Loyalty: The Good, the Bad, and the Mixed Bag

November 23, 2020 Updated: November 23, 2020

As a virtue, loyalty is a double-edged sword.

When we defend a son falsely accused of cheating on an exam, when we stick by a spouse who through a series of blunders has gotten us deeply into debt, we are acting with an admirable largesse of the soul. Such loyalty is a commendable virtue.

On the other hand, loyalty that wears a blindfold is not only misdirected and ignorant, but also dangerous. This brand of fealty brings into power oppressive dictators in the public square and petty tyrants in our personal lives. The drunkard who can’t keep a job, insults his relatives and friends, and belittles his children while at the same time depending on his wife’s unfailing fidelity has not only a spouse at his side but an enabler of his rotten behavior.

Loyalty can also be a mixed bag of thoughts and feelings. In “Mother o’ Mine,” Rudyard Kipling succinctly makes this case:

“If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!”

Such forgiveness and love are the byproducts of loyalty.

In the 12 Boy Scout laws, loyalty comes second with this explanation: “Scouts are true to their family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.” That concise definition gives us the heart of fidelity. 

And unless that trust is betrayed, such loyalty is a virtue worth practicing.  

Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C., Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.