What is Loyalty?

Merriam-Webster online describes the loyalty as “the quality or state or an instance of being loyal.”  Following the link to ‘loyal’, we come to this:

“1: unswerving in allegiance: as

  • (a) faithful in allegiance to one’s lawful sovereign or government.
  • (b) faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due.
  • (c) faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution or product.”

In Dante’s Inferno, in the lowest circle of Hell reside those guilty of treason and betrayal.  Why?  What is it about loyalty that puts it above other virtues?  Why do we value it more?

“Loyalty is the idea that we are who we say we are and we will do what we say we will do. It is the hope that the integrity with which we initially encountered someone will endure indefinitely. It’s also what keeps us unified. We live out our lives as part of agreed upon norms that allow us to operate from day to day. We need to know who we can count on. We all understand that ideally, friends will have your back, lovers will remain true, and businesses will not cheat you out of your money. When someone is disloyal, they break from these expectations and weaken the trust that holds us together.” (Brett & Kate McKay, 10/25/09)

Loyalty is sometimes easier to describe with examples rather than definitions like the ones listed above.  We see it in the stories of the soldier who risks gunfire to bring a wounded comrade to safety; in the stories of a religious martyr who chooses death over betrayal of faith.

Like all virtues, loyalty has its proper manifestation and its false counterpart.  There is a line, however blurry or difficult to see, where loyalty becomes blind obedience.  When loyalty is demanded by regimes under people like Hitler, Stalin or Mao, it becomes poisoned and perverted.  True loyalty cannot be demanded.  It can only be chosen, and with it comes a great and honorable power.

In Josiah Royce’s The Philosophy of Loyalty, loyalty is defined as the willing and practical and thoroughgoing devotion of a person to a cause.”

“Willing” – born of your choice; your free will.

“Practical and thoroughgoing devotion” – It’s all well and good if you’re well intentioned, but you need to DO something to support that claim.

“To a cause” – the idea of friendship, brotherhood, family, love, fidelity.  To the Gospel.  To whatever values you hold dear.  You can be loyal to people or organizations, but they can change.  If a close friend starts making bad choices, would you go along out of blind loyalty, or would you do something about it and try to save them?

“Whenever, I say, such a cause so arouses your interest that it appears to you worthy to be served with all your might, with all your soul, with all your strength, then this cause awakens in you the spirit of loyalty. If you act out this spirit, you become, in fact, loyal.” -Josiah Royce

Put simply, “…the causes which arouse your loyalty must be ones that fascinate and possess you, ones that reverberate in your being and invigorate your spirit. The causes to which you choose to be loyal need not be dictated to you by your position or by tradition and can be entirely of your own creation. Choose causes which mirror your will and align with your core values and ideals, causes that so engross and engage both your heart and mind that you feel willing to make whatever sacrifices will be necessary to remain loyal and true.

…We are always on the hunt for a better deal, for an upgrade. Thus modern loyalty is a pale version of its ancient form. Sure we’re loyal……until something better comes along. We’re loyal…until we are given an excuse to bail. Of course this is not true loyalty at all. A loyal man commits to something with the idea that he is casting his lot with that cause in perpetuity.” (Brett & Kate McKay, 10/25/09)

“Loyalty for the loyal man is not only a good, but for him chief amongst all the moral goods of his life, because it furnishes to him a personal solution of the hardest of human practical problems, the problem: “For what do I live? Why am I here? For what am I good? Why am I needed?” – Josiah Royce

What are some benefits of loyalty?

Loyalty breeds satisfaction and happiness.  “Studies have shown that being able back out of our decisions makes us less happy than making “irreversible” decisions. For example, in one study students were told that they could pick one fine art print to take home with them. One group was told that the decision was final. The other group was told that they could return and exchange the print later if they so desired. While almost everyone in the second group said they were happy to have the option to return their print, almost none did. However, the second group ended up far less satisfied with their choice than the group that was not allowed to make exchanges. Why? Because with the option to reverse their decision always in the back of their minds, they could not move forward and put in the important psychological work to accept and enjoy their decision.

