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Is Loyalty Overrated?


This has been a post for a while in the making. I’m not sure when the idea first struck me, but I’ve been playing around with it in my head and have come to no conclusions.  So I’ll present my thoughts and confusion to you and ask for your views.

The question is simple: is loyalty overrated as a virtue?

At the risk of offending many, my first instinct is to say, ‘Yes, it is.’

We’ve all heard the tales of loyalty – and marveled at people who gave their all for their family, their religion, their country or whatever cause they were dedicated to. They have filled us with awe and deep within we’re always trying to live up to these men and women – often falling short.

But I begin to wonder if loyalty is all it is made out to be when I see Sanjay Dutt’s family having to put up with his bad choices time and again. His sister, Priya, seems to have taken on the mantle being his defender from her parents, often at the cost of losing her own dignity.

I have seen people tolerating insults, put downs and being used in the name of loyalty. I know that I have tolerated a lot of them in my own life in the name of loyalty to my friends. Then there are parents who through various ways, subtle and overt, try to control the behavior and choices of their children. The children, even after they’re grown, find it hard to see this controlling behavior for what it is. After all, they have learnt that loyalty to their parents is paramount.

When it’s a toss up between truth and loyalty – we see that loyalty seems to win at the cost of truth. History is full of examples of employees covering up for bosses, wives covering up for husbands, children becoming the victims of ‘family secrets’ that have to be kept in the name of loyalty. Loyalty to religion and religious figures leads people to tolerate terrible abuse. Loyalty to country often sees thousands being used as cannon fodder by governments who are at best misguided or power hungry at worst. The list of the victims of loyalty seem to be endless.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche tells us that: “Society tames the wolf into a dog. And man is the most domesticated animal of all.” Could it be that loyalty is a form of social conditioning that keeps us from being completely true to ourselves?

Photo Credit: cyborgsuzy via Compfight cc


  1. […] to be as honest as I can about my relationship with my Mum. I remember writing a post about loyalty being overrated and saying this in response to a comment:  I have sometimes observed people being more loyal to a […]

  2. Karen Karen June 13, 2013

    A great topic indeed. A week ago I just had the chinese symbol for loyalty tatooed on my ankle.
    For me, loyalty is paramount in a relationship with my significant other. I think some of the examples given, that tend to see loyalty in a negative light can be mistaken for abuse, emotional blackmail, etc. To me, loyalty to my partner and vice versa, is that incredible feeling that you will always be committed to one another unconditionally. This does not mean that a couple should tolerate anything that is abusive in a relationship, but the mere fact that the bond they share is so solid, that they never have to question if the other will be there. All they need to do is turn, and they will see their other half standing vigilantly by. Loyalty and trust go hand in hand for me.

  3. My Inner Chick My Inner Chick June 6, 2013

    ~~~I was just talking to my girlfriend, Tia — “You know the ONE word I’d use to describe you to others ?”
    “What?” she asked.
    “Loyal” I said.
    “Because you are always there when I need you. You are honest. You’d never reveal my secrets. You listen. You respect me…..And you put up with my shit and craziness…and still love me! That’s why.”
    ….this is what it means to me anyhow.
    xxx LOVE
    My Inner Chick recently posted..Flickers Of Light In A Dark UniverseMy Profile

  4. Vishnu Vishnu June 2, 2013

    I’ve been thinking a lot about loyalty too in my life Corinne and wanted to make sure to add my 2 cents. There are a lot of issues with loyalty that I’ve been thinking about and wanting to explore. I feel loyalty in my life to my family, spiritual practices, country, my work (in politics where loyalty is highly-regarded) but regularly wonder if it’s healthy to be so loyal. I don’t think it is so wonder how I can be a little less loyal. Even if I want to, loyalty is such a strong concept, emotion, it’s hard to break away from it.

    I, like Ayush, would like to think loyalty is give and take. But I think I tend to be more committed to loyalty and often don’t expect loyalty from the people or concepts I’m being loyal to. Thought-provoking post.

