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, my 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.