The subject of loyalty came up over at a recent Bloggernacle Times thread. Jacob J stirred the pot a little by saying the following:
I think loyalty is vastly overrated. In all the cases when loyalty is cited as the motivation for virtuous behavior that same behavior could/should have been motivated by a less problematic virtue like fairmindedness or kindness. In plenty of cases, loyalty is a name for going against your better judgment to do something wrong, covering something up, or sticking up for a person who is in the wrong.
This comment was met with resistance but Jacob is entirely correct. Loyalty is a useful motivational tool to be sure but is hardly a virtue itself.
First some definitions. Here are a few applicable definitions of “Loyalty” I found online:
- The state or quality of being loyal. See Synonyms at fidelity. (Several dictionaries used something like this. “Loyal” was defined as “faithful to one’s oath, commitments, or obligations” and “characterized by or showing faithfulness to commitments, vows, allegiance, obligations, etc”)
- the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations. (Dictionary.com)
- A feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. (Answers.com)
- a feeling of allegiance (thefreedictionary.com)
- unswerving in allegiance (Wiktionary)
Clearly there are many instances in life when loyalty leads to virtue. Loyalty to spouse and family can lead to virtue. Loyalty to friends and loyalty to God can lead to virtuous actions too. We have all seen loyalty lead to virtuous behavior in these areas.
But of course loyalty to friends or country or even religion can also lead to horribly immoral actions. For instance Nazi soldiers in concentration camps were probably very loyal. Suicide bombers are extremely loyal folks. The list could go on and on.
Further, Jesus made some striking comments about loyalty. He was the one who said:
26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
So basically Jesus was saying; Be loyal to me and disloyal to your family if push comes to shove. Likewise our entire missionary program relies on a hope for a certain level of disloyalty in people. We hope that members of other churches will be disloyal to those churches and join ours. Is that a moral problem? Absolutely not. Because loyalty in itself is not a virtue and disloyalty in itself is no sin/vice. Loyalty is more like a motivational tool that can lead to either virtue or vice in our lives.
Perhaps this point is so obvious that it didn’t need to be made here. But the conversation over at that BT thread made me wonder. What say ye?