July 6, 2017

What is Loyalty?

Recently I have been hearing the word loyalty a little differently and I realized that it had been a really long time since I had heard the word used outside of the context of retail and how to keep us shopping in the same stores. And I started thinking…

What is loyalty today? What does it mean in our culture now?

The Merriam-Webster definition of loyal:

  1. : unswerving in allegiance: such as
    1. faithful in allegiance to one’s lawful sovereign or government
    2. faithful to a private person to whom faithfulness is due (like a partner or spouse)
    3. faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution or product
  2. : showing loyalty (as in to a friend)
  3. : obsolete

When I heard something talking about being loyal to his or her friends recently, it almost made me sad when I realized it had been a really long time since I had heard anyone say anything like that. And it made me wonder in a world where we are told to have personal boundaries and look out for ourselves, have we lost sight of loyalty? So I started reading…

One of the first things I found what this article on PsychologyToday.com.  The title says it all, “Loyalty is Overrated.”  The article makes several, well thought out points about how loyalty can be a liability to us and can actually have a negative impact on us.

Is Loyalty Overrated?

While I couldn’t argue some of the points that author made, it made me really sad to read it.  Are we really in a place as a culture that loyalty has fallen out of favor?

A couple of years ago I read, “A History of the Wife,” by Yalom.  (It should actually be the A History of the Anglo-Saxon Wife as it really isn’t a full exploration.)  In it, Marilyn Yalom looks at the evolution of “love” and “marriage.”  At it’s inception, marriage was a transfer of property.  A woman (actually probably a girl) would be essentially purchased from her father to her husband.  In Greek and Roman times, a wife was considered to be the ultimate mate if she was “loyal” to her husband and believed that he would come home even after being gone for years at war with no word.

By today’s standards, I’m told, that if you don’t get a response to a text within four hours, the relationship is probably over.  I’m certainly not implying that things were better for women back then, but that part has shifted.  Something that has not shifted is that men in those days were allowed (perhaps even encouraged) to have sex outside of monogamy but women could be murdered for such behavior... There has been less of a shift for us there.

For me, loyalty is a ‘stick-to-it-ness’ that means that I (and others) can make mistakes but that the people around me will in time forgive me.  It means trust, even when that feels hard.  What does it mean to you?  Does it mean something different than it used to?  I would love to hear from you!

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