty could be a fault. I have since realized that it is true; even steadfast dedication can be a fault if your allegiances are committed to the wrong things. The challenge is trying to decide who and what to be loyal to, especially if your devotion is not reciprocated.
Loyalty to family may seem like a no-brainer, but what happens in families where there have been betrayals of trust through abuse, neglect and rejection? Dedication to close friends may seem a safe choice, but what happens when friends behave in a manner that is disrespectful, hurtful, or not admirable? Commitment to a company may seem logical, but what happens when your skills become obsolete and your position is eliminated? Faith in your country may seem straightforward, but what happens when your ethical beliefs are not aligned with the political and economic policies that potentially lead to wars, genocides, and global atrocities?
I tried to research the philosophy of loyalties but I found that it is somewhat complicated because I also had to examine concepts like diversity, culture, ethics, integrity, altruism, sovereignty, commercialism and even the nature of feudal societies. Picking loyalties isn’t as easy at it may seem when you are balancing decisions based on your family and personal needs. Specially when those compete with financial necessities, and conflict with traditional beliefs, social pressures, or global interest.
I remember watching a news story on a company that had drastically downsized and brought in less experienced employees in an attempt to cut costs. The media interviewed a man who had worked for the company for 23 years and as he thanked the company for his time there, he got choked up. He said he would miss everyone that he worked with and that he would always cherish the memories. He then mentioned that he had never taken a sick day in the entire 23 years that he had been with the company because he was dedicated to ensuring its success. The camera panned out as he walked away with his briefcase and lunch bucket to find a new job.
This man’s story of loyalty left an impact on me. I never forgot how sad and shocked he was because the object of his loyalties had betrayed him. Even till the end he spoke very highly of the company and humbly accepted his fate. Although I admire his selflessness, a small part of me worries that he was naïve to think that his undying loyalty and dedication would be reciprocated.
If both parties in a relationship demonstrate the willingness to make an investment or personal sacrifice to strengthen a relationship, then loyalty is an honorable thing. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that loyalty is becoming a futile pipe dream that goes unrequited if it does not produce profit and or personal gains. Too often promises get broken, love is conditional, and honor is mocked. Maybe we can start to change that.