Loyalty: More Than Just Words

Eighteenth Century English poet Alexander Pope once said, “Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends.” Were Mr. Pope here to talk to, I would tell him, things have not changed. 

American writer William Arthur Ward was right when he said, “A friend is one with whom you are comfortable, to whom you are loyal, through whom you are blessed, and for whom you are grateful.”

I am right when I say real loyalty is hard to come by. Lots of people give it all kinds of flowery lip service: I’ll always be there for you or for them, you can always count on me, of course you’re my friend, your like family to me, or, you are family.  I suspect most of you who read this already know this and I suspect a good many of you have had your hearts and minds bloodied by those who are, well, full of shit.

It’s a curious thing, while many if not most demand loyalty from those in their lives, a majority of those making the demand do not, when the waters get choppy or, when it’s not about them, reciprocate. To paraphrase something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, The true measure of a person’s strength is not where they stand in times of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenges and controversy.

Here is what I would say to you, my reader, do not give the fact loyalty is often no more than lip service so much control over you that it winds up denying you those who actually will be loyal, come hell or high water. They are the minority, but they are a minority well worth waiting for. I promise you this is so. And why do I make this promise to you, because it is so. Because when you read this blog you have a right to count on my honesty. Why? Because it is the loyal thing for me to do, and you, like all of us, deserve some loyalty in your life.

As for me, I will continue to remain open to the possibility of loyalty in people. However, if I am stabbed in the back, I will respond and, when appropriate, expose the person for being the disloyal creature they are.


“I would rather come back without my arms and legs then come back without my brother,” said a World War II veteran. He and his brother were part of the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion. His brother was killed the first day. This poignant example of loyalty to a loved one can be seen in Ken Burns’ remarkable World War II documentary, “The War”.

Sadly, this kind of loyalty is rare. What’s equally sad, though the anger that boils up in me when I encounter it delays my feeling sorry for the perpetrator, are the people who tell others they can be counted on if times get tough when, in truth, the can’t be counted on at all. I call it lip-service loyalty. Lip-service loyalists are more than willing to say they are loyal to others as long as they don’t have to be loyal to others.

For those of you who fall into this lip-service category, let me just say, shut your mouth. I mean it. Shut-up. You do damage and wound when you offer up some gussied up sentence about how loyal you are and how much you care. Those who believe you get badly wounded when they find out you are a bullshit artist, an earlier term for the lip-servicers among us.

I am not saying there is no loyalty out there. Recently I took a truly hard hit in life and even wrote an e-mail to those I believed in asking for help. In response ,some folks have been breathtakingly loyal and helpful. And then there were those who didn’t respond at all and those who said they would help and never did. Some years ago I would have told this latter group to go fuck themselves. But I think I’ll just let it go. And that’s not lip service.