Loyalty is noble, but if you aren’t willing to discard an inferior ally then he is effectively your enemy. The friend you’d die for becomes your opponent when he, by definition, will not do what is in his best interest.

Loyalty requires you to abandon your own survival mechanism. You have to be willing to go down with the ship you pledged your allegiance to–even if it’s got a shitty captain and was in desperate need of repairs before it ever left the port.

Governments understand this so when you join the military, they make the penalties for appealing to your sense of self-preservation very high. You can’t just decide you don’t agree with a policy or battle. A civilian has to actively work against his country to be considered a traitor, but a soldier merely has to disobey orders to be in a world of trouble.

This is something all people must consider before they join their country’s military. Am I willing to be so loyal to this country that I will risk my life or take someone else’s, even if I don’t agree with its policy? Am I willing to get on this ship and go down with it, even if I think the captain can’t navigate for shit?

The world is full of intelligent people who refuse to accept reasonable conclusions because of their loyalty to a particular ideology. Even if the conclusion has no benefit for anyone involved, they have invested so much of themselves in it that they are forced to defend it. Even in the face of common sense and opposing facts.

This “ideological blindness” extends to our relationships as well. In the face of overwhelming evidence, many people chose to believe that a person has their best interest at heart. Instead of severing the relationship, they endure the trespasses. There may be many reasons for this, but they all boil down to the ultimate goal of loyalty: abolishment of the self-preservation instinct.

If one is truly loyal, they can’t inoculate themselves against this unfortunate side effect. It’s the cost of doing business and how people decide to trust you. The only protection you have is the old business adage: hire slow and fire fast.

Be friendly and respectful to all, but prudently select who you bring into your inner circle. People will make mistakes. That’s part of being human. But there is a significant difference between mistakes of ignorance and mistakes of intent. The former must be met with forgiveness and used as an opportunity to learn. The later are grounds for termination of the relationship.

With the exception of the most egregious offenses, past performance and loyalty act as a buffer. A wise man once described this as a bowl of gumballs: each act of loyalty adds gumballs; each bad one subtracts. When it’s empty, the relationship ends. Not all activities are created equal. Some add or take more than others. The relationship ends when the bowl is empty. An egregious act is dropping the bowl and it shatters.

Loyalty to family is a tough one for people to figure out. My opinion is this: your mother and father are, by definition, the reason you are here. They get a lot of gumballs in the jar. I’m of the opinion that unless your parents did something truly horrid to you, you can never terminate this relationship. Everyone else in your nuclear and extended family gets a varying level of gumballs depending on your relationship growing up.

For yourself, the easy way to build loyalty is to be selfish and protective of those close to you. If people know that you will not squander time and resources on any random person, they will be far more likely to go to hell and back with you. Loyalty must be earned and maintained otherwise, it erodes into apathy. When it comes time to defend or nurture, apathy is no different than antipathy.

As Larry McMurtry, the author of Streets of Laredo said, “The whole point of loyalty was not to change: stick with those who stuck with you.”

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