Texas Liberal

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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 | , , ,


  1. it all depends on how you look at it. you can be loyal to some that dont merit your loyalty.

    Comment by bill brady | June 28, 2008

  2. Maybe that has virtue as well at times. Loyalty to others can be about what kind of person you want to be as well. Maybe it’s a test of character to be loyal to someone who may not merit it at a given point. Maybe that person will get the message and do better as a result of your actions.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | June 28, 2008

  3. What? Are you thinkin’ “When the crap hits the fan, who’s got my back?”

    Comment by carsick | June 29, 2008

  4. You can have a screwed up friend that is not loyal to him or herself or a family memeber that is too crazy or drunk or high to see what they do or do not have, you can have people in your life that no matter how many times they dont return a call or send a fking xmas card that its ok to still be loyal to and look out for. Its like its better to give then to receive. depending on the dynamic and the history and the feeling you have for any one person you might be able to see past all the b.s. and still have their back even if they are too weak to have yours. Its not always about what in it for ourselves as much as what we have to give. i personally have a much easier time giving a compliment than receiving one. I also have a much easier time asking someone if they need some help than asking for it. Does that not make me loyal?

    Comment by bill brady | July 1, 2008

  5. Carsick—You never know when you have your back up against the wall.

    Bill—As I say in the post, you may have your way of seeing loyalty based on your own life.

    I know you value loyality a great deal.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | July 2, 2008

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