Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In Defense of Loyalty

Just how important is loyalty? I am not sure anymore. I remember as a grade schooler putting my hand over my heart at the start of every day at London Elementary school in London, Ohio and pledging allegiance to our flag. I am not speaking of patriotism. I am speaking of loyalty. Allegiance. Not only to the flag but of all things pertaining to this life we live. Loyalty to family, spouse, employer, neighbor, community, the law, religion ( one of your choosing ), friends, this list could go on forever. However, you get the picture.

I used to have a supervisor who was unfaithful to his spouse. Other than this weakness he was a decent person and a good supervisor. Unfortunately, in my view, loyalty to a spouse while you were away on business while she remained behind and kept a home for you and raised your little ones was a consummate requirement. Fellow workers used to cozy up to me and say to me, “ John Doe, is a great boss, don’t you think? I think we owe him our loyalty.” I used to shake people right where they stood by replying, “ John Doe is unfaithful to his wife. It is well known that he is philanderer. Consider for a moment, if you will, when he is doing your performance evaluation and your raise and future is in his hands. If he is not loyal to the person who gave him children and to whom he pledged fidelity through his marriage vows how loyal is he going to be towards you? ” I took the position that I did not trust him and I found his moral compass askew. I pledged my best effort in the work place. However, absolute loyalty to this supervisor? Not so much.

We run across people who are avid fans of a sports team. That is usually when the team is winning. It is always fun to watch those fans run for the hills when their team starts losing. They are the ones who lead the charge to fire the head coach, change the quarterback, pitching rotation, point guard etc. They end up being the least loyal entity that you could possibly imagine. Chicago Cubs fans, in general, are great examples of a loyal fan base that remain true blue to their beloved Cubbies. Atlanta Braves fans? It’s getting harder and harder to find many fans with dedicated loyalty to that franchise.

What about loyalty in business? Treat a customer shabbily and see how quickly that loyalty wears thin and runs to the competition. Now how about the reverse? How loyal are people to a business person who goes over the top for them? For the most part, I think you earn that loyalty and can most likely count on it. There are some glaring exceptions that are hurtful and alarming. I had a client whom I had known for more than 30 years. I took on the sale of her home. I discounted my commission to a damaging level. I mowed her grass , I babysat her child for her. I worried about her and prayed for her well being. She had been recently divorced and was in need of a loyal friend.

I referred her to a repair man to affect some repairs for her. He was also a realtor. In due course of time she decided to list her house with him at full commission. It actually cost her around $5,000 more in commissions after selling the house to do business with him. Since I had bent over backwards to help her I am still scratching my head as to why she would treat me so shabbily. It is almost as if she wanted to kick me to hurt her ex husband in some sort of bizarre, Freudian twist. It hurt me a great deal at the time. It was not the loss of business. More business walked in the door eventually that eclipsed hers. It was just such an abject display of disloyalty. Almost like what you experience in a divorce where there has been immense disloyalty.

It is getting to a point where loyalty to others, a cause, even to yourself is getting harder and harder to find. I believe that loyalty is an important thread in the tapestry of our lives. It is important that we engender this characteristic into our practice of life. I believe that this requires that we be forgiving and open in our relationships with those we hold dear. The old saying, “ He who seeks the perfect friend, remains without one.” We all fall short of the mark. Most people, in most circumstances are worthy of our loyalty. My personal approach to my going on 70 years of life is that I am willing to extend loyalty to most people that I develop relationships with until they disappoint me. Unfortunately, the disappointment usually transpires. Then I find myself at the crossroads of decision. Is the relationship hill worth the climb to reclaim?