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Who Merits Loyalty?

( Blogger’s Note—As part of my Summer Solstice blogging break, I’m re-running a few posts. I’ll be back to normal posting in a few days.)  

This post is part of an occasional Texas Liberal series called Central Questions.  

Loyalty is an important quality. 

What are possible grounds for loyalty? Who merits loyalty and for what reasons?

I see loyalty as coming from personal circumstance, from experience, and, also, from a broader context of shared values.

Loyalty also requires acceptance of people’s faults as you may see them. This because, if for no other reason, so that others will accept you and your faults.  

Here are possible grounds for loyalty—

1. A Shared Past— I give some stock to people who were in the same places I was at certain points in life. For example, people who hung out in punk rock clubs and bars I frequented in college get credit.

I feel these are people who felt many of the same things I did at that age, and may now be people I can trust as an adult.  Also, more personally, I want my past to matter—or to at least be recalled.     

Here is a line of John Kennedy’s Inaugural address that expresses this feeling—

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share: we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends.

 2. A Shared Present—People we work with or live near may have a shared set of experiences or circumstances that are a basis for loyalty.

This doesn’t always work out, and loyalty here may be limited to the shared circumstances, but it is good to enter relationships with co-workers and neighbors with the hope that trust can be established.

Also, proximity can require that we look past any negative traits and focus on what’s best in a person. Here is an example of this feeling from The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas

But, never mind, he is a neighbor who has done us a service on a time, so he’s welcome.

3. Gut Instinct Guided By Experience —Sometimes you have just have a feeling someone is on your side—A gut feeling guided by experience. When I have such a feeling, I go with it until I have reason not to.    

Here is a sentence from a Jack London book called Before Adam that expresses this idea—

We felt the prod of gregarious instinct, the drawing together as though for united action, the impulse toward cooperation.  

4. Someone Who Has Done Something For You—What I mean is more than “one hand washing the other.” I mean that if someone has done you a good turn for the right reasons, you should remember the favor and return it out of fairness and as a way of deepening a relationship.

The way we return a good deed may be no more than a sincere thank you.

Here is an example from an article by a Kelly White in the magazine Girl’s Life—   

Before long, your sister will follow your good example, and you’ll both be masters at the art of sisterly give-and-take.

5.  Shared viewpoints—Relationships have a larger context than the interactions of the people in the relationship. Someone who sees the world as you do, may share values that are as important to you as are simply personal concerns.  

A relationship can have a context as large as the people in the relationship decide it can have. 

Here is an example of this from Turn Of The Screw by Henry James

I was queer company enough– quite as queer as the company I received; but as I trace over what we went through I see how much common ground we must have found in the one idea that, by good fortune, COULD steady us. 

There are other grounds for loyalty that you may observe and follow based on your own experiences.

June 28, 2008 Posted by | Books, Relationships | , , , | 5 Comments