To Whom Do We Owe Loyalty?

In this age of consumerism, loyalty seems such an old-fashioned quality when used in reference to people. There is more talk of “brand loyalty” than there is of loyalty as a virtue. To be honest, I’m not sure loyalty is a virtue — it seems more of character trait than something to which one aspires.

Still, I’ve always been intensely loyal, especially to those I love, but also to other things. For example, while managing a fabric store once upon a time, I never shopped for fabric at any other franchise. Well, I did once, but never again. I felt as if I were being disloyal to my employer.

For most of my life, I thought love and loyalty were different facets of the same state, and if someone said they loved me, I assumed they would also be loyal, but now I know love and loyalty are two different things. Love is a deep feeling of affection and caring (and sometimes desire) for another person. Loyalty is a sense of allegiance, commitment, and dedication.

Loyalty, more than love, is what makes two people a couple. Loyalty keeps the two parties together, keeps them focused on a common goal, keeps them allied. I was intensely loyal to my life mate/soul mate, so much so that when he died, I wasn’t sure if I had the right to be happy here on Earth. Even the idea of someday being happy seemed disloyal, as if it were negating our life together.

I’m dealing with another situation now that makes me question the concept of loyalty itself. In this case, mUntitleddy loyalties are divided between two family members, and for a while, it was tearing me apart. I can’t ally myself with either party since the two will never agree, never manage to find a way to deal with each other, never even accept the other’s foibles (which, incidentally, are identical, though to varying degrees). Both expect my loyalty and resent my loyalty to the other, but neither has any real loyalty to me.

These matters made wonder to whom I owed loyalty, and I’ve realized that it’s time to transfer my loyalties to myself. There is no way I can takes sides in this current situation, nor can I help in any way, so the best thing for me to do is to do the best thing for me — if I ever figure out what that is.

It’s the same with my deceased mate. Although I will always love him, I can no longer have any loyalties to him. He is not here to be loyal to me, and loyalty, even more than love, needs reciprocation if it isn’t to become a sort of servitude. After more than three years, I now know I have the right to be happy, and if happiness happens to come my way, I have an obligation to grab hold and run with it. Anything else is bondage to a past that is getting further away every day.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

7 Responses to “To Whom Do We Owe Loyalty?”

  1. Phyllis Ring Says:

    Was riveted as I read this, this morning. I think it has real universal application, in all of our lives. The tangling together of perceptions about loyalty and guilt about our own happiness has had widespread effect in the world for a long time. Your own mulling and breaking open – and through – this tangle carries seeds of vital truth, I think. I appreciate your candor in the self-reflecting you do.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Phyllis. I’m glad this post resonated with you. It’s a hard thing, figuring out to whom we owe loyalty. I have a hunch I’ll be pondering this question for a long time to come.

  2. 22pamela Says:

    Excellent post…Excellent timing. ❤

  3. It Is What It Is | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] it is, and let it go as best as I can. (It helps to realize that in a case of divided loyalties, my loyalties belong to […]

  4. Breaking Up is Hard to Do (Or See) | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] I seem to be torn by divided loyalties. Not only are my loyalties divided between two family members, they are now being divided between […]

  5. Terry Jean Allard Says:

    So maybe loyalty is what keeps me faithful to my grief for my husband. (I do know I wrote “to my grief” and not “to him”)
    I guess I already knew I am being faithful,dedicated,committed to him(or is it to my grief). I labled all of it as love; although, I do understand Pat dividing a relationship as both love and loyalty. Not sure I can..even if it is best for me…even if I could drop loyalty would I want to? Pat says loyalty is what makes two people a couple and I so want to be a couple even if I am here and he is “there”. Pat says being loyal to a dead person who can’t reciporcate is servitude and bondadge to the past. I think of my loyalty as pristine,beautiful,golden,glittering,angelic….not as dark,cold,heavy,demanding,chained servitiude and bondadge.Loyalty can be an ancedote for lonliness (at least somewhat). I feel unsettled and confused over this topic but glad Pat wrote it and I read it.

    Pat I think this is a good topic to include in your new book.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I have come to the conclusion (temporary conclusion, anyway, until I find a better explanation) that we don’t really do anything about grief — grief is a wave, a ride, something beyond our control. If you are loyal to your grief, it is not a choice so much as the demands of grief. The more we give in to grief’s demands, the more it will free us eventually because it will run its course. (This from a woman who had a desperate yearning last night to go home to Jeff.)

      You are right — loyalty would be an interesting topic to include in the book. It could be that those of us who feel the most profound grief are those who both loved and were loyal. (A lot of people love but aren’t loyal. To some extent, affairs seem more a failure of loyalty than love, but to me, the failure of loyalty is just as bad if not worse than the failure of love. )

      Did you send an email to that address I posted? If so, I didn’t get it. I’m not trying to push you or put you on the spot, but I need to know if that address works.

      Today is the day I start working on the book. The first thing is to go through my grief posts to see what the path of grief is. The fellow who is pushing me to write this book thinks a book of grief ‘s landmarks is especially necessary, and considering how many people have stopped by this blog in recent weeks to see what’s in store for them, I tend to agree with him.

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