I was recently invited to speak to a group of inmates on the subject of loyalty. After accepting, I realized how little I knew about the subject. So I did some research. The dictionary gives 3 components of loyalty: there must be a cause to be loyal to, there must be a steadfast allegiance to that cause, and there must be a heartfelt devotion to that cause.
According to Wikipedia, the word loyalty was first mentioned historically by Confucianism, which included loyalty as a virtue. Later the word was used in reference to being loyal to a monarch. Philosophers argued how one could know a cause’s worth, whether it was possible to be loyal to multiple causes or only a single cause, and could loyalty be to a cause/s or only a person/s.
Biologists have wondered if loyalty came into existence as part of evolutionary survival. Business has gotten on board with phrases like: customer loyalty, brand loyalty, employee loyalty, and loyalty programs. We experience loyalty in the fervent passion of fan loyalty at sports events and in the touching stories of animal loyalty.
And of course there is the phrase misplaced loyalty, a potent example being the Jim Jones mass suicides that took the lives of over 900 men, women, and children. In our own lives, we have experienced at least once the pain of placing our loyalty with a cause or person that ultimately betrayed our trust.
With these things in mind, the inmates and I had a thought-provoking conversation that evening. We discussed things such as: What am I loyal to? How do I know if this loyalty is misplaced or not? What does it mean to be steadfast in my allegiance to something? What role does my heart play in my loyalty? And in the end, should our highest loyalty be to our own self?
These were bigger questions than we could answer in one evening, but we all agreed they were worth pondering. So I ask you, what are you loyal to? And how do you know if your loyalty is worthy of both your heart and your allegiance?