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August 4, 2016

Loyalty is Overrated

Ask a hundred people on the street what character values they admire most, and almost all of them will eventually say “loyalty.” It is universally praised as a most likable trait.

I, however, find loyalty to be overrated, as we typically understand it. Overrated and misguided.

Here’s why: when people are undyingly loyal to other people, that loyalty quickly becomes a double-edged sword. Yes, it can keep people closely bonded through thick and thin, but it can also keep people so close they lose the ability to question whether that bond is good for them, or anyone else. For instance:

    • a college student telling her RA that her roommate’s sick, when she knows she simply hungover and needs to address her binge drinking
    • a supervisor passive-aggressively “reminding” his direct reports to be loyal when they’re asked to give evaluations to his boss
    • parents allowing their grown daughter to take advantage of them financially, even though their gut is telling them to do otherwise, for everyone’s benefit

In the name of loyalty, each of these people are compromising their principles; this is not a recipe for successful relationships. It smooths things over in the short-term, but will invite more and more compromise later.What we’re really saying here is that in order to be truly loving, and to give ourselves the best chance for great relationships, we do need to be loyal, but not to people.

Loyalty to our principles is a far better path.

Peace begins with pause,

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