As I’ve grown older I’ve started to really appreciate loyalty as a character trait. Not just the “we’re friends so I’ll do anything you ask me to” type, but the true long-term attachment for others. My other character training posts can be found here, in no particular order of importance.
In my random fact list I mentioned how much I love reading Scottish Highland fiction. Don’t add romance into that kindle search because those aren’t the types I’m talking about. I love mysteries and stories about their chivalry and lairds and ladies and how they protect each other and those in their clans. There is something about belonging to something and taking care of it that is really appealing.
I have high hopes of teaching my children the value of loyalty and I’ve even started this lesson well before they can understand it. My hope is that it will become second nature by the time they are fully able to articulate what it actually means. Right now I speak of loyalty when they are fighting amongst themselves. The other day I actually said, “You can’t bite your sister, Jiggy… you bite other people who are mean to your sister.” Clearly I need someone else to write the character training post on conflict resolution.
1. What I think loyalty is.
Loyalty can be defined as a feeling of faithfulness and allegiance or a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection (source). Loyalty is an attitude of attachment that results in actions beneficial towards another or others. I believe loyalty is looking out for those we love, even when they don’t like it. Loyalty is protecting those we love from harm, from others looking to harm them and even from themselves. Loyalty says “I have cared about you, I care about you, and I will continue to care about you.” Loyalty is stronger than geography or time and doesn’t fade because a few years have passed between phone calls or visits. Loyalty runs deep inside based on the strength of the initial attachment and has a disposition that looks towards the needs of others, even if we have to sacrifice to meet them.
2. What I think loyalty isn’t.
Loyalty is not “Well, since you’re my best friend, I’ll rob that bank and go to Mexico with you.” Loyalty cares about another’s best interests, not their hair brained or dangerous ideas. Loyalty isn’t based on another’s performance, but on their position. I believe you can remain loyal to someone even if you don’t give them what they want. Teenagers who are turning to drugs or adults who are considering adultery, for example. Loyalty doesn’t say “Whatever you do, I’m behind you” it says “I’m behind you, but I’m not behind that.”
3. What loyalty teaches us.
Loyalty teaches us commitment and perseverance. If you are only loyal to the few who you are currently seeing regularly then you may find, when you need it most, that there are very few people there when you need them. Loyalty teaches us to value other people and to develop genuine care and feelings for their well-being. I have friends from high school, college and afterwards that I don’t communicate with regularly, but for whom I feel much loyalty. If they needed me and if I could help them in some way I wouldn’t hesitate to move mountains to do so. Loyalty teaches us that, sometimes, we need to forget about ourselves for a moment and focus on others.
I hope and pray daily that my children are loyal to one another and to our family. I hope they are loyal to their values, beliefs and friends they pick up throughout life. I think teaching loyalty will require talking about it, requiring it (as much as you can), and praising it.
How do you think loyalty can be trained? Or do you think it can’t be?
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