  5. Ayush Chauhan Ayush Chauhan May 31, 2013

    Hi Corinne, I have been meaning to read this for a while now, I am glad I finally got the time, because it is a topic where I would love to comment. I couldn’t disagree more, I think loyalty is a virtue of paramount importance, need a an example, would you like an unfaithful partner?
    What a lot of comments here did was to use the word loyalty for peer pressure.
    Remember loyalty is give and take, just like any other social interactions….you are loyal to someone and in return that someone trusts you.
    Ayush Chauhan recently posted..May photo a day: 4 thingsMy Profile

    • Lia Lia November 5, 2016

      I believe the word you’re looking for is fidelity, which in itself is a virtue. I never liked the word loyalty because it has a connotation of unconditional and obligatory, neither of which describe my love or faithfulness for the reasons the Ayush described.

  6. Debbie Debbie May 28, 2013

    Interesting question! Yes, I do think, in great measure that loyalty IS overrated. Personal example: For years, I was loyal to my employer; even turned down a few other job offers. Worked up to 60 hours a week, (to the detriment of my personal life), and for what? Just to get turfed when they wanted to economize. They certainly didn’t have any loyalty to me! Such stupidity on my part taught me that loyalty must be tempered by common sense, and rational thought, with an eye towards what is best for you. On the other hand, loyalty has become quite a rare commodity and I believe it is still a quality to be admired, as long as it isn’t blind.
    Debbie recently posted..#8sunday WEEKEND WRITING WARRIORS; MAY 26/13My Profile

  7. Ron Ron May 27, 2013

    Hi Corinne –

    An intriguing post indeed. I do believe that we need to be true to ourselves first, but like many concepts, I think loyalty is a grossly misinterpreted term, and it is in the moment and relevant to that circumstance. We can be blindly loyal to those we love circumventing some realities (indiscretions), and we can be loyal to an ideal. I think at times we justify our own loyalty to sooth our own souls or to overlook (ignore) our own fallibility. Wed only question our own loyalty when it slaps us in the face…so how honest was our loyalty in the first place? What did we ignore about ourselves and others that led us to this revelation? Loyalty to one’s self and some around us is an extension of faith and trust. It is a delicate dance to be sure.

    My 2 cents worth – Great Post!

  8. Adriene Adriene May 27, 2013

    Quite a thought-provoking post, Corinne. I agree that loyalty should come hand in hand with common sense and self respect. It should be thoughtful and conscious, not automatic. However, I do value loyalty as an admirable quality. If I find that something is no longer worth my loyalty, does that mean I should do the opposite and side against that thing? Maybe, depending on the circumstance but most of the times it’s just a matter of focusing energies elsewhere. It’s all about integrity. I guess as someone who has endured a number of devastating betrayals in my life, I’d say loyalty is virtue indeed.
    Adriene recently posted..illuminationMy Profile

  9. Rachna Rachna May 26, 2013

    I agree, loyalty is often misplaced and perhaps outdated as well. There are times when people are manipulated by a sense of misplaced loyalty. A food for thought post, Corinne.

  10. Lazy Pineapple Lazy Pineapple May 26, 2013

    Yes I feel that loyalty is overrated and it is a type of social conditioning. Most of us feel obliged to do certain things for friends and family out of loyalty and also love.

    I feel all of us practice it, sometimes not to hurt others by showing what we truly think and sometimes we are also lazy so we fall into the usual rhythm of social niceties.
    Lazy Pineapple recently posted..Winner of Caption Contest 22 “You think you are funny?”My Profile

  11. hitchy hitchy May 26, 2013

    In many ways doesn’t loyalty tell you to behave as per your memory and not as per the moment?

    Our heart is instinctive and impulsive… but loyalty comes out of thinking… I don’t know if I make sense… but… if you get what I mean
    hitchy recently posted..Aaj Main Upar…My Profile

  12. Ruchira Ruchira May 25, 2013

    Corinne, interesting topic of debate.

    Loyalty sometimes could also be a judgement call if many souls unite over an issue. Now, this issue could be a wrong one or a correct call.

    Currently, there are a few who support some immoral grounds but, with the awareness of atrocities around us; good judgement calls are also supported.