Thus, while it may seem risky to commit our loyalty to something for the long haul, it can be quite psychologically rewarding. In trading quantity for quality, you will come to know the rich satisfactions available only to those who are willing to go in-depth with something, sticking with it through thick and thin.” (AoM)

Loyalty lessens the amount of anxiety in your life.  “In a previous article, we talked about the way in which having too many choices can paralyze us into unhappiness and inaction. One of the ways to mitigate this effect is to purposely limit our choices. There are some choices in life we can make once and never have to make again. Once you know where you stand in life, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you are faced with certain choices.” (AoM)

Loyalty breeds loyalty.  Loyalty is contagious. As we lives of loyalty we encourage other men to do likewise. As Royce argues, we should act “as to further the general confidence of man in man.” (AoM) **”Living by example” comes to mind very strongly for me when I think of loyalty breeding loyalty.**

Loyal men can change the world.  “When good men bail out of organizations that they feel have gotten off-track, it simply becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are no shortage of problems with everything from family to politics, but if loyal men don’t stick around and work from within to be a force of positive change, these institutions will never improve. Loyal men transform causes from the inside out.” (AoM)

I think that many people misunderstand what loyalty really is.  It’s not (or at least, it shouldn’t be) dependent on a give-and-take mindset.  It’s not something that should be cast aside when things aren’t going the way you imagined, or if you’re not getting the rewards or recognition or things you thought you would get.

“You should strive to stay loyal until all the work you can do for your cause is finished, which may not come until the end of your life. Of course in between now and then your cause may change , and you be tempted to be bail and say, “I’m not going to let this cause tell me what to do!” But remember, you chose the cause. You proposed, you got baptized, you joined the army. In so choosing, you also chose to accept whatever crap would later come down the line. You knew the risks in pledging your loyalty, and you willing accepted those risks. What good is a loyalty that swells in the midst of pomp and ceremony only to shrink in the trenches?” (AoM)

What good is loyalty if you don’t keep your promise; if you don’t hold true to your cause?  Are we ever justified in being disloyal?

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As a final interjection, my primary thought on this subject is loyalty in marriage and relationships.  I think that’s where people first go to for examples of loyalty.  And in today’s society, where divorce and infidelity are more common than they should be, I think that is where we need to focus our efforts on changing and improving how loyalty is seen and valued.


On the Virtue of Integrity

Another find from The Art of Manliness (original post by Brett on 04/07/09):

“You’re a government employee and you hear of plans for a new shopping center and airport development. The price of property in the area is likely to increase sharply once public announcement is made. Should you tell your friend who owns property in the area and is planning to sell? Should you buy property yourself?

You’ve been really struggling in a class you need to pass to graduate. You studied hard for the final, but still aren’t feeling confident about it. Your friend took the test earlier in the day and offers to tell you exactly what was on it. Should you let him?

Your ex-girlfriend comes into town and wants to have a casual, friendly lunch. Do you tell your wife?

What would you do in the above scenarios? How long would it take you to decide? Integrity is one of those abstract qualities that we all wish to possess, but often find difficult to apply when it comes to real situations and practical dilemmas. What will we do when faced with questions like those above?

The word integrity is related to the roots of words like “integrate”  and “entire.” In Spanish it is rendered “integro,” meaning whole. Integrity thus implies the state of being complete, undivided, intact, and unbroken. Such a state contrasts with one that is scattered, fragmented, and incomplete. In writing this article, I was struck by the way in which integrity pulls together so many of the other things we have discussed on the Art of Manliness. Integrity is really the bond that holds a man’s other virtues together; it is the mark of a man who has successfully integrated all good principles. His life is a unified whole.

Why Live with Integrity

It’s Easier

It may not seem like it at first blush, but living with integrity is easier than living a deceitful life. While making unethical decisions is often easier in the short term, it eventually takes its toll. There’s no real happiness to be found in struggling to remember your lies, living in fear of getting caught, and not feeling like you truly earned your reward. It’s empty and stressful. Bernie Madoff may have lived high on the hog, but did he really enjoy his wealth knowing that one day his house of cards would collapse? Living with integrity brings wholeness and peace. Your conscience can rest easy, and you can look at yourself in the mirror with pride.

It Builds Trust

A man of integrity is a man others can count on. They know he will do what he says he will do. He is promoted at work because he can be trusted with greater responsibility. His wife knows that when he says he’s working late, he really is. His friends feel comfortable opening up to him and turning to him in times of crisis. When you choose to live with integrity, all of your relationships will be healthier, stronger, and more satisfying.

It Serves as a Basis for Value Judgments

The questions given above raise some sticky issues. Every day we are faced with similar dilemmas. A commitment to live a life of integrity allows you clarity when you have to make hard choices. You won’t be at war with yourself over which path to choose. Instead, you’ll experience the confidence that comes with having every aspect of your life knit together in a unity of purpose.

Practicing Integrity

Living a life of integrity is a daily process that’s doesn’t end until your life does. Here are some ways to develop integrity:

Decide now, not later. Many men have not thought through their personal value system. They’re not sure who they are or what they stand for, and they wait until the breaking of a crisis to make their decision. At that point, it’s too late. Faced then with great pressure, you will be more prone to take the route which is easier in that moment. Decide now what you will and will not compromise on. Then, when faced with ethical choices, the decision will have already been made.

