The first time you probably pledged allegiance to anything was in your kindergarten class. You stood up, placed your hand across your heart and recited the paragraph. We did it because we were told to. In essence, there’s no real reason for a five-year-old to adopt this form of patriotism. None of us were planing any treasonous activity in between eating crayons and gummy bears.
This form of conditioning taught us to have undeniable loyalty to certain things: country, family, friends, jobs or anything really. We are expected to be loyal without a question and to a fault.
I’m sure you know a few people who could care less who they leave behind in their opportunistic quests. Others are simply presented with a choice. Self-preservation reminds us that people will almost always choose themselves over someone else. Loyalty in this condition is a faulty concept — it’s set up to fail.
Families are the first place to look for loyalty, yet that’s where the disappointment usually begins. They are structures made up of impressionable human beings — bonded by blood and strong cultural associations. We depend on our families for everything growing up and continue to seek that ‘protection’ into adulthood. The people we have around us as children are our first glimpse of how people interact in intimate settings. Blood is indeed thicker than water but it can easily be diluted by intention.
Friendships are extensions of the archetype of family bonds. A person literally adopts someone else into their life to serve as a secondary lifeline of support. Finding good friends is about as easy as picking a needle out of a haystack. You can give the most vulnerable parts of yourself to someone who has no real obligation to you. Bonds between people change as circumstances do. The same goes for romantic relationships and jobs, it’s all consumerism.
The exchange of needs, wants and desires between two people or a person and a bottom line. The truth is we all use each other for completely selfish reasons: money, companionship or goals. Through these exchanges, loyalty is the best way to keep the connection going. The brain is saying, I want this happiness to continue or I need this stream of income to continue so I will do what I have to do to keep it in my life.
We adapt and change accordingly to make this happen. By doing so we want the best outcome possible. The expectation is that we will be rewarded for all of our dedication and hard work. The time invested in a person or thing will eventually pay off until it doesn’t. Family bonds do break, relationships end, friends become strangers and people lose their jobs every day.
That’s just the way it can play out. Should that deter loyalty in the next opportunity that presents itself? No. Loyalty is an admirable trait and should be treated as such. Experience teaches us to be mindful in dealing with others and to adjust our expectation levels to coincide with reality.
The post first appeared on Medium.