“If all my friends were to jump off a bridge, I wouldn’t follow. I’d be at the bottom to catch them when they fall.”

 – Anonymous

One of my weaknesses, according to my mother, is that I’m too loyal to my friends.  Out of loyalty to my mother I’m not going to go into why her opinion on that matter doesn’t hold much value for me.  We are like chalk and cheese in that regard, and there is not much we see eye to eye on.  I’m learning to accept that, and I still love her.

I’ve never seen loyalty as a weakness, although I accept that at times my loyalty has hurt me.  That’s where it gets hard.  At what point do I protect myself from hurt, because sure hurt is part of life.  If I don’t risk hurt, then am I really alive?

What is loyalty?  Out of curiosity, and amusement, I looked up the Urban Dictionary.  It defines loyal as:

“Faithful to a person or a cause;  firmly in alliance
to somebody or 
something.   Always there for

somebody when they need you.”  (1.)

As a comparison, the Oxford Dictionary (the one I grew up with) defines it as:

“giving or showing firm and constant  support
or allegiance to a person”

From both of those definitions, I’m still inclined to refuse to see loyalty as a weakness.  Actually I don’t think there is enough of it in our world today.  Wouldn’t it be great if we believed in the people who matter to us, and stood by them, no matter what?

Actually I’m inclined to believe that mental illness wouldn’t be such a big problem if we stood by our friends.  I’m not denying the seriousness of mental illness, but I am convinced that it’s effects are made worse because of isolation and a lack of care for each other.

I’m not one of those people who has hundreds of friends on Facebook.  I know plenty of people but regardless of Facebook’s definition of ‘friend’ I choose my friends because they are people who matter to me personally.  There is something wrong when I can have hundreds, if not thousands, of ‘friends’ but not have one that I can turn to in need.

Even aside from social media I don’t have a whole lot of people that I count as friends, but those that I do can know that I believe in them and I will support them, no matter what.  It’s not my place to judge anyone, ever.  Although don’t get me wrong, I choose my friends very carefully.  I guess in a way you have to earn your friendship with me, and I repay that with loyalty.  I will always stand by people I call my friends.

But yes, sometimes that hurts.  And it has hurt over the past week as I have chosen to be loyal to a friend I love.  Not because that friend has hurt me in any way, but because I have chosen to share the hurt they are experiencing.

I’m not a parent but I am sure it is the same as how a parent can get hurt in loving their child.  Sometimes there is pain, but that’s not a reason to not love.  As I write, it occurs to me that sometimes it hurts me to love my mother.  But I still do, and I will still stand by her.

Actually I think it’s a shame that Facebook chose to name connections with others as ‘friends’.  It’s taken the meaning out of the word.  ‘Friends’ to Facebook are simply connections you have made, and not necessarily people who matter.  I think this cheapens, and degrades the real meaning.

Out of curiosity again I went back to the Urban Dictionary, because it’s definitions offered more sense of warmth than the Oxford.  It suggested a range of definitions of a friend, including this one:

“A person who would never intentionally hurt you, lie to you, deceive you, manipulate you, abuse you and who takes great care to be kind to you, honest with you, dependable and loyal. Someone who you trust without question because they have never given you any reason not to trust them. Someone you enjoy being around and look forward to seeing. Someone who would sacrifice themself for you.”  (3.)

I know that asks a lot, but it’s not too much for someone who offers the same back to me.  Because that’s the thing about friendship.  It goes both ways, and while I might have hurt for a friend this past week, maybe they will hurt for me next week.  It’s not that I do it for that reason, but there are benefits both ways, always.  Meantime I stand by the people I choose to call friends.  It doesn’t matter whether I have met them in person, or not.  I’ve made my decision and I will stand by them.

As regular readers will know, I am a fan of NZ music and I particularly like Dave Dobbyn.  This song is almost an over-played one in my country, but for good reason.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

―    Henri J.M. Nouwen,    The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey


15 thoughts on “Loyal

  1. I think there is a difference between loyalty and going along with someone/something because you feel you’d have nothing else. I have been loyal to those who did not deserve it because I didn’t want to lose them. Loyalty should never put you in harms way unless the person truly deserves it.

  2. John Richardson

    I like your definition of friend but I must say you have set the bar quite high. I’ve always tried to judge people based on how they treat me, not based on what I hear from others. Sometimes others see things you don’t and sometimes they are right. However, friendship is so important we can’t let others decide who our friends are. We have to make those decisions ourselfs. I believe loyalty is one of the most important virtues a person can have, but loyalty is something that is earned, like trust. It takes time to develope deep friendships and I doubt that many of us have many friends like that. Most of us could use more. You may not be able to become friends in the traditional sense through social media but you can learn about people and over time learn to respect them. Respect is one of the first steps in a relationship that can make living worth while. It’s hard when you lose respect for a good friend. It happened with my best friend in high school. Sometimes things happen and in spite of the importance of loyalty you need to move on. I just hope that doesn’t happen for any of us very often. I do believe that if we all had more good friends there would be less mental illness. The thing about good friends is that you can laugh with them, and laughter is the best medicine.

    1. You’re quite right that loyalty is earned, and is not just given away without thought. And I agree that sometimes there is the need to move on, regardless of what has gone before although it is sad when that happens. I’ve always been accused of setting my standards too high, and if that is right it probably explains why, at times, I get hurt. While that might make me more careful I don’t see why, for example, my friendship with you should be determined by the occasional bad experience I might have had in the past. Surely that would be judging you (or whoever it was) on that experience. I hope that makes sense. 🙂

      1. John Richardson

        It makes a lot of sense Cate. It shows your tender heart is still beating and that you’re still engaged with life. Our experiences can sometimes cause us to become so wary that we end up shutting down. There is risk to life and the joy that is there waiting for us somewhere makes it worth the risk.

