Loyalty is a commodity, not a commandment

After two years at my first job, the time came to submit my letter of resignation to management.

The founders read it and asked me to stand up and make a quick announcement to the team about leaving. People stopped what they were doing, looked up from their computers, listened attentively to my few words of gratitude and farewell, nodded their heads, and immediately went back to work.

No comments, no follow up questions, no hugs and no high fives. It was the most anticlimactic moment of my life.

In fact, the only sound was my naïve heart learning an important lesson about loyalty.

People overstate the social risks of changing. We assume that everyone will feel betrayed when they hear about us making a major life transition and leaving them behind.

When in reality, most of them will move on and adapt in a matter of hours or days, if they even notice at all. Because sadly, life is not like one of those culminating scenes in an action movie where the hero holds out his bloody hand to the other guy and says, let’s finish this the way we started it, together.

Doesn’t play out like that in the real world. Even if our reptilian brains do seek trust, belonging and purpose from people, in the end, as my favorite philosopher once wrote, loyalty is a commodity, not a commandment.

Or as my favorite comedian once said, people are only as faithful as their options.

Or as my favorite cartoonist once said, employers won’t hesitate to fire you at the drop of a hat for any reason that fit their business needs.

Now, loyalty can be a noble virtue, no doubt. But that subject has been beaten like a rented mule.

And so, let’s run a thought experiment.

Loyalty can be wildly impractical and downright dangerous.

Think about it. People have used the word loyalty to manipulate others into staying in some pretty messed up situations.

Employers use loyalty to trick employees into accepting otherwise crappy working conditions or low pay.

Husbands use loyalty to coerce fearful women to stay in physically abusive relationships.

Relatives use loyalty to demand the financial support for family members for their outrageous schemes.

Where’s the virtue in that? It’s consistency for consistency’s sake. Holding onto something that isn’t nourishing, just because we love a streak.

But remember, just because we have a history together doesn’t mean we have a future together.

In fact, if we stay extremely loyal to someone who doesn’t even deserve it, we might remain in harmful situations for too long.

What if you did whatever was best for the future in the current situation, unbound by the past?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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