There are certain character traits that don’t seem to have the same weight as they did a century ago. I often read books and watch television documentaries about the loyalty of those who fought in the horrific wars of the first half of the twentieth century – loyalty to friends and family, loyalty to jobs, loyalty to countries, loyalty to faiths, loyalty to causes. As a child born in the late 1980s, I get the distinct impression that that kind of loyalty is harder to come by nowadays.
I’m not saying loyalty is non-existent. Not at all. I believe there is an abundance of what I would describe as level 1 and level 2 loyalty, but a severe shortage of level 3 loyalty. Let me describe them below:
The Three Levels Of Loyalty:
Level 1: Forced loyalty
It is possible to be coerced into loyalty through fear, threats and intimidation. Whilst this type of loyalty can help you to arrive at a given destination, the loyalty of the person relating to you will never last. Resentment, mistrust and deceit are common products of level 1 loyalty. This is often the cause of abusive and damaging relationships or destructive jobs. The lowest level of loyalty for its lack of longevity and the negative effects associated with it.
Level 2: Reward-Based loyalty
Loyalty can also be bought with rewards. Employees can often be incredibly loyal to their jobs if there is a financial reward involved. That ‘if I get this…I’ll do that’ type of loyalty. The negative side effects of this can often be selfishness, a lack of passion or interest and ultimately a lack of commitment. As a result, I’m counting this as middle-level loyalty.
Level 3: Earned Loyalty
This is the Holy Grail of loyalty. The type of loyalty where people will prioritise, honour and sacrifice themselves for a person, job or cause because they are passionate and ‘sold-out’ for it. Commitment like this cannot be coerced or bought; it must be earned. It’s often the people with the highest levels of integrity that populate this group. This is the highest level of loyalty.
Level 3 loyalty is difficult. I can openly say that whilst I find it easy to show level 3 loyalty to others, I find it exceptionally difficult to earn it. I think that’s partially down to trust – I have been incredibly hurt by people breaking my trust in both the distant and very, very recent past so find it very difficult to have faith in people’s integrity – but I think it’s also down to my reluctance to relinquish control. I love to be in control of what I’m doing and by having to earn the loyalty of the people I interact with, I’m having to let go of control and trust in my own character and integrity…a scary prospect.
I would love to see a world where there is an overflow of level 3 loyalty. Filled with people so passionate about their relationships, jobs, faiths or causes that nothing could possibly come between them. The few examples I see of this are so inspirational to me – how much more inspirational would this world be if that was the norm and not the exception?