Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Strained loyalties

How far should loyalty go? Do you stay loyal to someone regardless of what they've done - crime, cruelty, promiscuity - or do you at some point say, enough is enough, I'm simply not tolerating this, it's harming both of us and it has to stop?

It's easy enough when someone's done something a bit disturbing but of no great consequence. You can turn a blind eye and say, I'm not comfortable with that but what the hell, it's not worth picking a fight over it.

If your partner fiddles their expenses or tells someone they're stupid or keeps flirting with the neighbour, it's not hard to shrug it off as human weakness, remember you've sometimes done the same, and keep the criticism muted.

But if it's something more extreme - they've done a hit-and-run, or they're a workplace bully - do you still find ways of justifying it, or do you unflinchingly condemn them? Where do you draw the line between excusable everyday behaviour and something that's beyond the pale?

I'm always aghast at those people who'll defend their kids/spouses/siblings against the most appalling accusations of fraud, murder or thuggery and insist on their innocence despite everything, forever valuing personal loyalty over other people's interests. Their loved ones can do no wrong and other people are mean, nasty liars.

Women of course were traditionally loyal to their husbands (read slavishly submissive) however vile their behaviour, but thankfully that's a dying attitude and men can get away with a lot less than they used to.

But the people I really admire, on the other hand, are the ones who stand by partners who've done something highly principled but unpopular, like going on strike, and aren't intimidated by all the hostility. No way will they side with the critics for the sake of an easy life.

When I was once in dispute with a workplace manager over a (quite untypical) instance of poor timekeeping, I expected some loyalty from my workmates, especially as we were all in a trade union, but the non-committal and evasive silences were upsetting to say the least. One case where loyalty didn't stretch very far.

30 comments:

Scarlet Blue said...

I don't put up with nonsense when nonsense has been flung about willy-nilly. I draw lines... the ones drawn in pencil are often ambiguous... but don't cross the ones I've penned in ink.
Yes, I will stick up for a friend who has made an unpopular choice, yet what I perceive to be as a correct choice.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - Good for you, drawing lines and not being over-tolerant. Ditto for standing by unpopular choices. Not always easy, but it's really appreciated by the other person.

Rummuser said...

I have great experiences of people being loyal to me, and to the best of my recollection, I have not been disloyal to anyone ever. On the other hand, I suppose that if we keep our expectations realistic, we can avoid experiencing disloyalty. In India particularly, during the last two decades, tremendous change has taken place and one finds loyalty at a premium and that is the reason for my keeping my expectations realistic.

Nick said...

Ramana - That's true. I guess the definition of normal as opposed to outrageous behaviour has expanded considerably in the last few years, with umpteen varieties of corruption and dishonesty now everyday routines.

Grannymar said...

I am a loyal friend, but no way will cover up a law breaking offence. So you better behave Nick!!! ;)

Ursula said...

As so often, Nick, you raise an interesting subject only to let yourself down.

I am fiercely loyal - and I use the word 'fiercely' advisedly. To be loyal to someone does NOT mean that you condone all their actions. Just because someone puts a foot or both wrong, doesn't mean you should drop them like the proverbial hot potato. What sort of friend does that? Sounds more like ships passing in the night. And, as always, do not forget the shoe being on the other foot: How would you feel if someone turned their back on you when life turns pear shape.

Friendship is not expendable.

U

Nick said...

Grannymar - My sentiments entirely. Me, behave? Rules are made to be broken....

Ursula - I've let myself down? You may think that if you wish....

You misunderstand my post. I didn't say I would drop someone the moment they put a foot wrong. On the contrary, my tolerance levels are high and it would take quite a lot to alienate me for good. As I suggested, only something like a serious crime or cruelty or promiscuity would I find hard to forgive.

Suburbia said...

I learnt yesterday that my neighbour had not cast a blind eye but instead reported a colleague at work for hitting someone she was supposed to be caring for in hospital. I admire her and think/hope I would do the same, but she has suffered appalling bullying from other colleagues who think she should have kept quiet. Dreadful that she should suffer this after doing the right thing.

JohnD said...

If one does not know where to draw the line and when to act than they are seriously lacking in the Maturity Stakes! It's not the same for everyone but fortunately most of us have that in-built compass that directs us down the true path and enables us to determine what it is that we each call "right" and "wrong"!

nursemyra said...

