On the way to breakfast, I found myself thinking about the concept of Loyalty. I've been called (more than once) 'loyal to a fault'. It's accurate. I stick with people, places, and things well past the point that it's healthy for me.

Then I found myself thinking about it from a logical standpoint. I feel that this is one of my greatest strengths in life - taking emotion out of a situation and reviewing it. Sadly, I don't always ACT on those reviews, but it helps.

So the logical perspective of the concept of loyalty: I get it. Once upon a time, we needed loyalty as a species. Tribalism allowed us to survive. But haven't we evolved past that need? I mean shouldn't I love everyone equally? (He asked, cringing at how hippy-dippy it sounds.) Or, perhaps more accurately, shouldn't I review people in a more unbiased by past interactions?

If I have a friend who has taken to burglary to support a crack addiction, shouldn't I look at him in the same light that I do a stranger with the same issues?

Or is there some value to past interactions that creates a benefit to taking the bad with the good in the present and/or future? It's not really occurring to me at the moment, but then I haven't had any coffee yet.

What do you think?

ETA: I should point out that I wasn't bitter or upset when I posted this. I was just trying to think things through without emotion tied to it. I also was not thinking specifically of people (though that is certainly an element) and even less any specific person or people. Again - just the concept and whether or not it has value in our modern society.

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4/26 '17 22 Comments
I don't think we should ever evolve bayond loyalty, although I think in a lot of ways we already have. I am also very loyal and I also see it as a great strength. Look at the state of the world? Look at how people fuck each other left and right, look how folks treat marriages, and friends, and business partners as disposable? To me, our disposable culture is part of what is destroying humanity. (Yes there are good reasons to discontinue relationships too, but that's not what we're talking about here).

The older I get, the more I'm realizing that what I value most in my friends... is the fact that they show up. To take that a step further, the friends I value most are the ones who show up. I am beginning to prioritize those friends who show up consistently more than those who don't. Mind you, that has little do to with love, and everything to do with me having limited energy to expend as a human. Life is scary, and lonely. What makes it worthwhile, for me, has everything to do with human connection, and a great deal to do with those loyal folks who keep showing up, through everything. What good is human connection that is fleeting to the point where it only exists out of convenience?

If your loyalty is holding you back, then maybe it's a problem. (I know other people have told you your loyalty is getting in your way, but is that YOUR experience of it as well?) But if you don't think it is stopping you from living your life, I think it's an increasingly and wonderful quality that is to be honored.

As for regarding strangers the same way you'd regard friends... you're human. It's impossible to separate our past experiences with people from our assessments of them. That's just a human fact I think. And if our pst actions had no bearing on our friendships well, then there is almost no point? I mean... hats how I see it.

That's my two cents about the matter!
Leela 4/26 '17edited
You make some interesting points, but (forgive me - this isn't any kind of 'attack' - I just want to know if I missed anything) you don't seem to make any arguement for the "why loyalty is good". I appreciate that you value it and I think most of us do to one extent or another, but that's different than being able to say "It has an innate value because it allows us to... X, Y, Z."
Matt Lichtenwalner 4/26 '17edited
Loyal shows us we aren't alone. Loyalty shoes is we are worth more than our mistakes. My most loyal friends are the ones who fortify me when I am scared in life, especially when it comes to taking risks. When I know I have people behind me no matter what, it allows me to feel less small and alone, and it helps combat my paralyzingly fear of what will happen should I "misstep" in any way. Loyalty stands in stark opposition to our ever-increasingly disposable society. Maybe some of why this is so important for me is that I have indeed been treated as disposable by more people than I would like to admit, and it has damaged me a great deal. So, I find it incredibly important and good to BE LOYAL myself, because I like to think I am paying forward the same gift that others have given me. Does that make sense?
Leela 4/26 '17
Now that's an interesting point. Being the narcissist that I am, I wasn't thinking of the loyalty of others and the way that it benefits me.

So (if I understand correctly) you could almost argue that loyalty is a form of altruism. Your being loyal to a person is a form of altruism which you stand behind because someone else was loyal to you. A way to 'generate goodness' for lack of a better turn of phrase?

Does this change at all if we're not talking about a person that you're being loyal to? What if it's a business, or a favorite flavor of ice cream? (I know that sounds weird, but I'm really trying to get at all different angles.)
Matt Lichtenwalner 4/27 '17edited
I don't think it changes, interestingly. Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk has always been there for me, in good times and bad, and it always tastes just as fucking good as the last time I had it. It shows up when I need it (for lack of a better way to say it), so, so do I. Same goes for businesss. If a business has been good to me, I'll be good to it.
Leela 4/27 '17
Is it weird that I like the idea of an ice cream flavor 'being there' for you? :P
It's probably weird, but I like the idea of it too! In fact I've got some in the freezer right now...
Leela 4/27 '17
Evolving past loyalty? Please. We haven't evolved past tribalism or voting for Donald Trump.
Thomas Boutell 4/26 '17
I'm beyond sad that this is an accurate statement.
Seriously, loyalty is not a purely binary thing. We are more loyal to those in whom we are more invested. Or should be, anyway.