Quit the rationalizations. There’s always a million reasons to compromise your integrity. You hear them on the news every day as corporate bigwigs struggle to justify their fat bonus checks. You can always come up with justifications that seemingly make good sense and let you sleep better at night. But at the end of the day, when you place your rationalizations on a scale next to integrity, you’ll realize you sold out something priceless for a measly pittance. There’s nothing more valuable than your good name and the ability to look at yourself in the mirror each day with a clear conscience.

Don’t take the first step. When a great man falls from grace, we often wonder how he could have ever messed up so royally. The truth is that he didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit an egregious blunder. It started with a little fudging here, a tiny bit of lying there. From there he just kept on sliding down the slippery slope of compromise. Don’t compromise on the little things, and you won’t on the bigger ones.

Don’t justify the means for the end. This is probably the most popular rationalization for breaking with your integrity. In reality, the journey towards an accomplishment or decision is just as important as the destination itself. Even if you are richly rewarded at the end, if you cannot look back on the means used to get there with anything but shame, your victory will be hollow indeed.

Take personal responsibility for you life. At the heart of integrity is the ability to own up to the fact that you are in control of your life. You are responsible for both your successes and your failures. Nobody else but you.

Living a Life of Integrity

Integrity is a value that we should strive for in all areas of your life. Here are some of the areas and situations where it should always be applied:

Integrity Within Yourself

I once read an acquaintance’s blog in which he wrote of running into someone at a bar and struggling to remember what story he had told her about himself. Apparently, he enjoys telling people that he meets at bars and such that he is different people-a pilot, a doctor, a soldier, etc. He said that it sometimes gets hard to remember who he told what.

While this is an extreme example, how many men do you know who act like social chameleons; they are a different guy with you, a different guy at home, a different guy at work, a different guy when traveling, ect. Instead of being a single self, they live as multiple selves, transforming into who they think each group wants them to be. William James, the philosopher and psychologist, said that men have “as many different social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares.”

Even if you aren’t outright lying like my acquaintance, turning on some alternate persona in different situations can be exhausting. You end up feeling fragmented and confused as to who you really are. No relationship should require you to pretend to be someone you’re not. If people don’t like who you really are, why would you want to be friends with them in the first place?

The first step towards integrity is being honest with yourself. Be who are. Say what you mean. Do what you say you will do. Don’t just walk the walk; talk the talk.

Integrity at Work

  • Put in 40 hours of work for 40 hours of pay. You’re getting paid to do a job, not goof around. There are of course exceptions; you may be done with one project and have nothing to do until you get your next assignment. But if you’re supposed to be working on something, you shouldn’t be watching March Madness games.
  • Don’t take credit for others’ success. Never take someone’s idea and pitch it as your own. And don’t jump on a wagon at the end of a successful ride that you didn’t contribute to.
  • Be transparent. Make your deals as transparent as possible. Don’t leave out things that the other party is going to hate you for later when they figure out what they really signed.
  • Don’t steal supplies. Yeah, the corporation you work for doesn’t pay you enough. And yeah, no one is going to miss that box of paperclips. But it’s still stealing, buddy.
  • Avoid situations where you’ll have a conflict of interest. If you’re caught in something that prevents you from making completely honest decisions, get out.
  • If your company pressures you to make unethical decisions, walk away. It’s not true every man has a price; a man of integrity prizes his character above monetary security. Is it possible to make it in your career field while having true integrity? Yes, but only if you’re the best at what you do. You’ll always need to be a cut above the guys who take shortcuts to get ahead.

Integrity in Your Romantic Relationships

  • Be an open book. Don’t keep secrets from your significant other. Even if the secrets don’t affect her, if she finds out you’ve been keeping stuff from her, it will erode the trust between you.
  • Avoid emotional cheating. Having integrity in regards to physical cheating is a given. Harder is avoiding emotional cheating, a straying that seems more innocuous at first, but easily leads to the corporeal variety. If you find yourself sharing more of your thoughts and feelings with a female friend or co-worker than you do with your wife, it’s time to take a big step back.
  • End a relationship when you know it’s over. If you’re dating someone and have reached the point where you know you two don’t have a future together, don’t keep dragging her along because you’re afraid to end things. Break up with her like a man.

Integrity with your Friendships

  • Keep your promises. Always, always follow-through with the things you have said you will do. A man’s word is his bond. If you tell your friend that you’ll hang out with him, and then the girl you like invites you over–too bad. You already made other plans.
  • Don’t talk smack about other people. Saying something behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face shows a distinct lack of integrity.
  • Be the vault. When friend trusts you with confidential information, lock those secrets away. Nothing erodes a friendship faster then a breach of trust in the secret department.”

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Integrity is one of the virtues I hold in highest esteem.  That, along with loyalty, honor (although I may confuse honor with integrity at times), to name a few more.  To willingly do something that contradicts it…if I did that, then did I ever really believe in it in the first place?

