In all the years I’ve lived in California–some 36 years–I can’t remember anyone bringing up the subject of loyalty. But since I’ve been spending time in my hometown, it’s come up twice.
So what does it really mean? The dictionary calls loyalty a strong showing of support or allegiance. But the way it’s come up in discussions lately, it’s defined more like taking sides.
It’s almost clannish: “The friend of my enemy is my enemy, too.” It’s very Sicilian, and that’s my heritage.
Defining “support” in a more helpful way
But. I don’t think that’s what loyalty means. You can support someone without making their battles yours. Usually their battles have nothing to do with you, so why should they become yours?
In my circles, we talk about a far more positive concept: “holding space.” It means being “present” for someone: physically, emotionally and mentally. It means making them your focus as they go through difficult times–and not judging them in any way. It has nothing to do with their situation and everything to do with our friend or loved one and what they are feeling. The feelings, not the situation.
Willing to be uncomfortable
Of course, holding space for someone going through tough times can be uncomfortable. Men, especially, have a hard time with the emotions that can come up. Blind loyalty means we don’t have to deal with those messy things like someone’s emotions. We can simply make their situation ours to show our support. But it does everyone a disservice.
I like to think we’ve evolved in how we offer our support to others and that we are all fully capable of making it about that person and their emotions– not their specific situation.
We don’t have a dog in someone else’s hunt. It’s not our battle.
There is absolutely no reason that their enemies, if any, need to become ours.
Now, it’s an entirely different story if I observe someone not treating a loved one well. Then, I am not going to like that person very much. But they won’t become an enemy because it has nothing to do with me.