Loyalty is one of those complicated subjects that can touch a nerve. It is like a two-edged sword; it can make life worthwhile and also hurt us. Loyalty is an important subject that is worth thinking about because issues around different types of loyalty and disagreements about loyalty expectations are part of our social fabric and the cause of much harm in the lives of humans. Many of these issues have a long and difficult history.
Loyalty comes in many flavors and means different things to different people. Ideas about loyalty have changed as we humans have changed. Here are five different types of loyalty used in human culture:
- for some, loyalty is an absolute whether it is loyalty to a tribe or religion. Loyalty under these circumstances means loyalty not only overtly to the group, but also the beliefs, practices and expected behaviors. Since groups that seek absolute loyalty create dependency in their members, escape can be difficult.
- loyalty demands can manifest in rules and role requirements that have nothing to do with the individual’s abilities. These kinds of demands can feel like a kind of rejection of the individual, a yoke of slavery to group norms.
- for others, loyalty is extremely conditional. This is the type of person who operates on the “what have you done for me lately?” premise. The point of view of this kind of loyalty is economic rather than institutional.
- others think everyone deserves at least some loyalty since we are all “in this” together. The point of view of this person is universal.
- another type of loyalty is loyalty based on the inherent dignity of all living creatures, a kind of transcendent and transpersonal loyalty. This is the most spiritual kind of loyalty.
Getting A Handle On Different Types Of Loyalty
Loyalty on a one-on-one basis isn’t too difficult and is sometimes straightforward and based on the quality of the relationship. However, when you add the complex expectations of societal structures, loyalty can become messy. In all kinds of loyalty expectations, there are values underlying them that are often tied to the identities or mindsets of people. This is why changing the values in an individual or a society can be difficult. People create lives around their values and identities.
Sensitive people have a challenge with loyalty that others may not have. Since they feel very deeply, it means they may act on values that others may not have. If I were to characterize sensitive loyalty, it would be of the universal and spiritual kind. Unfortunately, this brand of loyalty may not be valued or reciprocated by others causing an serious emotional pain for sensitive people.
It is very important for sensitive people to recognize the type of loyalty in those around them so that they form realistic expectations about their relationships with others. Errors in expectations can create a lot of hurt which sensitive people do not recover from easily. As part of a self-care program, a sensitive person need to take care of their relationship expectations.
Generous values are great but they are not universally shared. Tribal and fixed mindsets may have a more limited idea of appropriate loyalty. Finding like-minded people to work and socialize with can be a healthy form of self-protection for sensitive people.