What Is Loyalty?

A man and a dog as loyal friends

The idea of loyalty might seem a bit ‘old fashioned’ and might even conjure up images of knights in shining armour and ‘loyal subjects’ bowing to a king or queen. So what exactly does it mean to be “loyal”?

As humans we rely on everybody working together; to a greater or lesser extent we all rely on other people so that we can live happily and healthily. We can see this from a global perspective where countries need to work together for peace and prosperity ….. or from a city level …. or from a neighbourhood level …. or from a family level where we work together as a team to get the best out of life that we can.

Loyalty is when we recognise the importance of the connections that we have with others and then acting in a way that not only protects those connections but also strengthens them. Being loyal might mean that we have to put other peoples best interests before our own; in other words we might have to sacrifice something to protect the bonds that we share with others and value so much.

So, being loyal to a friend can be something as simple as never gossiping about them and always defending them against other peoples unpleasant comments. Being loyal also means that we are always ‘true to our word’ and if we promise to do something or be somewhere then we try our hardest to fulfil that promise and always be on time. It can be harder to be loyal when circumstances change and people change; for example you might find that you are enjoying spending time with a new friend more than an old friend. It’s very easy to forget our loyalties in these situations but we must be careful not to shun our old friend.

Keeping secrets is a very tricky area when we think about loyalty as it can sometimes be hard to tell right from wrong. If you are a loyal friend then you can always be trusted to keep a secret safe …. but what if the secret is about something bad or even illegal? In this case it would be best if you could persuade your friend to ‘own up’ to what had happened or maybe even seek help if necessary. Let them know that you want to help them, spend time listening to their problems and worries, make suggestions, and definitely do not criticise them or judge them.

If the problem is not solved – and you believe that the secret could cause further harm or damage – then you will have to use your own judgement which might mean asking for help from a trusted adult. There will be times when revealing a secret is the only way to protect our friends’ best interests.

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