    Happy Saturday 🙂
    Ruchira recently posted..Why do I Blog?My Profile

  13. Shail Shail May 25, 2013

    You have expressed the same misgivings and confusions that I have. From my experience in life so far, i feel loyalty is highly overrated. It is in fact used to keep people in line, whether family, community, religious groups etc. This is precisely the reason why I object to the term, “washing dirty linen in public’. That term implies that there are things you should not talk of. That gives oppressors (in any field or group) the necessary leverage to make people they want to tow their line and also keep their mouths shut. It is a weapon used for control. Not realising that many people blithely talk about being ‘loyal’. Loyalty methinks, should be towards what is right, truth, not towards family, spouse, children, friends.
    Shail recently posted..Bloggers meet with a difference: Destination KufriMy Profile

  14. Talya Tate Boerner Talya Tate Boerner May 25, 2013

    I think loyalty is underrated. When there is no truth or sincerity behind the action or words, it is pain or fear or something else misguided being paraded as loyalty. Great topic.

  15. G Angela G Angela May 25, 2013

    Loyalty is being true to oneself first as rightly said by Janu, very often self gets sacrificed in the name of loyalty, and I have also found many a times how in the name of loyalty, people control relationships and so often we too can get victimized.
    It is very painful and frustrating to discover suddenly that in the name loyalty, one has been exploited and taken for a ride. In my situation, I could see that so clearly happening in in mine and my husband’s life. Today I am glad that situations have changed, and together we can see what has been happening, and now gradually we are able to find strength in each other.

    On the other hand I agree with what Suzy says, Loyalty is all about loving persons, and standing by them, without being worried about what others think of us. Ultimately its a matter of our own choice to stand by truth, and to stand by our own words. Thanks Corinne ! it was nice to read, and so many things came to my mind, glad to be here ! hugs to you !

  16. Suzy Suzy May 25, 2013

    A very thought provoking post and question. I had to think about this a lot and unfortunately contrary to everyone else’s thoughts here, I don’t believe it is overrated. Loyalty has nothing to do with bullying or giving in – that is fear. The examples of victims in your last para are not examples of loyalty but fear. Being loyal does not mean you support an untruth. Supporting a truth or untruth is a question of ethics. Loyalty is about loving someone and standing by them no matter what, without fear, without worrying about what others think. Loyalty is a love based emotion – there are no victims of loyalty.
    Suzy recently posted..Write Tribe – You only live once.My Profile

  17. ushamenon ushamenon May 25, 2013

    Hi Corinne, you have opened the Pandora’s box. I feel Loyalty to self is a must. If I decide something or form an opinion about someone , I must stick to it.If we go on changing our priorities , then I can never be loyal to anybody/ anyone. That means loyality to ones conscience! That is the hallmark of a refined human being. This applies to our famliy, to our country, to our profession, and our friends.
    ushamenon recently posted..Betrayal Haiku # 249My Profile

  18. Bhavya Bhavya May 25, 2013

    Sadly, loyalty does seem to be over-rated. People are continually getting blackmailed in the name of loyalty to ensure that they do not step outside the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ that is set by the society and the family. Over generations, man had been conditioned to behave in a particular manner, by slowly killing his spirit and injecting someone else’s ideas in the name of loyalty. The quote by Nietzsche sums it up very well.
    Loved this write up Corinne 🙂 <3
    Bhavya recently posted..Because You Live Only OnceMy Profile

  19. B k chowla B k chowla May 25, 2013

    Yes.,loyalty.In my opinion,loyalty should be and must e to one’s family.
    Laoyalty to anyone els eis subjective,is a matter of convinience a matter of give and take
    B k chowla recently posted..WHAT’S THAT?My Profile

  20. blogwatig blogwatig May 25, 2013

    Of course it is! Besides, why do something that you don’t feel? why must you owe something if you can’t get yourself to commit that you do? We raise the stakes too high when we don’t even know the rules of gambling!
    blogwatig recently posted..Here and NowMy Profile

