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When loyalty can get you into trouble.

When loyalty can get you into trouble.

I was watching a news story about politics recently and the topic of loyalty came up. Apparently, when FBI Director Comey was asked for loyalty by the President, he considered it a red flag and didn’t agree to the request. Underneath the ask, to him, was an implication of something more than simple loyalty in his perception. And he wasn’t willing to agree due to the conflict of interest between the branches of government. 

Personally, I am not one to sign up for one political party or another because they’ve both gotten too extreme. I am conservative on many issues, yet liberal on others, so I’m kind of a mixture and tend to vote for the character of the leader in political situations. When I mean character, I mean alignment with ethical considerations that have long term sustainability. 

“Judgment about character is a personal matter. And it seems, just like any other topic, people have widely ranging definitions for working concepts like character.

My personal preference is to vote for the person who has the best character. Not align with a party-line. And that personal choice is something I tend to do in my personal life too. I choose to be loyal to those who exhibit good character most of the time. But I don’t expect them to be that way 100% of the time either. Here’s why...

Judgment about character is a personal matter. And it seems, just like any other topic, people have widely ranging definitions for working concepts like character. Earlier this week, Gallup published a survey about the assessment of character by the American public about the last several popular presidents and it provided interesting data that might surprise you, depending on your party line favorites. For this reason, I think it’s important to trust our own gut in most cases and make a decision to be loyal to someone based on our own values. One person may be “safe” for you and not safe for me. And vice versa. Maybe the point is that we should align ourselves to the people we feel have similar values to ours. That, in itself, may serve to reduce friction and create reasons to be loyal to someone with whom we have mutual values and goals. And perhaps be more skeptical of those who differ significantly. But does it mean some of us are right and some are wrong? I don’t think so. Some of us are right for some of us. And others are right for them. 

Loyalty can also be short-lived at times too, as our own values or perceptions change. As much as we’d like to think that character is a timeless concept and that people either have it or don’t, it’s not a simple idea. We are always changing and evolving. And everything is contextual. When we go looking for black and white answers, that’s when we get into trouble. 

Think of it this way. In one situation a person could be of great character and then under momentary or extreme stress, become less predictable and even volatile or aggressive. Kind of like a mother bear protecting her cubs, humans have the capacity to become deadly if they perceive danger or risks that matter to them.  

So be loyal to those who matter to you. But don’t be naive about the precarious nature of living beings who change continuously. Nor the fact that all of us are changing all the time. 

That includes you. And me. Loyalty is time bound. And a choice we have to keep making. Every moment and every day. About ourselves. And about others.