Loyalty: What Does It Really Mean?


“We have to recognize that there cannot be relationships unless there is commitment, unless there is loyalty, unless there is love, patience, persistence.”  ~ Dr. Cornel West Music has a major influence on the public; that influence may be waning, but there is influence nonetheless. Chris Brown’s popular woman-bashing anthem “These [Girls] Aint Loyal,” has had influence on the way loyalty is now perceived.

While loyal may have just been a convenient word to use for him to get his point – or his insistent need to offend his ex Rihanna, in his music – across, it has been apparent that loyalty is a misplaced honour given away far too easily (or unnecessarily expected).

By definition, Loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance. This allegiance, in today’s social media-crazed society, is given to people who have not earned it and, more than likely, do not deserve it. Women, especially, have taken on the burden of being excessively loyal to men that are not worthy of a morsel of relational support.

How did this happen? How has loyalty become an urgency that is no longer merit-based?

According to Josiah Royce, Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, “the true conception of loyalty has been obscured.” Obscured is the right word. Loyalty seems to be buried deep beneath notions of time spent together, returned favors, misguided love and other slant concepts of relational power.

Loyalty within a long-term relationship, in some cases, has been reduced to the mere sentiment of time spent together. Many women feel they have an obligation, often impressed upon them by men, to be loyal if the relationship has spawned many years; the loyalty is given even if there is a clear indication that it’s not warranted. In this case, the line of reasoning would be, “we’ve been together for xx years and I owe him my loyalty.” The logic here is often the reason for an unhappy relationship.

Time may play a major factor when it comes to tolerance, but it does not gain a loyal counterpart. Earned loyalty is a presentation of traits that clearly, without confusion, show a person that you can be trusted and even respected. Within a long-term relationship, there may well be many situations that will bring about loyalties, but it is not the time itself that should be the dominant factor.

There is not ever a reason to be disloyal (my personal beliefs), but being honest – a definite precursor to loyalty - will garnish a sense of whether being loyal to a certain someone is essential to your wellbeing. In this sense, being honest with yourself is in turn a sign of being loyal to yourself. Aren’t you the first person that deserves your loyalty?

With the innate need to nurture, many women are handing out loyalty cards like they are free lunch tickets. It has to remain true that everyone who demands your loyalty should not get it so easily. While women are called to leave their bodies to the imagination, they too should be warned to hoard their loyalties.

So what does it mean to be loyal?

It is my belief that loyalty is the presence of service; the service maybe to a cause, a relationship or a belief system. It is in the service that the action is seen, and that is how a loyal person earns their loyalty. When two people are loyal to one another, they are both loyal to each other and to the love that binds them and serves each other from this standpoint.

So, to Chris Brown we have to question whether loyal was the correct word to use? Perhaps, “These [Girls] Seem to Only Want Me for My Money,” would have been a better title for his song.