  3. Very nice blog post. What do I seek in a friend? I think… compassion, tolerance and humour. I look for friends with the ability to realise I’m human and will mess up… and can fight with me, disagree with me, but respect my differences, stand by me when I need it and forgive me when I’m a total ass. I expect my friends to be honest with me and I expect them to be kind. I hope that I have made their lives brighter or better for knowing me, but I don’t expect them to be totally loyal to anyone but themselves.

  4. jumpingonclouds

    I have a lot of respect for how highly you regard friendship. I suppose there are various levels of friendship (acquaintance, social, and core), which is helpful in determining where people stand within the friendship circle. I spent many, many years wasting my best energy and love on people who trampled it. I now have several core friends who honor me as I honor and respect them. True friendship is a beautiful thing. Thanks for sharing this post with us. 🙂

    1. Thanks. I think you are right that there are different levels of friendships, and what one person would call an acquaintance another would call a friend. I think it’s a very individual thing too, often based on our past experiences. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not so good but hey, we’re always learning. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Neglected Friends | Infinite Sadness… or hope?

  6. Ben Williams

    I completely agree with everything that has been mentioned on this page, I have a best friend and we have been so for 9 years now. At first it was great, but after about 3 year well I don’t know, the reason why we started being friends because we had a lot in common compared to everyone else around us. We understand each other, still today. We had arguments but it always worked out. I miss how it was like this. I suppose I really do allow my self to give someone too much Loyalty. Our Friendship still almost works, however I feel I get no Loyalty because of how I have become from my disorders, I don’t know if its just that. Before I continue there where times in the 3 years that I punched him because he kept irritating me, but he would forgive and I don’t anymore as I grew up and learned to keep it inside. So really I feel guilty in a way for this, but he used to make me feel guiltily about it, telling people we met about that, in times where we fall out he gets annoyed about how our friends always support me not him and this makes me feel terrible. I have always stood up for him and got in trouble for him, lied most things (within legal bounds obviously) because of the good times we had and still do. I know this most likely sounds like I should get rid of this friend but errr I just feel like I would be the worst person on the planet if I did it. He needs a good friend now like I do, to be honest I think the reason he has changed to how he is because he has disorders of his own, I stand by him for the slightly the “there is no one else” but more so because I believe I can change him to his old self and we have so much in common, no one in our school has the same interests as we both do, there are of cause some things I hate he loves vice versa.

    Wow I bet if anyone reads this you will think I have totally lost it, well you would be harf right there but I lost it years ago. (Plus sorry for the terrible grammar)

    1. Hi Ben, I don’t think you’ve lost it but I do think you’re in a really hard situation that often there is no right or wrong answer for. My experience is that other people will try to tell us what to do, and often it seems we get told to dump friends. I’m not convinced. Sometimes its worth it for both of you to give it another chance. What does your gut feeling tell you? Even if that is different to wha others say the thing is that you have to live with your decision and so should make your decision based on your own feelings. I wish you luck in working out what is right for you. Cate

      1. Williams

        Thank you, I believe my self that its on one of those in the middle situations, we get along most of the time in fact all the time apart from today he lost his Grandfather on Christmas night and well I don’t know people’s emotions infect me a lot, so I sat down with him and went through how to deal with it as I have had to many times. By the way this post is going to be completely off topic now, I feel really sorry for him he just did not need that now OK you never do but as I said he is suffering really badly from a mental illness, but in my mind he is taking the event too far, now this is because I think of his mental illness but he won’t tell me what it is so I can’t specifically help and well he has lied to me many times before about things, plus some of the things he said where a bit insensitive. I lost my Farther at the age of 4 so I completely understand what is he is going through and my Grandparents but I know the first is worse and a lot worse but he basicly tolled me that my losses where not as bad as his. Then again and I changed my name, Erm if you can could you change my name in the other post to this too or can I, I will check, OK back on onto the subject, his Parents and I know I don’t live their but he comes last in priority and to be honest I think his Parents are insensitive and completely the oppersit to supportive and they don’t like me OK they have one reason but they see me as below his intellect. I wish he would do what is best for him and move away from them when he can but I carn’t advise that as he would well say things I don’t know if he has lead to my causes of SAD
        or not but I’am glad I met him and I do feel incredibly sorry for him and he is getting help like me, if he could be him self I just know we would be like we used to be. That is what I hold on to.

        Thanks again, I love reading this blog!

        Before I make this too long can I ask a quick question, would you advise doing a blog for someone with a mental illness? I’am sure I do have Social Anxiety Disorder and going to be assessed in a few days. I would do one as I think letting it out helps but I just worry if someone I know read it as School can be a very contained environment and I don’t know how I would feel about some people that I know knew what is going on in my head.

      2. I think writing a blog can be a good thing if you find expressing yourself in words helpful. But on the other hand the point you raise about people knowing you and reading it is very difficult. A lot of people write an anonymous blog and I guess that’s always an option, but then my belief is that whatever is on the internet can be found eventually. I guess another alternative would be to write a private blog so that people who you choose can read it but it can’t be searched on the search engines. It’s really a matter of working our what you want to achieve from your blog. Maybe a private journal would work just as well. Good luck in working that out.

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