Being loyal to a fault is a fault.
Let’s face it- our culture can be incredibly superficial. We can love and adore a brand, organization, icon, superhero, ideal, author, artist… you name it. As soon as a bit of bad publicity comes out, they make a mistake (heaven forbid!), something or someone better, newer, shinier, prettier, or more popular arrives on the scene, and shockingly enough, our loyalties shift. The new thing is so much better. Out with the old, in with the new.
So let’s talk about loyalty in friendships. We LOVE the word loyalty as long as it works in our favor. We love those friends who support us, no matter what decisions we make. They have got our backs, no matter what. These friends are highly esteemed and favored in our culture. It’s as if we are continuously broadcasting, “You are welcome with me as long as you welcome my dysfunctions, bad attitude, poor decisions, and toxic traits.” Is this type of thinking truly in our best interests? Is it possible that these are the same friends who cheer you on as you trainwreck your life, family, other relationships, health, relationship with God and then rally around you and say, “I’m so sorry that happened. Poor you!”
Is this friendship? Do we want this kind of loyalty really?
Love, on the other hand, is when someone is brave enough to question the velocity, speed, or direction of your train, when they are willing to address your physical, mental, or spiritual health and offer to help you protect and guard it. Love steps in when they see how your behaviors are affecting the health of your loved ones and offer words of encouragement and warning, even if it’s highly uncomfortable or painful for you both. The motive is genuine love.
We won’t often practice courage and address someone’s dangerous train because we don’t want to hurt them, be seen as bad, aren’t sure how to perfectly say it, or we flat out don’t care.
If this is the case, don’t call yourself a friend. Consider yourself an acquaintance. Weighing things, situations, people, or activities as good or bad is exhausting and can lead to judgemental hearts and cowardly spirits when we view things as good and bad all the time.
The better question is, “Is this loving….?”
Is it loving to myself, God, and the people around me to engage in…?
Is it loving to myself, God, and the people around me to encourage…?
Is it loving to myself, God, and the people around me to talk like…?
Is it loving to myself, God, and the people around me to act like…?
Here’s the thing with love; it doesn’t control, demand, push, shame, or punish. It gives freedom for free will and allows natural consequences to step in and do what consequences are meant to do — teach greater lessons. But real love is never absent. It’s present when the burden is great, the pain is real, and the lessons are shaping the heart, soul, and mind of a person who is willing to learn the lessons.
A friend who is truly loving, isn’t far from reach, even if they’ve had to separate themselves from situations, antics, or dynamics that they cannot entangle themselves in for any number of reasons.
Perhaps the situation is emotionally triggering, reminding them of situations they’ve experienced themselves that are incredibly painful and they aren’t sure how to cope.
Perhaps they’ve watched cycles repeat themselves and every cycle brings them more despair so they must walk away for their own health and sanity.
Perhaps they have other priorities that require emotional energy and they don’t have to give what your situation needs.
Perhaps they are choosing to pray instead of engage.
Perhaps they’ve simply had enough.
These choices are not disloyal, nor are they unloving. Everyone gets to choose. Just as we can choose to trainwreck our lives, we can choose to step back from other people’s trainwrecks that affect our health on any level for any reason. We get to choose.
In a culture saturated with people who struggle with loneliness, depression, shallow connections, and feeling misunderstood, we must ask ourselves if we are seeking people to be our fans, our applause, and will be loyal to us and our egos no matter where the fickle winds blow us or do we want friends, people who will graciously and lovingly speak truth, wisdom, grace, and wisdom into our lives?
What do you want, really, from the people around you and what kind of person are you to your friends? A loyal fan or a loving friend?