  21. Martha Orlando Martha Orlando May 25, 2013

    Wow, Corinne, you have opened a most thought-provoking can of worms here. I think loyalty is only good when the heart is in the right place. Simply supporting (or, covering up) for someone because he/she is family, friends, boss, co-worker, in spite of their behaviors, sends the wrong message to them and compromises our own integrity. We must know when to gently disagree with or correct others when the need arises, and not be blinded to their faults because of loyalty.
    I’m reminded of what we here in the States call “Kool-Aid Drinkers” – people who support a politician or a platform no matter what crimes/misdemeanors/bad judgment these folks display. It’s as if their whole persona is defined by another person or cause. That, to me, makes no sense. Then, again, I’ve been in those shoes when I was much younger and did not truly know myself as Christ would want me to.
    Did I say enough? 🙂
    Wonderful blog, my friend! Thanks for making us all think!
    Martha Orlando recently posted..A Time and a SeasonMy Profile

  22. Melissa Melissa May 25, 2013

    Hi BS… I think the word ‘loyalty is highly esteemed (OR) in schools as it is given as an award, in professions (long years of service), in the government (belonging to parties) but it is, very shallow for me. It’s more of give and take or gratitude of debt for something that one has done.

    I prefer using the word ‘faithful.’
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  23. Punam Punam May 24, 2013

    Loyalty to one’s words.
    Loyalty to the truth.
    Loyalty to the righteous path in life.
    Loyalty to one’s own commitments.
    Loyalty is not overrated, it’s in fact always under-rated, and easily erased.

  24. privytrifles privytrifles May 24, 2013

    Now this is something I have always faced wrath for as though I have been fiercely loyal I somehow cannot compromise on my ethics and then I have paid heavy price for it.
    privytrifles recently posted..Diary of a daughter- 2My Profile

  25. Kandy Kay Scaramuzzo Kandy Kay Scaramuzzo May 24, 2013

    So if that picture on the top is what I think it is, Greyfriar’s Bobby, then it says everything that needs to be said about loyalty…

  26. Kajal Kajal May 24, 2013

    I guess its all a very individual kind of choice. For me even though I was , as a child, always taught to be loyal to the family (and extended) still being loyal to self was give the highest regard. I understand that how this topic must baffle you but I agree we do put up such ‘rules’ for us as a society to control and keep us in line with what is put up.
    Kajal recently posted..You are my life. My Only.My Profile

  27. Lorinda J. Taylor Lorinda J. Taylor May 24, 2013

    I agree with you, Corrine! Loyalty, like most qualities, must controlled by moderation. Too much loyalty can lead to jingoism, to hatred of those who give their loyalty to other countries. Too little loyalty can lead to treachery. The same with love – too much so-called love can lead to possessiveness and domination, too little to neglect and indifference. Personally, I believe our loyalty and love should be to Earth, not to individual nations, and to humanity in general – to compassion and empathy, some of the things that make us human. But then I should state that I’m a spiritual humanist.
    Lorinda J. Taylor recently posted..Shame of the Military, Power of the PressMy Profile

  28. […] of my blog friends are discussing the same issues after a fashion – Corinne Rodrigues and Laurence O’Bryan discuss […]

  29. jan jan May 24, 2013

    Loyalty to self first is an absolute must. Being loyal to family was ingrained in me from the very beginning, no matter what grampa did to me I was to love and respect him. This twisted my feelings and made me more than a little dishonest, eventually leading to self abuse in many ways. Twisted loyalties lead to all the situations you mentioned above. On a personal level, it has been difficult for me to sort out, being loyal to my family and some friends, from being selfish and self serving. Being a martyr for my drug addicted and alcoholic boys was confused in my emotions with being loyal and helping. To be loyal to them actually means, I must be true to myself or I have nothing to give them or anyone else. Going down a road of destruction in order to stay by their side in all they do, is helpful to no one. Now that I recognize what was happening I can correct this behavior and be truly loyal.
    I will not claw through the mud in order to pull my sons out as they continue to dig deeper, I will stand and wait, going on with my life. Being loyal to my older daughter is the same in a different situation. I will get down in the mud with her to help her claw her way up and out as she climbs through the trials life has thrown at her. I will walk with her, support her, and help her up when she trips. I will do this while maintaining my self loyalty, I would be of no use to her or her family if I did not.
    Corrine, you know our situation, I hope you can understand what I have written here. Your post sparked my brain and some pretty hard realities came to the forefront as I read. Thank you.

