With apologies to anyone who is more a cat person than a dog person, no conversation about loyalty would be complete without discussing dogs. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:
There is no faith which has never yet been broken, except that of a truly faithful dog. ~ Konrad Lorenz
I’ve had the joy of having dogs most of my life, and I’ve fallen deeply in love with each of them without exception. Loyalty sometimes feels like having that sweet animal follow you around the house, waiting for you, cuddling next to you and relentlessly begging to play ball or pretend that 85 pounds can be a lap dog.
Are the qualities which make up loyalty in a dog the same as they are in people? Are dog lovers confusing loyalty with the dependence of dogs on us for their survival? What are the core qualities in what we read as loyalty in dogs that we’d like to have in our human relationships?
Loyalty to so-called “lost causes”? Who me? Who you? Most likely, each of us has at least one cause to which we remain loyal no matter what. It could be anything: a sports team, a family member, a political issue – a belief in something that you refuse to give up.
Czech activist and the first President of post-Communist Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, said:
“The only lost cause is one we give up before we enter the struggle.”
Havel’s point was to remain loyal and not to give up on what we believe in. His struggle as a leader for Czech freedom is legendary – and, at the time, most would have said it was a lost cause.
What is it that keeps you loyal to people and situations that seem to others to be lost causes? How can we explain our commitments? Is this blind or misplaced loyalty – or is it something deeper?
How are you in receiving loyalty from friends, family, colleagues and others important in your life? Do you acknowledge loyalty? If so, how?
Consider what Andre Agassi said to his fans after the last match of his professional tennis career.
“The scoreboard said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments, and I’ve found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams I could never have reached without you.”
Is there anyone in your life that you would enjoy acknowledging for their loyalty to you? Is loyalty to you among the things that you value?
Loyalty is a precious gift; and when it has been broken, experience teaches that it has been difficult – and sometimes impossible – to restore. Being able to restore loyalty requires a willingness to begin again, to literally forgive AND forget.
Consider restoring loyalty on a national level. Abraham Lincoln invited Secessionists to rejoin the Union “with malice toward none, with charity toward all.” A stunning example of a willingness to forgive the past and to re-engage rebels who had been disloyal to the USA as loyal citizens.
We often hear examples like this and think that perhaps Lincoln can do it, but in our own lives, we have doubted that such starting over with loyalty can actually happen. Such heroic actions are not limited to nations. We can experience them in our own lives.
What is your experience with restoring loyalty? We might start within: if you’ve ever been disloyal to yourself, have you been able to start over and re-assert your loyalty to your core values? If so, have you ever been able to do that with others? What are the limits to restoring loyalty, if any, and how do you determine those boundaries?
I had the good fortune recently to hear a talk on loyalty which reminded me of a fascinating client session many years ago. We were discussing core values, and a participant said that he did not value loyalty at all; and I remember being intrigued and a little surprised about his point of view.
Study Hall does not presume to know all the answers, but we seek to raise useful questions. Loyalty means faithful, true, trustworthy and reliable. Blind loyalty may not be loyalty at all, but some sort of dependence or abdication of the responsibility of choosing.
What is the role of loyalty in your life: Personally, professionally, internally? Is there a place for loyalty in your current professional environment? Why or why not? What are your criteria for loyalty, and how true are you to those criteria?