Loyalty and love
by GLENETTA SHUEY
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines loyalty as “the quality of being loyal to someone or something,” and loyal as “giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person.
The word “loyal” is of French origin. It comes from the Old French “loial,” which in turn comes from the Latin “legalis.” This original Latin word is also the origin of the word “legal.” So the very first meaning of the word loyalty had an association with law and legality. This perhaps explains why loyalty is so often viewed as binding.
I say all of this because some people, myself included, need to be reminded from time to time of what loyalty entails. I have friends who truly “walk the walk.” You know the kind: the ones who have been there with us at our worst and loved us through the pain. You may not see them for years, and then when you need them, they are there. They support you, love you, encourage you and simply remain by your side in your time of need. I have always encouraged my girls to be loyal, and indeed it is the “tie that binds.”
I told my daughters more times than I can remember that there is no such thing as an “innocent bystander.” If you stand by and do nothing while a friend needs you and explain later that you didn’t do anything to them, in my eyes, you are still guilty. I feel that if your friend needs you and you do nothing, then you are just as guilty as the person who has persecuted them. Standing up for those you love and supporting them doesn’t seem to be so popular these days.
That saddens me. It makes me a little angry, too, with myself as well. How many people have I let down? Did I not speak up when someone needed me? I know the wonderful feeling of having people be there for me, and I know how gratifying it feels to know I have helped someone in their time of need. Sometimes that need may be only a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen. It is never too late to be a better friend. Sometimes that may require an apology – difficult for some people, but necessary for both sides. However, the hard part is admitting to yourself that you need to apologize, that you were wrong. Saying you are sorry won’t kill you. In fact, it could do you a world of good.
I have known some people who never “get involved” and never voice an opinion on behalf of another. An acquaintance once told me it was her way of never getting “hurt.” I wanted to say that she would also never know the sheer goodness of that feeling that accompanies that special connection. She would never know about the feeling of knowing you did the right thing.
Being disloyal will not be held against you in a court of law, as the origin of the word would imply. But in the realm of friendship and love, loyalty should be the constant that drives every true and enduring relationship. Friendship at its best demands it. American playwright David Mamet said it so simply: “What I value most in my friends is loyalty.” And as my sweet dad would have said in response, “Dat, sha, is the truth!”
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