In recent weeks, the concept of loyalty has come up in several sectors of life, and more conversations than I can count. Ranging from loyalty to customers in business, friends even in divisive times, to family amid challenge and crisis, to partners of all kinds, to faith, to self.

One, of a 'mere' handful of things, I will admit to being unwavering and unrelenting in, is loyalty. Personally, I cannot love, support, partner in business nor in any capacity of life, dedicate my heart, my soul, my time… unless I know I am so fully 'in' that loyalty is an obvious reality. Perhaps not the most practical or easy way to be, but it is how I am, what I believe is right and true. Loyalty needn’t make one blind to faults or discrepancies –  my friends, my children, clients even, will all attest to the fact that I will clearly tell you when I disagree, when I feel someone is falling short of themselves (to/for themselves) and yet my loyalty is unwavering. Old reliable, steadfast and true. It’s an old fashioned notion perhaps, or maybe I have just watched too many mafia films to comfortably shrug it off. I'm the one who keeps confidences of others long after our time together is over. Loyalty to me is about integrity, trustworthiness, and an emotional caliber of compassion and dignity - for oneself and for others.

Perhaps it is all of the internal and external levels and layers of unrest and anxiety that have plagued so many this election campaign season, here in the States. Maybe it is the latest wave of self help guru books and seminars flooding even Youtube ads that have people reassessing the who and what in their lives, and their true bonds, commitments, and responsibilities to each. Somehow in all that analysis the concept of loyalty gets kicked aside.

See, my challenge in loyalty is that I have a very stringent definition and application of it. For myself that is; I would never presume to tell someone else what loyalty means to them, yet I do reserve the right to assess if their loyalty is what I need and want in my life, aligning with and returning mine on par.

Examples are all around us…Is it actually being a loyal friend to encourage your pal and coo nice things at them about a poor choice in relationship or job, or neighborhood to move to, or anything? What is loyal to your friend and not just what feels more comfortable to say? What fits YOUR visual for their lives but really is not right for them?  To what degree do you offer customer service of quality to be fair, just, and even to retain customers who stuck with you no matter what your competitors offered? What is loyalty versus enabling? Blindly following your usual politically affiliated party, or supporting what is ethical no matter who says it or benefits from it? And on the list goes.

In one of these recent conversations, I was asked how I could maintain that loyalty is beyond interpersonal, and can be, in truth is, the quality of bond and interaction we have with many facets of life. Never ask me a question unless you are ready for culinary metaphors and examples, or literature and film references, to illustrate my point.

In a recent blog of mine about the unique personality and experience of short films (Film – The Long and Short of It), I mentioned a short film, ‘Paddy’s in the Boot’ and the wide range of thought on what its underlying theme is, gathered from a pool of viewers I had shared it with online. Each theme mentioned was valid and present – greed, violence, religion, and more. I noted that what struck me as a pervasive thread was something altogether different. For me it was loyalty. While granted this may be so because it is of such fundamental importance to me, there were many relationships and forms of loyalty depicted. Loyalty between Connor and Sean (when a friend confronts you at gunpoint to remind you of who you are and what you value at your core – loyal), between Connor and Feeny (be it as employer or some twisted form of Stockholm Syndrome like bond), between Connor and his faith, between Sean and his faith, Father Donahue’s loyalty and dedication to the Seal of Confession even under threat of death, and … more…. (watch the film short here….and no, I haven’t ruined this gem of a short, it has so much texture and promise…watch!).

Just like with films, where we have our own unique perspective and experience of it, our take away being as different as we each are, life definitions are the same way. Loyalty can mean one thing to one person, and something different in quality, quantity, or variety, to another. It is obviously important to find, for our innermost circle at least, people who share our way of living loyalty, as closely as possible. The true challenge though, is to define it for ourselves. What is that line between loyalty to self and selfishness? Between loyalty in business and teetering on the edge of profit loss? Between supporting a friend loyally and enabling life altering mistakes? When, if ever is it right to say, ‘I have been loyal for as long as I can but now differences make it where I can no longer be, and so I relinquish my loyalty card’? Do you ‘stand by your man/woman’, until you just cannot, but are loyal and true for as long as you are together… or do you start to drift will still officially ‘on the clock’? What is blind devotion versus conscious loyalty – be it religiously, politically, emotionally?

I’m not sure I clarified anything for those who inquired of me earlier, but at least I was given the opening to share a favorite piece of film, which is always a good thing.

So… tell me… loyalty… what does it mean to you??