I know of no subject contemplated, mythologized, and trumpeted more–and practiced less–than loyalty, especially in America. It’s not surprising given the transient, temporary, and disposable nature of our culture. We strive for what is quick and convenient, and true friendship is neither.
And it is on the altar of true friendship that we sacrifice what is expedient and even expected by society to honor a friend who requires our loyalty, even though he may not deserve it. For it’s in tough times that true friends shine.
True friends can and should tell each other those difficult truths. Conversely, they should defend each other’s honor when things are at their darkest, and take whatever consequences result from doing so.
You don’t squeal on your friends to those in a position of authority. What’s more, you don’t put a friend in the line of fire by placing him in a compromising position for something that you’ve done.
Should a friend take the fall for another’s misdeeds, you, as his friend, should rally around him, assess the consequences he’s endured from his silence and loyalty, and take up the cause to the appropriate parties. Put pressure on the responsible party who failed to own up to his actions. Speak to those in authority about your friend, without compromising his situation. Do your best to mitigate the price of honorable behavior in a world full of mice who pose as men.
Should a friend be tremendously successful, watch his back. Don’t ask for money or favors, as tempting as it may be. Continue to tell him the truth about himself and others, as difficult is it may be. When the spotlight shines on him, step back into the shadows. And when the fickle nature of fame and glory flutters away, remain.
The largely unspoken culture of loyalty runs through kindergarten playgrounds, professional sports teams, blue-collar neighborhoods, and white-shoe law firms with equal force and relevance.
It is a law above what is legal, a bond above family, a trait of the nobility, regardless of rank.