The Mixed Blessing Of Loyalty

I remember when I was young, feeling very confused about the rejection I experienced from those around me. It did not make sense. What was wrong with playing with the girl next door, or wanting to read or do other activities like scouts, or having a Barbie doll? Yup, no Barbies allowed! 

It is natural for us to want to connect, explore and grow. When we are young, those natural inclinations can be treated as threatening by our caretakers if they are a step toward people and ideas that are not accepted. 

When we are young, curious, and growing, we are actually doing what we are supposed to be doing. So when we get feedback that suggests we are doing something wrong, it can feel very strange. The thing is, we are usually not doing anything wrong. What we are doing is being ourselves in a world that wants us to be someone else. The wrong is often not in us. This is not to say we do not make mistakes-we all do because this is how we learn. But the fault-finding I am referring to is not about how we did a certain task, like making our bed or tying our shoes. I am talking about how our very nature is made wrong. Our curiosity, wonder, and creativity are treated as an affront to others – that is wrong.

Loyalty: A Mixed Blessing

Loyalty is a beautiful thing. We need the loyalty of each of us to have a functioning society. We need the loyalty of others to support us when we are young and at other times when we require support. However, it matters greatly what we are asked or even required to be loyal to. 

What we are loyal to makes a big difference in the quality of our lives. It is not just our relationships that are affected by our loyalty. If we are loyal to the reality of how we feel, we sleep when we are tired and eat when we are hungry. We need to be able to be loyal to the reality of our experience and the world around us. When we are unable to do that, which is common because we have lost the connection to our bodies, and our minds are more connected to social structures and social competition than our living reality, we are unable to really steer ourselves in a constructive direction. How can we be truly responsible if we are disconnected from ourselves and reality? And what does responsibility really mean when that is the case?

We have made it a condition of belonging that we are loyal to our social group. This is not intrinsically problematic if we are also loyal to a positive objective like quality of life, if we are tuned into reality and working together to make life work for all of us. However, if the objectives are divorced from reality and serve some but not the common good, then loyalty becomes an issue. It is so important and even imperative that when we create social systems, we create something good to be a part of, not something destructive. 

Making Loyalty Work

All of our cultures and systems need to be built on solid and constructive foundations. That means our social norms need to bring out the best in people and support quality of life. You cannot create healthy cultural systems by keeping people down, by force or otherwise. You cannot serve the common good when you tell people incorrectly that the good in them does harm to others. You cannot create a thriving society when you deny members the ability to develop themselves to the benefit of all.

What is missing so often in our cultures today is an underlying spirit of friendship in the way we organize our societies and set our priorities. We are all suffering from neglected issues like the environmental ones that are destroying our physical world and the accomplishments of many humans at the same time. It is time to change this and put loyalty on a more solid and healthy foundation. Loyalty needs to serve the common good.

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash


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