This is the first part in an eight-part series based on the U.S. Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. The reader will no doubt discover that these tenets carry over into all facets of life and are not limited to military service.
Webster’s defines loyalty as “being faithful to one’s sovereign, government, or state; to be faithful to one’s oath or obligations; to be faithful to any person or thing conceived as deserving of fidelity”. “Faithful” is mentioned three times in this definition and that cannot be an accident or an error. The terms “faithfulness” and “loyalty” are intertwined at their core. You cannot have one without the other. They are the foundation of every good and wholesome relationship and require a deep emotional commitment.
I recall a sociology class I took during my first year of college and the professor was talking about relationships – especially marriage – and my notion of what a marriage actually involved was shattered that day. What I “knew” coming into that lecture was that when you get married everything was 50:50. That’s what I had always heard and that’s what I believed to be true. The professor said that sometimes it might average out to be 50:50 over time, but almost always the ratio was skewed. He said that sometimes its 60:40, sometimes 70:30, and sometimes its even 0:100 where you do everything and receive nothing. How true his words were.
And that’s where your loyalty towards the other person comes in – you must be able to put yourself completely aside and put all your efforts into the needs of the other person. Again, expecting nothing in return. The upside is that one day it will be you who is in need and someone will have to uproot their schedule, their routines, their life to take care of you. It’s painfully beautiful, this scenario, but it works if you work at it.
Another aspect of loyalty comes from just being there – no matter what. My oldest friend and I met over 30 years ago and we went through some of the most challenging times that you could ever imagine. Absolutely grueling situations that seemed to have no end were the norm, but we both got through it by leaning on each other. Having someone to commiserate with is one thing but having someone consistently looking out for you and for your safety is something else. Sometimes we would shout out our frustrations at length, other times no words needed to be spoken. Just having him there with me during those critical moments give me the strength to go on, and I’m sure that he would say the same thing of me. Perhaps it’s the struggles that make us stronger, but I could have done without some of those struggles, for sure.
The Beach Boys’ song, “Be True to Your School” takes us back to a simpler time, but the message of staying loyal to an institution is still poignant today. We often feel a sense of loyalty to our professions, our religions, and even our favorite sports teams. (Go Rattlers!) Being there during the ups and downs, never giving up, consistently supporting the collective experience are all part of the human condition. We all have something or someone that we are loyal to, even if its not healthy for us. Also be mindful of where you put your energy because it can be taken advantage of – and it can take advantage of you.
So – be true to your school, be true to your friends, be true to your spouse, your religion, your work, and yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Alan Shoalmire. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.
Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant Hotdogs and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.