Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
What comes to mind when I mention the word ‘loyalty’? Good friends stick by you, and that’s especially true when it comes to man’s best friend.
In November 2011 in China, 68-year-old Lao Pan died. He had no family, except a small yellow dog. Stories soon emerged about the heartbroken puppy who took up residence at Pan’s graveside, refusing to leave. He stayed there for seven days and nights without food. People in the village noticed the dog and started bringing food and water to the graveside, and eventually he was adopted by another dog lover.
So, what does it mean to show loyalty? I guess it’s all about being faithful to a person, country, group, or cause. We hear a lot about this in the world of sport. Years ago if players swapped clubs, for better opportunity or more money, they were labelled as disloyal. When a player ‘defects’ to another team, they are often booed by the same people who used to idolise them.
What is loyalty anyway? It can be defined as love across time. We first experience loyal love in our families, where we must stay committed to people long enough to discover their inevitable human imperfections—and then continue loving them anyway. This love is always tested and if we remain committed through the hard times, our loyalty and love will deepen and become more authentic. To be loyal is to continue our bonds despite lapses, disagreements, or even boredom. And being part of a family can see a share of the good and bad times—yet each is loyal to the other.
Loyalty Promotes Health and Wellbeing
But today, we are sceptical of loyalty. Before we make a commitment we demand meaning and fulfilment. This is why I’m pleased to read that loyalty has been demonstrated through research studies to have psychological and physical benefits as well. Loyalty in marriage, friendship and community are all sources of health and wellbeing.
For example, people who remain in healthy, happy and long-term marriages tend to be more loving and giving to others. Children of parents in low-conflict marriages (which is estimated to be the majority of marriages) are happier and more resilient than children whose parents do not stay together.
Of course, not all relationships are happy or healthy. For some, separation and divorce is the best solution. But if a married couple can stay together and work through their differences, the relationship will grow stronger, and loyalty is very strong.
A strong network of friends helps people live longer.
Loyal friendships can actually keep you living longer. For example, according to research, among people over the age of 70, having a strong network of friends is more likely to help people live longer than having close family ties. It has been shown that having strong social networks reduces our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.
Our good friends help us endure the other losses in our lives, including the loss of a spouse through death or divorce.
(To be continued A Look at Loyalty – Part 2)