    • Dangerous Linda Dangerous Linda May 28, 2013

      Jan: You nailed it with this, “To be loyal to them actually means, I must be true to myself or I have nothing to give them or anyone else.” Amen, Sister! XOXO

  30. Dangerous Linda Dangerous Linda May 24, 2013

    Hi, Corinne! ~

    I am absolutely loyal to the pursuit of Truth, Love, and to myself.

    Everybody & everything else must earn their keep on a day-by-day basis.

    And why not? What’s the use of being loyal to someone/something who has become a petrified idea? It doesn’t do me any good or them either.

    Great topic! Thank you!! XOXO

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | May 24, 2013

      I too feel that Truth and Love should be put above Loyalty, Linda. Easier to say than to practice as I’m finding out, but I’m getting there, and grateful for that.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..Keep Life SimpleMy Profile

  31. janu janu May 24, 2013

    Sure can be controversial. I think loyalty is subjective. Many of us may not even realize that we are being taken for a ride or the false sense of loyalty may not let us acknowledge what we actually feel. This is true of many marriages/ parent-child relationships as you have highlighted.

  32. leigh leigh May 24, 2013

    Whoa…you have truly opened Pandora’s box! This is an incredibly difficult topic. I agree, truth is usually usurped in the name of loyalty. Look at America going to war in Iraq…we were told we were traitors and unloyal to our country if we were against going to war. Loyalty should be something felt within towards an ideal or a person. Too often, loyalty is used as a club to bully others into behaving in a specific fashion. Good luck…I’ll be back to look at comments from others!!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | May 24, 2013

      Leigh, I know. I didn’t mean to, but it’s been on my mind for a while now and I just had to publish it. The examples, kept coming to me, but I had to restrict them. I really have no concrete answers, but if it can get some people to rethink some of their choices, then it was worth writing.
      I have watched the whole loyalty issue in the US from afar and keep shaking my head in disbelief. It’s amazing what we consider as loyalty in ourselves is what we would call blind faith and being misguided in others.
      Sadly a very interesting conversation I had with another blogger on this issue can’t be seen here, because he’s having issues commenting, but do come back for more.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..Behind The DoorMy Profile

  33. Mary Stephenson Mary Stephenson May 24, 2013

    Hi Corinne

    Very cool topic! Loyalty is very limiting on individual choice. I have seen of what you talk about. I heard of an only daughter being threatened by her mother to take her out of the will. Hopefully mother will die before her father. She seems to think she sacrificed all for her only child. Actually it was more like demanding the absolute best from the child no matter how much stress the child had to endure. She has grown up and done well for herself and really does not need any inheritance.

    But I have given my child free will and even if she never cares to see me again, I would never cut her out of the will. It would all be given to her freely, other than the first $10,000 to any cats in the household, as they cannot speak for themselves. My daughter never asked to be born and she owes us nothing. Too bad so many parents feel that they need to demand anything from their children.

    Great post.

    Mary Stephenson recently posted..Mastering Our Lives, By ChangesMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | May 24, 2013

      Mary, limiting on individual choice is absolutely right. The example you shared is sadly quite a common thing we see in India. People are made to marry, choose spouses, and even have children of a particular gender (I’ve left the obvious unsaid :() – all in the name of family. Mothers often use emotional blackmail to get their sons to choose between their spouses or their mothers.
      Like you said, our children don’t ask to be born and owe us nothing.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..Behind The DoorMy Profile

      • Punam Punam May 24, 2013

        Exactly. What is loyalty? By being loyal to someone, one is being disloyal to someone else. So it’s basically two sides of the same coin.
        “Mothers often use emotional blackmail to get their sons to choose between their spouses or their mothers.” – Big question. Is this really about loyalty or is it really just about spineless men who buckle down shamelessly, in front of whoever they choose? Is there really a middle path? A balancing point, where loyalty can be maintained on both sides?

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