Sometimes it's OK to be loyal to a memory, to treat a comrade who is no longer kind and no longer reciprocating with a certain decency in recognition of the love they showed you once. Then again, you can also be loyal to the person they used to be, and what they'd think of their present behavior.
Thomas Boutell 4/26 '17edited
Interesting. It sounds like you're coming from a similar place to Leela above. An almost altruism-like stance. Loyalty as a 'repayment' for the kindness of the other (or the business, or the... noun.)
I used to have a friend who was a bit of a powder keg.

we had a lot of fun times together for several years and got to be very, very close, but he would frequently get monumentally pissed off at something I said or did (or failed to say or do).

being a bit more irascible myself in those days than I am now, I often gave as good as I got, but I think any objective comparison would have found that, on balance, my snits toward him were less frequent and a bit more reality-adjacent than his toward me.

in any case though, over time our friendship started becoming pretty asymmetrical - with me doing a lot of favors for him and frequently having to mollify his snits, and not getting a heck of a lot in return.
at a certain point, I noticed this and decided to stop trying to placate or otherwise go very far out of my way for him. this improved my life considerably and made me enjoy his company a lot more. I never announced this transition to him, however, because I didn't feel that I needed to - it was an adjustment in my own thinking and attitude, not something that required any action or input from him.

and I didn't want to fight about it.

I suspect most people have had at least one or two interpersonal relationships where one person changed their outlook on what type of relationship it was while the other person kept right on thinking it was the same as it always had been. this was surely such a case but since the two people involved in this one were real oddballs, it led to some (perhaps atypically) entertaining situations.

case in point - we took a trip to France together a year or two after my "not taking any more shit" decision. from my perspective, we had an awesome time - one of the best we ever had as friends, and one of the best travel experiences I'd ever had full stop. we saw some great cathedrals (he sketched each one, I wrote about each one), we ate some great stuff, we found a barely marked ruin of a roman amphitheater in the middle of a cow-pasture, we had an awesome 3 or 4 hour conversation about existentialism and nihilism (one that changed my overall approach to life and ethics in ways that have lasted to this day) in the car ending with a visit to the cathedral at Chartres at like 3 AM. and our next to last night there, I met a nice Catalan woman in a gay dance club, who decided to make out with me for a couple hours, despite my nearly unintelligible French, on a park bench in the rain. (ooo la la.)

so anyway - we get back to the states and I go on about my life. my friend goes on about his, but in a SEETHING RAGE over how insolent and insufferable I had been during our "argument" in the car on the way to Chartres. he doesn't tell me about this, though. he decides that the best way to communicate his displeasure is to refuse to speak to me until I ask him what's bothering him and (presumably) make amends.

...except the first I hear of this is 8 months later when I invite him to Thanksgiving dinner at my house...at which point he explains that he hasn't been speaking to me and is by then pretty much apoplectic because of my failure to notice.

it only made him angrier that I found the situation hilarious.

we made up, of course, but were never really close friends again and have gradually drifted further apart over the years. nowadays, we exchange an email or a text every few months when one of us spots something relevant to the other's interests, or we run into each other on the street and chat for a few minutes, or we meet up for an hour of pinball every year or so. I think that suits us both fine.

I guess where this comes together with your inquiry about loyalty is that I think there's often a lack of willingness to acknowledge that interpersonal relationships have life cycles. they're born, they live, and then they die. occasionally that death is a catastrophic heart attack, but much more often it's a long, slow, quiet fade to a golden-hued tail.

and that's all ok.
CM Adams 4/27 '17
Beautifully well put sir. Arguably, my little analysis of loyalty could be said to be a "should I allow relationships to grow old and die?"

Then again, it _feels_ a little more like your description of the 'aha moment' that you had with your friend. That, in turn, I see as a kind of parallel to the way I described my thought that perhaps I should judge people, places, and thing more in the moment than based on our combined past.

Which, I guess, is basically just another way of saying: "I agree with you."

Unrelated: what's the inspiration behind your profile pic?
it's a Bobrick brand c fold paper towel dispenser!
comes in white or in silver!
CM Adams 4/29 '17
Well, clearly.
[Has one industrially powderpainted blue, installs it, waits for Chris to visit and flip out when he can't find it on the website]
Thomas Boutell 4/29 '17
what's not to like?
it's 3 rows of 8!
CM Adams 5/2 '17
I've been using the term "legacy friend". A person I would not likely be friends with if I met them now. I may even dislike a lot about them now. But at some point in the past we were friends, and now we have history.

I find it somehow easier to manage when I've categorized it as a legacy issue. And when current friends are like: sheez, why are you friends with that dude/dudette? I say "legacy friend" and everyone gets it.
Ursula Sadiq 5/8 '17
Technical debt.
That does seem like the perfect term / bucket. I think I'm going to steal that.
I may represent that remark!
CM Adams 5/10 '17
but seriously - good concept.
CM Adams 5/10 '17