What are your thoughts on integrity?  What other situations call for a man to show true integrity?

The Bushido Code

An excerpt from a post at the Art of Manliness:

“Just a few decades after Japan’s warrior class was abolished, U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt raved about a newly released book entitled Bushido: The Soul of Japan. He bought five dozen copies for family and friends. In the slim volume, which went on to become an international bestseller, author Nitobe Inazo interprets the samurai code of behavior: how chivalrous men should act in their personal and professional lives.

Nitobe Inazo

Though some scholars have criticized Nitobe’s work as romanticized yearning for a non-existent age of chivalry, there’s no question that his work builds on extraordinary thousand-year-old precepts of manhood that originated in chivalrous behavior on the part of some, though certainly not all, samurai. What today’s readers may find most enlightening about Bushido is the emphasis on compassion, benevolence, and the other non-martial qualities of true manliness.”

As I look over the eight virtues listed in the Bushido code, I see many similarities between the Bushido code and the knights code of chivalry.  Many of the virtues are the same, as are the expectations of people who strive to exemplify those virtues.  Here are the virtues of the Bushido code and see for yourself how similar they are to the virtues of the knights code of chivalry:

I. Rectitude or Justice – Bushido refers not only to martial rectitude, but to personal rectitude: Rectitude or Justice, is the strongest virtue of Bushido. A well-known samurai defines it this way: ‘Rectitude is one’s power to decide upon a course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering; to die when to die is right, to strike when to strike is right.’ Another speaks of it in the following terms: ‘Rectitude is the bone that gives firmness and stature. Without bones the head cannot rest on top of the spine, nor hands move nor feet stand. So without Rectitude neither talent nor learning can make the human frame into a samurai.’

II. Courage – Bushido distinguishes between bravery and courage: Courage is worthy of being counted among virtues only if it’s exercised in the cause of Righteousness and Rectitude. In his Analects, Confucius says: ‘Perceiving what is right and doing it not reveals a lack of Courage.’ In short, ‘Courage is doing what is right.’

III. Benevolence or Mercy – A man invested with the power to command and the power to kill was expected to demonstrate equally extraordinary powers of benevolence and mercy: Love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, are traits of Benevolence, the highest attribute of the human soul. Both Confucius and Mencius often said the highest requirement of a ruler of men is Benevolence.

IV. Politeness – Discerning the difference between obsequiousness and politeness can be difficult for casual visitors to Japan, but for a true man, courtesy is rooted in benevolence: Courtesy and good manners have been noticed by every foreign tourist as distinctive Japanese traits. But Politeness should be the expression of a benevolent regard for the feelings of others; it’s a poor virtue if it’s motivated only by a fear of offending good taste. In its highest form Politeness approaches love.

V. Honesty and Sincerity – True samurai, according to author Nitobe, disdained money, believing that “men must grudge money, for riches hinder wisdom.” Thus children of high-ranking samurai were raised to believe that talking about money showed poor taste, and that ignorance of the value of different coins showed good breeding: Bushido encouraged thrift, not for economical reasons so much as for the exercise of abstinence. Luxury was thought the greatest menace to manhood, and severe simplicity was required of the warrior class … the counting machine and abacus were abhorred.

VI. Honor – Though Bushido deals with the profession of soldiering, it is equally concerned with non-martial behavior: The sense of Honor, a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth, characterized the samurai. He was born and bred to value the duties and privileges of his profession. Fear of disgrace hung like a sword over the head of every samurai … To take offense at slight provocation was ridiculed as ‘short-tempered.’ As the popular adage put it: ‘True patience means bearing the unbearable.’

VII. Loyalty – Economic reality has dealt a blow to organizational loyalty around the world. Nonetheless, true men remain loyal to those to whom they are indebted: Loyalty to a superior was the most distinctive virtue of the feudal era. Personal fidelity exists among all sorts of men: a gang of pickpockets swears allegiance to its leader. But only in the code of chivalrous Honor does Loyalty assume paramount importance.

VIII. Character and Self-Control – Bushido teaches that men should behave according to an absolute moral standard, one that transcends logic. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. The difference between good and bad and between right and wrong are givens, not arguments subject to discussion or justification, and a man should know the difference. Finally, it is a man’s obligation to teach his children moral standards through the model of his own behavior: The first objective of samurai education was to build up Character. The subtler faculties of prudence, intelligence, and dialectics were less important. Intellectual superiority was esteemed, but a samurai was essentially a man of action.

Loyalty, honor, courage, justice…those seem to pop up rather frequently.  While people who live in different areas may have different ways to be an example of those virtues (and others), the core of each virtue is the same.  And that, I think, remains true no matter where in the world you go and no matter who you meet along the way.