It happens more frequently than I’d like to admit that the virtue of the week somehow has incredible relevance to where I’m at. This week is just an underline of that reality.
“Franciscan Virtues Throughout the Year” labels it “Loyalty to the Church”, but I wanted to expand this to be loyalty in general, to talk abut what loyalty means to me, how I’ve experienced loyalty and being loyal in the past, and how my concept of loyalty may have changed as I’ve aged.
In my family of origin, loyalty was best described as maintaining the status-quo, keeping the secret, behaving in ways that I was taught were purposed to keep a secret outside of the four walls of the house. But what I found later in life was that these were more about keeping the secret isolated within those four walls. Loyalty began in my life as a compromise to my authentic identity as a person because to say or do anything contrary threatened the identity of another person who had greater power and control. I suspect this is pretty common in families that have instances of addiction or abuse. But I wonder just how much this kind of loyalty exists outside of dysfunctionality of addiction. Has our society created loyalty without reason, or without sense?
In my past relationships, loyalty was driven by the fear of loss, the fear of judgment. It was more an instrument of confinement than a sense, a reason to exist in a kind of symbiosis where each party benefited. The hardest challenge I face now is to recognize when that fear is motivating the loyalty, motivating the reactions to the challenges that occur. So when something happens that pushes me towards a direction of possible loss, and I might be inclined to react (or do react) out of a sense of trying to prevent that loss, I’m acting in a state of loyalty to the dark part of myself, the frightened child.
That’s scary because the potential for loss exists, and every time I walk out on that plank, I’m putting myself at risk of being rejected at the cost of being loyal to my values, my principles, the essence of who I am as a person. In this sense, loyalty to self (which is different from narcissistic selfishness), combined with a constant and consistent evaluation of self, of behavior, of where those behaviors being and why they play out the way they do supersedes any other choice of loyalty because without that loyalty to the authentic self, any other choice to ally will be false, empty, selfish, and destructive to everyone associated with the choice of where loyalty is invested.
Loyalty is linked with faith, with trust. Faith and trust cannot exist without love of self, loyalty to self.
Sometimes that means saying “no” even, and especially, in the face/fear of potential loss.