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When loyalty speaks with only a meaningless whisper

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Seven years ago I wrote about the attainment of loyalty. Now, with deepening  sadness, I confront the loss of loyalty and its emotional costs.

As I have aged, loyalty, at least in the world as I see it, has trended to the transactional. No one needs look farther than the current president for a model definition of transactional loyalty.

Think of it like this: Who can do what with the least cost to and most benefit for me? We all have, perhaps, a nuance of transactional thinking in our dealings with others. We act with seeming kindness and generosity without request, but in the back of our minds, are we thinking, “This is an investment for some future return”?

Prominent in our heavily mediated world are exemplars of false loyalty practiced with cunning artifice. I suspect most of us have felt the sudden breach of loyalty, the feeling of back-stabbing betrayal — or, to be blunt, “I just got fucked over …” That nauseating sensation burns for a long time.

So what element of loyalty necessary for selfless service to another is missing?

Seven years ago, I wrote:

Nearly half a century ago, a friend sent me a telegram from half a continent away. “I need help,” it said. I replied: “En route.” I fired up my old LandCruiser and drove through winter’s wrath to get to him. Loyalty? Obligation? Duty? All, perhaps.

He trusted me to come. He had seen in me reliability, truth in speech and action, an ability to look past my own interests for the sake of his, and a strength of friendship well bonded. He trusted me to act in his best interests despite any risk to mine. He trusted me without reservation.

But in this world too often dominated by transactional thinking, trust has congealed into one shallow meaning — be damn sure the other guy covers his or her end of the deal.

That makes me feel trust as a significant human value is dying, if not already dead and cold in the ground. Still, if I expect to grant and receive loyalty, shouldn’t I despite the prevailing winds retain and exhibit the ability to trust?

Try to choose potential components of loyalty from among the field of more publicly prominent and mediated emotions — such as fear, hate, anger, rage. Can loyalty exist with inclusion of such baser emotions as its bonding agents? In our tribalized society, these emotions do present organizing calls for common ground. But I cannot see any of them as the heart of loyalty — only as messaging for recruitment for  causes with dubious merit.

Can a single act of betrayal destroy loyalty? Can that one act be forgiven? Does forgiveness rest on the nature of the precipitating event for the betrayal and whether such an event is likely to recur? I don’t know, but I’ve experienced both.

Over time, can loyalty fall victim to resentment for another’s isolated act that seems thoughtless at best or cruel at worst? Or is resentment the consequence of a loss of trust wrought by the act? Some scars run deep and are seemingly unforgiveable.

The trust embedded in loyalty can be lost with a single thoughtless act even if the actor is just temporarily blind to the value of loyalty. Or a weakening trust, eroded slowly over time like rain and wind grinding against bedrock, can fracture loyalty by taking its existence for granted.

I think the former is forgivable. Who hasn’t acted in the heat of the moment without thought of consequences? But the latter? I think not. It reflects a lack of commitment and selflessness. It signals that trust (and love) only faintly binds two people.

The disintegration of trust can be as swift as the death of an expectation of behavior in a crisis — Why didn’t you trust me to act in your best interests regardless of mine?

Loyalty needs love as much as it needs trust. I’m hard pressed to say which of those two ingredients is more important. How can love exist without trust? How can trust exist without love?

When loyalty eventually evaporates, through inattention or neglect, only a reactive, often transactional charade of a relationship remains, empty of trust and incapable of selfless love. Such past moments, and recognition of my own careless roles in those failures, have produced the deepest sadness I have ever known. Perhaps that’s why melancholy is the emotion that dominates my life.

Rebuilding trust, let alone loyalty, may be among the most difficult tasks two people can attempt. It requires two partners already feeling “burned” who may bring to the effort a wariness too deep to overcome.

Attend to loyalty with love, trust, and, where possible, passion. Loyalty is rarely regained without as much pain in restoring it as in losing it.

h/t: Ars Skeptica, Doc WinterSmith

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 11, 2020 at 8:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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