When I woke up this morning, 4th July, my first thought was not about Independence, but about Loyalty.
I find the concept of loyalty puzzling, perhaps because the word itself is used in so many different contexts. Is a Loyal American/Russian/Laotian one who believes in his country, right or wrong? If one is loyal to the Country, does that automatically mean agreement with, and support of, the politicians running the country? Are political and philosophical differences disloyal?
In a marriage, if spouses are loyal, does that mean they love each other and are happy, or simply that they’ve agreed not to cheat on each other, no matter how bad things become? If I am your loyal friend, and you turn to the most despicable of crimes, am I supposed to support you or protect you? If I disagree with you, am I disloyal?
I looked for guidance in the dictionary, and I saw references to allegiance, faithfulness, commitment, duty, etc. It wasn’t helpful.
A person can be loyal to a country or a spouse (as we’ve discussed), and also a loyal member of the Rotary Club, a loyal supporter of the local football club, and a loyal consumer of particular tobacco products. Each of these ‘loyalties’ differs in character.
Peculiarly, especially in this day and age, there is seldom mention of loyalty to one’s self and one’s principles. Thinking of yourself first is generally frowned upon and called ‘selfish’, even though it is necessary for self-preservation. Is it disloyal to walk away from people who hurt you? Is it even more disloyal when the people you walk away from are family or friends?
Is it disloyal to walk away from people who ‘help’ you, when the cost of their help is your misery?
As I was considering these questions, I realized there was one element of loyalty that does not get mentioned–ever, and that is forgiveness. The only way to stay loyal in these conditions is to forgive, even if you walk away. No one, and nothing, is 100% certain. At some point, you will be let down, feel betrayed or used. What then of loyalty?
I’ve always believed that loyalty, like trust and respect, is not automatic. It’s earned. Sometimes it’s lost, or spent foolishly. And without forgiveness, loyalty can only be a tragedy.
It is not disloyal to leave for your own good. It is very disloyal do to so, leaving a trail of blame and recrimination in your wake.
People are entertaining these considerations at this time in history–world, national, social, and personal. It is a very difficult and troubling time. Some seem unable to go quietly into the night. Others will slip silently away, and no one will ever know why.
If you’re one of these people, let forgiveness be part of your decision.
Paul TN Chapman
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