“Loyalty is weird, it kicks in when you don’t expect it and the people who deserve loyalty least seem to get it the most.”
- Russel Banks
Earlier this week I wrote a post, How Much Is Enough Loyalty, about how much loyalty is enough. I spoke about the need to consider that loyalty is something that people may perceive differently and as such, we need to communicate effectively to discover what loyalty looks like and feels like for the people in our lives. Of course, we also need to have a pretty good idea what loyalty looks like and feels like for us.
If we don’t know what loyalty looks like and feels like for us, the odds are good that we won’t experience it – even when it is being offered. We won’t know how to guide the people in our lives to meet our needs for loyalty (how can we ask someone to give us something when we don’t even know what the something is or how it looks like in action?) Most importantly, we need to know what loyalty looks like for us, so that we are capable of making informed, healthy choices about the relationships that we are in. Just as we need to be conscious and accountable for the way we demonstrate our loyalty to others, we also need to be accountable for our loyalty to ourselves.
Loyalty to self is just a really, really important idea. We not only can be loyal to ourselves – we must be loyal to ourselves. If we are not loyal to us, how can we expect anyone else to be loyal to us? We need to know our boundaries, what is acceptable to us, and what is not. No rules or laws or religions can tell us exactly what this looks like … only we can know. Our loyalty to ourselves informs our integrity, our ethics and even our morality if you want to jump onto that slippery slope. If we have no personal loyalty, it is questionable whether we can sustain our integrity.
Loyalty to self means we view ourselves as worthy of love and respect. We believe in our right to be healthy, cared for, loved and nurtured. Because we believe we are worthy of this – loyalty means we don’t settle. We don’t indulge in misguided loyalty … that is to say, loyalty to another person which comes at deep expense to our own safety, well-being and happiness.
“I raised three children with a man who beat me, had affairs, drank us into bankruptcy. No matter what he did, I stood by him. I married him. I thought it was expected of me. No one told me I could be loyal to me even if it meant I couldn’t be loyal to him any more.”
“I love my daughter and I am sure she loves me. However, she consistently maintains relationships with people who are despicable to me. Her loyalty becomes questionable when she will sit and watch other family members treat me with no regard or respect and make not the slightest movement to intervene. It took a long time for me to realize my loyalty to someone, even if she is my own daughter, who has so little regard for my safety, well-being and happiness – was a misguided loyalty.“
“My sister talks about me behind my back. She invites others to do it too. I know this. Actually lots of people know this about her. She talks shit, not just about me, about everyone really. However no one confronts her, everyone lets her get away with it. This erosion of person-hood is too much hurt, frustration, anger and disloyalty for me to live with.”
“He is my brother but he treats me so poorly. He has lied to me, stolen from me, failed to show up when he promised he would. These are not one off things. They happen over and over and over again. I must be a really slow learner to keep putting myself back in his line of fire. I am loyal to him, he is definitely not loyal to me.”
Loyalty can make protecting and caring for self really difficult. Of course we want to have trusting and trusted relationships with the people who are close to us. We may feel doggedly determined to stand up for or fight for people who would not do the same for us if the chips were down. We may even stand firm and committed to people who have treated us very poorly indeed.
Ask yourself, who is more deserving of your loyalty, people who are mistreating, abusing or manipulating you? Or are you more deserving of your loyalty? Love doesn’t mean turning yourself into a walking target for family members to take aim. Loyalty doesn’t mean you have to stand still and be wounded again and again.
When we maintain loyalty to another person, at significant and grave personal cost; despite evidence that the loyalty is neither reciprocated or valued – that loyalty is too much.