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Friday, May 4, 2012

Loyalty shouldn't be blind, deaf, or dumb: The danger of the "true believer"

It is a word that is thrown around very lightly, but what does it really imply?

Definition of LOYAL
: unswerving in allegiance: as a : faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign or government b : faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due c : faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product

: showing loyalty

obsolete : lawful, legitimate

Related to LOYAL
Synonyms: constant, dedicated, devoted, devout, down-the-line, fast, good, faithful, pious, staunch (also stanch), steadfast, steady, true, true-blue

 Antonyms: disloyal, faithless, false, fickle, inconstant, perfidious, recreant, traitorous, treacherous, unfaithful, untrue
- From Merriam-Webster

                                                                Chinese symbol for Loyalty

Whether it is to spouse, family, country, state, faith, political party, or any other person, place, or thing- I often wonder, how “loyal” is loyal enough? 
We live in an age where very few things last forever and vows are not taken as seriously as they once were. The statistics tell us that more than half of all marriages will end in divorce; and all you have to do is read the disturbing statistics on incidences of marital infideltiy to know what loyalty means to some people.
The Latin word for loyalty is Fidelis. That is the root word for FIDELITY. Obviously, most married people expect their spouse to be loyal to them in regards to being mutually exclusive within their own relationship. Infidelity in a marriag involves lying and deception.
But the type of "loyalty" I am speaking of doesn't have anything to do with the relationship between a husband and wife. I am refering to the concept of loyalty in relation to beliefs and institutions.
So what does "loyalty" mean in 2012? I suppose that depends on an individual person’s character and their dedication and love for whatever it is they are loyal to. You will often hear people RANK the order of their loyalty.
“First, God, then my family, then the New York Yankees.”  Or whatever it is in their life that they given their loyalty.
 So, does that mean the person isn’t a good American if they didn’t rank the U.S. in their top three? And what about their school? Are they loyal to their Alma Mater? Why did family rate SECOND? Does that mean they don’t love their family the most?

Clearly there are issues with loyalty and what comes first, and what it says about a person. We judge people by what they are loyal to and what is most important to them. We admire people who show devotion and honor and dedicate themselves to a cause or institution. It shows that they have character.But does it always, or is there something darker? Is loyalty ever a bad thing, and can it be twisted to support things that are wrong or broken?

There is a lot of chatter on the internet. If you haven’t already experienced that phenomenon, just go and read the comments under any controversial, or not so controversial, news articles or commentary. This person is accusing that person of not being “loyal” or a “good enough” fill in the blanks, because they disagree with them.

“When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I'll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.” - Colin Powell


As everyone who knows me is well aware, I am a very vocal supporter of the military and their families. Working for the Department of Defense, Army, and VA for many years has solidified my respect and concern for that cause. My husband is a Veteran and we live in a city where you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who has served at one time or another. I believe it is a noble and honorable calling and I admire the values the military stands for.
Having said that, I have been accused at times of not being an ardent or loyal supporter because I don’t blindly support or defend situations and actions that have occurred within the military. That is always hurtful and disappointing, because I consider myself extremely loyal.
For some people, loyalty must be blind and without the slightest word of criticism or dissent. I am terrified by the true believer- One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person. I can't fathom how a person isn't able to allow questioning or dissent in any situation. Blind loyalty is dangerous and empty.

Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it”. - Mark Twain


“My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to the country begins.” - Manuel L. Quezon

So let’s exchange the scenario I just described and insert any other “thing” in our lives that we pledge loyalty to. Spouse? Family? Church? Country? Team? Friend? Party? Fraternity? Employer?

The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other. – Mario Puzo, The Family


Does loyalty mean I can never question or disagree with the thing to which I have given my loyalty to? Am I never permitted to voice concern or doubt? Does that make me disloyal; or worse, does it make me dishonorable?

Think of times when you have felt that someone was disloyal or betrayed you because they broke trust or let you down. When I think of times in my own life when people I really love let me down and I felt like I had lost their loyalty, it was incredibly painful. It is a very bad feeling.
So where do we draw the line? There is a huge difference in being disloyal to someone or something and having differences of opinion or concerns. I can love someone, but not love their actions. I can be loyal to something and still have opinions which are negative or critical.
The loyalty part is the devotion and the fidelity. I love my country and will never turn my back on it. I may disagree with what is going on, but that doesn’t mean I will move away if they elect someone I don’t like. Loyalty doesn’t mean blind and ignorant obedience or mindless adherence. Loyalty shouldn't require a person to go against their values or bend to the will of another without mutual respect or consideration. That kind of dysfunctional loyalty is how tyrants grab power and people lose their basic human rights.

“Sometimes party loyalty asks too much” - John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Disagreeing with one's government, church, or spouse is not betrayal or disloyalty. Seeking to improve or heal division or disagreement is healthy. Pretending to accept and even love something that is broken or dysfunctional is not honorable. Blind and ignorant devotion to a cause or entity is empty and pointless. It is a loving act to seek to work towards a better atmosphere or condition. It is the most unloving and dishonorable act to excuse or ignore anything that could potentially hurt others or one's self.

 “It seems we are capable of immense love and loyalty, and as capable of deceit and atrocity. It's probably this shocking ambivalence that makes us unique.”

- John Scott


Think twice, or ten times, before accusing someone of disloyalty, whether it be to country, church, Soldiers or Veterans. It is fine to have a personal opinion, but when it comes to loyalty, unless you know the contents of that person's heart and soul, you should keep your opinion to yourself. Questioning a person's loyalty to their country, their family, or their principles is dangerous territory. Let your conscience be your guide, but don't try to guide the conscience of another.


  1. Very well written and I am in agreement with you. There is too much blind loyalty and many people are those typical "yes-men" (women too!) who'd rather subvert their opinion and values to remain among the "chosen" ... even if it's wrong.

    I love the Colin Powell quote and I'm stealing it.

    John Michael
    "Preserving the memories so others will remember..." ™

  2. Thank you, John, for your comment and thoughts. I love Colin Powell and think his quote is spot on. You're not "stealing" it from me. He deserves the attribution. Thanks for your remarks.

  3. Nice post! Here's something to consider re: Powell and his statement above, though. He is basically supporting a really Leninist approach to governance. The whole Bol'shevik/Men'shevik split was about this very principle, which they called "democratic centralism."

  4. The "True Believer" by Eric Hoffer discusses the fanatic.

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