I support suburbia's neighbour. It's not easy to report others at work, but hitting a patient is beyond the pale

kylie said...

i often wonder where the line is between loyalty and stupidity and i doubt i will ever have the answer.

i must say i have admired people like hilary clinton and hazel hawke for publicly standing by their men, i think that publicly viewed marriages should at least appear strong until they are dissolved.

as for your disloyal colleagues, i have hoped for but never got loyalty in the workplace, people are just too scared for their own jobs.

Wisewebwoman said...

Loyalty in the workplace? Larf. I've never seen it, never been given it. People are too terrified of losing their jobs.

Just got off the phone today with someone who lost her job because she wouldn't pull her performance back, it was showing up the rest of them. Not one friend did she have to go to bat for her.

Betrayal by friends is something I can't tolerate. I'm talking serious betrayals where their loyalty to me was obviously missing in action.
XO
WWW

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I believe that often when people remain staunchly loyal in the face of indisputable evidence of serious wrongdoing, they are protecting their own egos as much as their loved ones. Denial is far easier to handle than the certainty that they may have married or given birth to a monster.

Nick said...

Suburbia - I guess her workmates just want to maintain the right public image and she's exposed an unpleasant reality that casts suspicion on others. To react by bullying her rather than raising standards is outrageous, but it happens all the time. I hope she eventually gets the thanks she deserves.

Nick said...

John D - I think that's incredibly smug of you, John. In my experience, the line between right and wrong is often hard to see, a situation can be complex and it depends how you look at it. One person will accept an astonishing level of cruelty from their spouse, another will just pack their bags immediately.

Nick said...

Myra - I agree. I'm sure I would report the person straightaway, even if it was a momentary aberration because of some personal crisis.

Kylie - Hillary Clinton is an interesting case in point. Several times I expected her to dump her husband because of his disgraceful behaviour but she decided to stick by him, for whatever reason.

Unfortunately I think you're right, most people are too terrified of losing their jobs to stick their neck out.

Nick said...

www - I've heard of that many times, people being asked to pace themselves and slow down so as not to show up their colleagues. It's incredibly demoralising.

Heart - I agree, they're often protecting their own egos and preventing possible damage to their own reputation. I also agree about people not wanting to accept that there's a monster in the nest.

looby said...

It's very complicated. A friend breaking the law, or being "unfaithful" wouldn't by themselves be a sufficient condition to abandon them. I've broken the law hundreds of times, I've also had two women on the go at the same time (as well as a third in a steamy text-based relationship) so I have to cut others a fair bit of slack.

What a good friend can do though, is to say "You're behaving like a shit towards so-and-so." And then leave you to act upon it.

Nick said...

Looby - I'd concur with all of that. As you say, tell them frankly what you think and then leave them to it. Unless they're about to burn down their granny's house, there's seldom good cause for disowning them.

Megan said...

It would take a lot for me to cut someone off entirely. I'm a "live and let live" sort, but there is definitely a line beyond which I won't go.

Nick said...

Megan - I feel the same. So much misbehaviour is the result of ordinary human weaknesses we all succumb to every day. It would take something truly scandalous to totally cut someone off.

John Gray said...

NICK
people especially at work can frighten each other into inactivity, I always think
mind you, get one person standing up for you and often they all will!
x

Nick said...

John G - You're right. Once one person gets the ball rolling and has the guts to show support, this often encourages others. Unfortunately in my case everyone was spineless.

Secret Agent Woman said...

It may not surprise you to know I think it's complicated. Of course I would stick by a friend who made and unpopular but ethical decision. That's an easy one. But if someone I loved did something wrong, it would depend. Was the wrong-doing something that was intentionally cruel or destructive? Well, I wouldn't stop loving them but I wouldn't defend them. I have a brother who did something rather horrible - I would not defend him, but he didn't stop being my brother. I know there is nothing, absolutely nothing, my sons could do that would make me reject them, even if I could not defend them. But for lesser things - say a friend who had an affair or whatever, of course I'd stand by them. My job as a friend isn't to judge but to love them.

Nick said...

Agent - Good point about the distinction between not defending someone and rejecting them. In fact being a good friend should mean being honest if you think they've done something objectionable, and not simply turning a blind eye.

Macy said...

Hmmm, this one's complicated Nick. There's a danger of over romanticising loyalty.

Nick said...

Macy - That's true. Blind loyalty regardless of all ethical considerations is absurd, but some people seem to think that's the way to go.

blackwatertown said...

Test.

blackwatertown said...

Test.

Nick said...

Blackwater - What are you up to?