Loyalty is a very special word in the corporate world. There are tons of research being done to understand relationships between customer and company, employee and employer. It’s quite interesting but let me not go there now. What I am more interested in, is you, my young friend and how loyalties play in your life.
In our own daily lives ‘loyalty’ makes the foundation of all relationships. Yet it would be lame to think that in each one of those relationships, the loyalty factor would be the same. For instance I am less loyal to my career than I am to my family. If there is urgent need for attention, both to my work and towards my children, I would most likely decide that the latter need me more. That’s just me though!
Broadly speaking there are two kinds of loyalty: subjective and objective. The subjective kind is internalized to give you direction and to shape your identity. This includes your family, your mentors and close friends. However, loyalty towards community, like towards your school, acquaintances or your country should have a level of objectivity.
As you grow, somewhere between wanting your mom to think on your behalf to becoming an adult who discusses matters of the heart to a romantic partner, teenagers get sandwiched in a phase where others your own age hold primary importance. Peers seem to deserve the most loyal attention and response. I’m pretty serious when I say that learning at this stage from your own generation or simply by yourself is better than adults trying to ‘teach’. It’s true!
However often teenagers get confused. In an experiment done by Megan. R. Gunnar, Ph.D, it was found that when children are young, parents become ‘stress buffers’ and in adults, romantic partners seem to take that role. In teenagers though, the focus remains on peers, but stress levels were found to increase in difficult situations and being with ‘friends’ offered little relief. Loyalties therefore become unstable and less consistent.
Sometimes, as a teen you may find your loyalties misplaced. Your decisions tend to go wrong and there is a lot of heartbreak. This is because the teen brain is still only developing and is sensitive to any kind of environmental stimulation, both when it is rewarding and when it is not. An adult brain on the other hand is not as reactive.
As adolescents therefore you still need adults to guide you to leverage on the positive effects of your friends and also to clarify on the negatives when you feel clueless and stressed. Internalized loyalties to adult mentors can help you find your way.
On the other hand, staying loyal to your friends should allow you to stay loyal to yourself and the values you have at heart. A friend who can respect that is where your true loyalties should belong.
You may ask these questions to yourself to make sure of that:
- Do my friends share common interests with me?
- Am I comfortable sharing personal thoughts or feelings with them?
- Am I able to resolve arguments without hurting the relationship?
- Is affection a part of the relationship?
- Is my relationship clear of peer pressure ( having to do something when you don’t want to do it)?
When you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to all of those questions you can be sure that you are doing okay.
Sometimes, misplaced loyalties draw an ugly face , in the form of group bullying, suicides, honour killings, poaching, pollution, corruption, terrorism or even in open legitimate combat situations. This is allowed to happen when people lose their ability to make objective decisions for the benefit of the world at large.
For instance, school spirit at a game would be unfortunate if it involves booing at players or is fueled by hatred. It would be of no use again if it only encourages false pride.
Loyalties can be inspiring when it combines the reason for self-respect with a sense of respect for others.
I witnessed something a few months ago that left me beaming. The girls volley ball team,ISM, played against ISWK for the finals at a sports event at ISWKi, Oman. Both teams chanted and cheered for the opposition instead of their own during the prize distribution ceremony, as they were not accompanied by other cheerleaders from their respective schools. That was good presence of mind and absolutely great sportive spirit.
Again, take your cue from the business world. Loyalties can be rewarding if you learn how to make them work for you and the society at large. Motivate yourself to take a stand towards a cause that’s close to your heart. Loyalties must not be limiting. In fact it must help you to discover your limitations only to give you the opportunity to overcome them.