Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Loyalty

Yesterday, I watched an interesting movie. It is called "Breach" and is about the Robert Hanssen spy case. As far as I'm concerned, it is the best spy movie since "The Falcon and The Snowman".
But this isn't a movie review.

Both movies were interesting character studies and it got me to thinking about loyalty, how we form loyalties, how we maintain them and how betrayal leads to larger betrayals. It also made me think about how important loyalty is to our identities.

Robert Hanssen seemed to be a person without roots. He attached himself to his interests with extreme intensity but the intensity was only on the surface. His conservative Catholicism rated right alongside his interest in guns and there seemed to be no differentiation or compartmentalization. He also struck me a person who was surrounded by community but never felt "a part of".

I am not advocating spying, of course. I dislike all forms of betrayal from the minute to the global. It's all the same. I don't quantify it.

What matters in this is not national security or state secrets. What matters is how we form community and where loyalty fits into that. What caused Robert Hanssen, Ed Howard, Rick Ames, John Walker or any of the other more famous spies to betray the national security establishment to which they belonged?

For me, there can be no community without loyalty. They are inextricably linked. I am also a person who forms strong loyalties which makes it hard for me to understand more casual connections or strictly utilitarian connections.

I can't imagine a life without loyalties. It is my foundation, my root. It is what keeps me connected to the planet. Without loyalty, it would feel like being lost in outer space.

Loyalty is linked to security. We get loyalty by giving it and it is an integral part of feeling safe in the world.

So what about Robert Hanssen?

The only thing I can think is that he felt so betrayed that he was unable to develop the loyalty necessary to want to protect his community. He is a complex man apparently, but lacks the insight to see it or express it. One line in the movie really grabbed me. Hanssen talks about how "the US can be likened to a powerfully built but retarded child." The motivation may have started as a desire to prove a point, then a slow burn into addiction ~ making fools of those that would not listen. I think it also fed an emotional need to feel connected to something strong and powerful that pretended to value him by giving him money and praise.

So what are your thoughts on loyalty?


crazymumma said...

Hey. I'm the first!

In the past I have been loyal to a fault. Then to my dismay I found several took advantage of that.

Now, my loyalty lies mainly with my immediate family. I stay loyal, but also watchful.

flutter said...

oh sorry I couldn't get past how cute the photo is, who took it?

ewe are here said...

My loyalty to my family is fierce.

I also consider loyalty one of the most important traits in my friendships ... as long as it's not abused.

Ian Lidster said...

A gunshot wound is less injurious than betrayal. I did once betray and still suffer guilt from having done so. But, I have also been betrayed, and perhaps that was divine justice.

Angela said...

This is a sticky-wicket for me, personally. I am fiercely loyal...yes, to a fault. And I always assume that *everyone* is. Which is when I get myself burned. Extending loyalty to those who don't reciprocate has probably caused me some of the worst pain in my life. But relationships without loyalty feel shallow to me. Meaningless.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I think loyalty is extremely important, and I'm still learning that the psyche of our "throw away" society seems to feel that people (friends, spouses, sometimes family members) can be thrown away with the ease with which we throw away objects we no longer want.

Thailand Musings said...

It's a shame that what Jen writes has become more true in today's western society. True loyalty is very difficult to find and maintain. Too some degree this can be blamed on our throw away culture, but the fact that many of us no longer have a community to associate ourselves with can be blamed as well. In the past people knew their neighbors, educators, business people and they associated themselves with the people in their communities (towns, villages, neighborhoods). It is this closeness that leads to trust, respect, love and loyalty.

Seems that these days no one wants to be bothered with anything or anyone that doesn't benefit them directly and once that benefit is gone they move on. It's the "Me" generation and it's really a shame. Too many people no longer form connections with others and with the communities they live in and these connections are vital to developing loyalty. IMHO

thailandchani said...

Crazymumma, yes! You are first. :) I have a hard time confining my loyalty, even when it is not returned. I know reciprocity is healthy with that.. but I have to learn that still.


Flutter, it's a stock photo from Google images. It really is cute though. I agree. :)


Ewe, I'm not sure loyalty can be abused. I know what you're saying but it occurs to me that loyalty isn't the "my friend, right or wrong" thing.. but more "I'll stand by you, even when you make horrible mistakes. Perhaps I won't even be able to be around you - but I will still stand by you."

It's a new issue for me.. exploring this.


Ian, I hope the "tit for tat" goes away. If you learned from it, all you can do is let it go.

I have also betrayed in the past. We all have.


