Recently I was having a conversation with a good friend,
and he mentioned the concept of loyalty. Immediately I kicked
myself for not having said something about it in my book -
that is something which obviously deserves some exploration.
But then, that is the purpose of this blog - this gives me
a chance to explore some of the things which otherwise
would have appeared in
Part III of my book.
Aside: I should update this blog more often, and
I will try. I feel as though I am letting down my two
readers . . . :)
Anyway, hard on the heels of kicking myself for not
saying something about loyalty in Part III, I began to
wonder whether my oversight was more significant than
that, whether I had missed something fundamental about
Honor in not mentioning loyalty. That is, I wondered
whether that suggested I was missing a virtue or
As I have reflected on the idea in preparation for
writing this column, though, I have decided that I don't
think I did - have a look at my logic and see whether
you agree. That, after all, is my real purpose - as I
mentioned in my 'Doubting Thomas' author's disclaimer.
What I really hope is that readers will wrestle with
these questions; even if they wind up disagreeing with
me, our culture will be better for their efforts.
OK - enough of that.
The question here is how we relate the concept of
loyalty to the framework in Reawakening Honor. It seems
clear that loyalty is an honorable trait, that remaining
true to friends is a good and moral thing to do. (As an
aside, we should recognize that there are exceptions,
situations in which blind loyalty is a mistake - the
virtue of Wisdom helps an honorable person discern
those instances. However, we are focusing on the
general case in which the loyalty is deserved.)
It is important that the term loyalty is used almost
exclusively to refer to situations in which a relationship
is put to the test - situations in which one person would
gain some benefit from sacrificing the relationship. Given
that connection, I think the virtue which is most strongly
represented by loyalty is Courage. It takes Courage to
remain true to a relationship under pressure.
Of course, one of the characteristics of Courage is that
it is complementary - it appears only when another virtue
is tested. In this case, what is being challenged is the
relationship - which makes clear that relationships are
That is really important - an insight which bears
repeating. Relationships are virtuous.
Relationships are the part of our lives which do
the most to bring out our humanity, to show our
The virtues from which relationships are constructed
seem pretty clear. A relationship is built on trust -
that is, the virtue of Hope, because we trust the
other person to behave honorably. Without that Hope,
there can be no relationship. Also present in a good
relationship are Compassion and Humility, since a
participant must care for the other person, at some
level, and must set aside his or her selfish desires
in order to nurture the relationship.
Thus we see that relationships are built primarily
of Hope, with Compassion and Humility, and that
loyalty represents the virtue of Courage
applied to the maintenance of those relationships.
What do you think? I continue to kick myself,
because I cannot believe that I did not include a
discussion of loyalty in Part III. However, I am
glad for the chance to engage in that discussion
here. It would not have been feasible for me to
include everything which belonged
in Part III, so this blog fills that need - the
need to pursue an ongoing, free-flowing conversation
However, I also want to return to the insight
about relationships. Throughout the writing of the
book, I struggled to find a way to articulate the
critical importance of focusing on others. I do that
in my daily life, too. One example is that I get very
frustrated with the way electronic devices intrude on
our lives - and I express that by trying to point out
that computers were made to serve humans, that we are
supposed to be humans first.
This way of viewing relationships feels like a real
insight. It is not just that an 'other focus' makes
honorable behavior possible. It is much stronger than
that - the 'other focus' itself is Honor, it is a part
of our purpose as humans.
OK - I still am struggling to articulate that, as I
think you can see. I will work on it, and I hope you
will look for ways to explore it with those close to
you. I am going to look into ways for me to add a
discussion board to this blog, so that we can do a
little bit of that ourselves . . .