Lauren Conrad, reality television star, one said, “I think a good friend, to me, is all about trust and loyalty. You don’t ever want to second-guess whether you can tell your friend something.”

Psychologist Dr. Michael J. Hurd writes that loyalty is widely considered a virtue. And psychology generally falls into line behind widely accepted virtues as a measure of mental health.

Is loyalty actually healthy, wise, and good? Subconsciously, most people probably equate loyalty with integrity. Integrity refers to consistency between your ideas/principles and your actions. Loyalty is an extension of this principle. It applies to upholding your ideals, but — more specifically and concretely — loyalty concerns the people in your life who are important to you.

Here’s where it gets complicated for many: Most of us choose friends and romantic partners based on vague or unidentified feelings alone. When it comes time to be loyal — or disloyal — to friends or associates, we’re unclear on what we’re actually being loyal to. As a result, we’re left with nothing else but feelings.

If you live your life consciously, by a set of convictions and principles, then you deliberately select your friends and loved ones accordingly. If you value integrity and honesty, for example, then you not only seek to practice it but to find people who do the same. Ditto for any other virtue you consciously hold near and dear to your heart and mind: intelligence, intellectual honesty, productivity, and rationality.

Adam Hanft, a brand strategist who also writes and speaks on business and cultural trends for a variety of print, television, and online media, says that loyalty is an emotional concept with strong unconscious components…not measurable through direct reporting. That means you can’t ask people, “Why are you loyal to this brand, ideology, person’s character, or group’s mission?” and get an explicit answer. Often, they will say because of the product, the service, or the people. They aren’t consciously misleading; rather, they are largely unaware of the associations that drive loyalty.

For instance, says Hanft, to inspire more loyalty, a small business should create a caring relationship and establish a mutual basis “where obligations are involved.” Both sides have accountability – each is to keep its word and behave “justly” toward the other. The brand needs to treat customers with respect, fairness, and consistency – all the characteristics of healthy interpersonal relationships. At the same time, the customer needs to respect the brand. For example, if a company makes the mistake of pricing an item at a certain amount, but next week it goes on sale, the customer who bought high cannot take advantage of the low price. That customer will not remain loyal because the chain of mutual respect is broken. The customer will feel cheated and shop elsewhere.

If this works for business, it will also be effective in families, neighborhoods, churches, etc. That’s why Jennifer White, a clinical counselor who focuses on mental wellness, notes that loyalty is one of the most weaponized words she has encountered. Companies, business partners, even friends, families, and significant others sometimes demand this from you. It is a misleading word and has questionable psychology behind it.

Here are the unfortunate truths about it. It creates a hierarchy. Very often, the person or group who demands loyalty has something you need; it could be a job, knowledge, money, love. They demand that you are loyal to them, and they will reward you for it. They will put themselves in a dominant position and will create a dependency. Very often, you give more than you actually will receive back, or you might never really get what they promised you.

It can also damage your self-worth. When loyalty is demanded by a company, partner, family member, friend, association, or group, it means very often that no matter what they do, you stay with them and support them. In good and also in bad times. You might even classify this as a noble act, you are there also in bad times, however, the bad times might be there more often than the good times. It tries to question your morals and integrity to yourself. You might even be given a task you cannot fulfill and wonder why you are not good enough already. People who demand loyalty will feed into your belief that you need them and cannot reach any goals by yourself without their help. They will create a dependency on them, which very often is an illusion.

Furthermore, it stops healthy criticism. The person or company that demands loyalty stop you from asking questions or criticizing what they are doing. You automatically assume that what they say, do, or demand is the correct way. They put themselves and their decision making above yours. Often, they might hide facts or knowledge from you; you might not be able to see the whole picture. They might ask you to trust without telling you the entire story. As we want to be a good and kind human being, we might obey and see the good in it.

In addition, it stops you from growing. You might develop a tunnel vision, believe that you will see results soon, or will be rewarded for your loyalty. In doing this, you might not explore other options. He has seen companies that demanded loyalty through hard times and did not reward their people after all, not even with words. Especially job-based loyalty can end up with working overtime, which leads to exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.

While these views and concepts are accepted in secular society, how does loyalty affect a person’s relationship to God, His Word, and the Family of God – the Church? While the KJV does not use the word “loyal” or “loyalty,” it does express the sentiment of loyalty.

King Solomon said, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” [1] He also said, “A friend is always loyal, and a good friend is born to help in time of need.” [2] And he made it clear that friends come and friends go, but a loyal friend sticks by you like family.” [3]

However, the NIV does translate several Old Testament Hebrew words as loyal but does not do the same with any New Testament Greek words. That’s why loyalty is proven more in action than in words. Of course, we all know about the Apostle Peter’s false pledge of loyalty to Jesus.[4] Nevertheless, the New Testament does speak of “faithfulness” in the same sense as loyalty.

Jesus defines it this way: “The one who remains loyal to the end will be saved.” [5] Then, our Master asks, “Who is the wise and loyal servant that the master trusts to give the other servants their food at the right time?” [6] He also quotes a satisfied landowner who responded to his servant’s industrious actions that improved the estate, “You did well. You are a good and loyal servant. Because you were loyal with small things, I will let you care for much greater things.” [7]

The Apostle James speaks of this same loyalty found in His children. He says, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love [and are loyal to] Him.” [8]

And the Apostle Paul speaks of love this way: “If you love someone, you will be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best of them, and always stand your ground in defending them.” [9]

But one test of loyalty that stands out is Ruth’s devotion and loyalty to her husband’s mother. Naomi told her to say behind and enjoy life in a familiar environment where she was used to the manners and customs of her people. But Ruth would not agree. Instead, she pleaded with Naomi, “Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.  And where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me terribly if I do not keep this promise: Not even death will separate us.” [10]

Can we honestly say the same to our spouse, our family, a friend, our God, our Savior, and our Comforter? One thing we never need to worry about is their loyalty to us. God said it Himself, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid, and do not panic…For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” [11] And Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one shall snatch them away from Me.” [12] So, that leaves the final question. Can He depend on you to be as loyal to Him as He is to you? – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Proverbs 3:32 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Ibid. 17:17

[3] Ibid. 18:24

[4] Matthew 26:33, 35

[5] Ibid. 24:13

[6] Ibid. 24:45

[7] Ibid. 25:21 – New Century Version

[8] James 1:12

[9] 1 Corinthians 13:7 – The Living Bible

[10] Ruth 1:16-17 – New Century Version

[11] Deuteronomy 31:6

[12] John 10:28 – The Living Bible

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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