Angela, I do agree and can't stand hollow relationships. I don't do casual friendships well.. and I'm still a bit confused on the loyalty issue. I need to think about it some more.


JenA2, yes... instant food, instant intimacy and disposable people. That does seem to be the cultural ethic here. Sad, really, because so many people are missing out - are unhappy and isolated.


Steve or Golf - (I don't know which of you is writing the comment :) - It's definitely cultural.. and everything you say is true. Community is on the group mind right now though. We may even see some changes. Today during my sobriety support group conference call, we were discussing this very issue. Loyalty is peripheral to it only in the regard that lack of community is rampant. Maybe we should start figuring out how to deal with community and loyalty will come as a natural result.



meno said...

I find that i am generally more loyal than most people. But if i am loyal to you, and you value that loyalty, i am yours forever.

liv said...

great post!

Mariposa said...

Loyalty is important to me...nothing hurts me more than a betrayal from a person whom I least expect it from.

Olivia said...

Loyalty is everything to me. I can't imagine having a friend who is not loyal. That would not be a friend.

I lost a "good friend" recently. Someone...we'll call him Erin...did something that I thought was highly unethical. My friend, who I'll call Donna, said "Well, I've known Erin for 20 years and you for only 5 so I'll keep Erin as a friend since I've known him longer". This isn't loyalty to me. In fact, Donna is probably incapable of loyalty. It doesn't matter how long you've known someone, but how dedicated someone is to you and to truth and honesty and high ideals.

Loyalty demands you talk to both people. It doesn't matter who you've been friends with longer. You keep the friend whose integrity matches yours (that's assuming you have integrity). This is loyalty.

Loyalty also means that you believe the best about those you love. You are realistic and grounded in truth, but until you have a reason to question your loved one, you believe in them. If you find out about a betrayal or a problem, you handle it, to the best of your ability with love, out of loyalty.

Loyalty also demands that you don't lie to protect another person, though. For me, loyalty is grounded in honesty and truth.

Well, lots of random thoughts. Good topic, me thinking about loyalty!!

I finished "The Ascent of Humanity" tonight. What a tome...what a life-changing tome...the best book I've ever read. Collapsed my worldview and given me another so that I feel better about being here, now. It took so much work, work that paid off in that has given me a culture that supersedes countries and boundaries and that unites me with like-minded people.

I am going to Hawaii in 5 days...I identify with indigenous people there. I am so much better prepared after reading AOH.

I will look forward to talking to you about this in the future, my friend!

Sacred Sunday Blessings and Love,


niobe said...

This is one of those topics that makes me feel as if I've been punched in the stomach. The people I've loved most have all betrayed me in really quite spectacular, creative, unexpected ways.

Girl on the Run... said...

I too saw this movie and thought it was great! Loyalty is for me like the blanket was to Linus. Something I long for always and never willing to give up. Fierce and protective like a mother bear yet... I have found that it is the most difficult of all to ascertain. For the mere bribe or change of opinion loyalty can be lost at the drop of a dime! Such a shame because it can be such an attribute. You never know who your real family/friends are till it cimes time for them to be loyal~ All the best, M

Julie Pippert said...

I think loyalty, healthy loyalty, is a natural extension of healthy attachment, and can reflect solid morals, when taught.

Barring that...yeah, it's dysfunctional, and ephemeral.

I agree with Jen who said our culture isn't as fixed as it once was, which interferes with attachment and loyalty.

But I also had a concept several people shared with me in the assertive discussion come to mind: it varies by perspective, right?

People who say loyalty is everything make me nervous. I can't think of a way that at some point we aren't gong to step on one another's toes, which means at some point, someone is going to get offended. If we've decided that any breach of loyalty is a I think it's more important to consider how and what.

Does that make any sense?

Christine said...

loyalty is very important to me. that said i think blind loyalty can be dangerous and lead to hurt.

Running on empty

Angela said...

I agree with you, Chani, one of the best movies I've seen in awhile and I had almost forgotten about it!

Loyalty is very important in my life. I offer it and usually, I receive it back. When I don't it hurts really bad.

Anonymous said...

I had to think about this one for a while, too, because everyone's definition of loyalty falls somewhere different on a fairly broad spectrum.

While loyalty is undeniably a positive trait, I'm too much of an individualist to feel comfortable within the constraints that accompany relationships or situations that depend upon it heavily. Especially such as spying.

OMG - i cannot get my comment finished because these kids will not be put off any longer. We're going to play, of all things, Simon Says.

Aliki2006 said...

I really respect loyalty, and I'm often surprised and let-down by how little it's valued today.

I liked that film, too.