Sunday, July 11, 1999
AN old adage, "an ounce of loyalty is worth more than a pound of cleverness" contains a universal and eternal truth. It holds true even when one constantly witnesses conflicting loyalties ministers make defections, professionals job-hop, social workers and NGOs abandon old causes and adopt new ones. Loyalty, as a virtue, is accorded the lowest priority in our inter personal dealings. For most of us, ethics and strength of character look good only in moral lessons. Yet, loyalty, faith, trust and fidelity give meaning to life. Seeing young jawans laying down their lives in Kargil and hearing their grief stricken parents say "dont shed tears for our martyr son, if we had a dozen more sons, wed gladly send them to the battlefield too," gives loyalty a new meaning altogether.
Manufacturers are realising that customer loyalty is the key to survival in the competitive environment in which they operate. Companies are laying great emphasis on creating a sense of belonging in their employees because they know that fickle loyalties can have a direct bearing on their image and profits. Individuals are acknowledging that to have unstinted support and loyalty from the people they love and care for is far more valuable than any material benefit. Finally, having a lone but loyal friend is a better bet than having a room full of cheerful but undependable acquaintances.
Our loyalties are important signs of the kinds of people we have chosen to become. Our priorities, attitudes and lifestyles are directly or indirectly governed by our loyalties for individuals, society, institutions or political and religious ideologies. They mark a kind of constancy in our attachments to those whom we swear allegiance to. For instance, when we decide to be loyal citizens or friends, we care seriously about the well being of our country or buddy. We reach out and protect them as best as we can. Our blood boils when we see others gossiping and indulging in vicious slander against them. Even those of us who are mild mannered speak up vociferously. When our friends are wrong we may defend them in public but when alone, we should muster our courage to tell them what we truly feel.
It is important not to confuse loyalty with sycophancy or blind hero-worship. There was a time when leaders, warriors and statesmen evoked the kind of respect and awe from the masses which inspired them to put their lives in peril. Fierce loyalties, and utmost confidence was reposed in them. Keeping in mind the realities of our present day times, loyalty too has to be more pragmatic and realistic. With Aya Rams Gaya Rams and dal badlus in every sphere of life, expecting anyone to be 100 per cent loyal forever may be far fetched.
Loyalty must be genuine. If one is loyal to a sibling, parent, employer, friend, their country or cause one doesnt have to sing paeans in their praise or end up as their clones. Being a faithful side-kick, taking nonsense without complaining, and not voicing ones true opinions, is duplicity and not loyalty. Loyalty goes deeper than that. It denotes integrity, strength of character, honesty, truth and trust. It is important that loyalty not be illogical or blind. It must be a conscious clear-cut decision and not a wishy-washy half-hearted stance. When we choose to be loyal, we automatically equip ourselves with the requisite amount of passion, fighting spirit and conviction to take up for the person/cause concerned, with our heart, mind and soul.
There could come a time when a friend is going through a rough patch for reasons entirely of her own making and yet one has to take up cudgels on her behalf and reassure her of ones support and love. One cannot muster that kind of inner strength unless one is convinced that loyalty to her comes before everything else. Our loyalty to our friends must be unconditional.
One may be forced to be loyal to an immediate employer, not out of any love for him but because one believes in the organisation one works for. One may swallow insults; misbehavior and frustration at the work place only because one does not want to do anything which would be detrimental to the interests of the organisation. This is where loyalty differs from friendship. There are times when we are left with no choice. Friends can be chosen or dropped depending on how fond we are of them. There could be a rare occasion when the object of our loyalty may not be worth loving but nevertheless has to be defended out of a sense of righteousness and duty.
Loyalty is like courage in that it shows itself most clearly in situations where stress levels are high and temptation to top for a simpler route by switching allegiance is strong. There could come a time when we find ourselves supporting a sinking ship or being loyal to a person who everyone detests, thereby casting aspersions on us as well. But if one believes in the person concerned then ones trust and loyalty must be unwavering. For real loyalty endures inconvenience, withstands temptation and does not cringe under assault.
A person should be convinced that he would not betray his boss/wife/country/employer whatever be the provocation. And the other person should know that however bad his time may be, however harsh and unforgiving the world may be, this particular person will not let him down. Loyalty has to generate this kind of trust and confidence. Penelopes long wait of over twenty years for Ulysses, to come back from the Trojan War is the ultimate tale of fidelity and loyalty. The lthacan queens patience, resourcefulness, constancy and love make her one of Greek mythologys most memorable characters, as elaborated in Homers Odyssey. Her loyalty comes out of her supreme love and belief in the fact that he will return which makes her turn down all the suitors who relentlessly pursue her. There is no conflict in her mind. Loyalty and faith of this magnitude can move mountains and resurrect the dead. It is the power of feeling, belief and prayer which creates miracles.
Loyalty is not always rewarded. Ones supreme act of sacrifice may even go unnoticed. To recall a story from the Bible: Potiphar places Joseph in charge of his entire household. He rejects the advances of the wife saying, "He has put everything in my hand. I cannot betray that trust". On Potiphars return, his wife complains against Joseph and succeeds in having him jailed. Even though Potiphar was a loyal husband he should have used his judgement, knowing Josephs clean track record, before clamping such a harsh punishment on him. Our loyalty to the people we have pledged ourselves to could put us in tight spots when we have to make disagreeable and difficult decisions. We may have to endure physical and financial hardship, and social opposition but if we are convinced, then our loyalty must be unflinching.
We cannot expect the
world at large to be steadfastly loyal to us. The
knowledge that there are a few people whom we can depend
upon is a reassuring thought which can give us the
strength to sail through the darkest hours. This is
perhaps what noted American television talk show hostess
Oprah Winfrey meant when she said "lots of people
want to ride with you in the limo but what you want is
someone who will take the bus with you when the limo
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