Of the once-revered qualities such as honor, honesty, common sense and integrity that have steadily faded from our nation's culture, I put the related loss of loyalty near the top.
That's equally true for us aging baby boomers, many of whom in youth were taught to value loyalty in our work, lives and relationships.
The workplace has changed dramatically in recent decades, which is likely one reason for the demise of loyalty, a quality many businesses once considered indispensable.
Today I believe most corporations couldn't care less if an employee is loyal. The attitude is more likely to be, "an employee is free to leave if they become discouraged. Three others are waiting to take their place."
Also, outsourcing labor to countries where those manning the phones are barely able to speak intelligible English involves zero loyalty from either side.
My experience has shown that a person who remains loyal in work or relationships has earned the ability to be treasured as a true asset or a genuine friend. Odds are those who still value loyalty also are of sufficient character to be honest and trustworthy, which makes them invaluable in one's life.
I look across society (and deep inside myself) to see homes shattered by the deal-breaking problems associated with lost loyalty, not to mention the impact on the minds and character of children.
Asking if a sense of loyalty matters is akin to asking, "who am I and why am I even alive?" Our words and actions, and the choices we make, establish the level of reliability others assign us.
Loyalty and its related virtues are powerful indicators of the strength and priorities that comprise our individual spirits.
What's more significant than the quality of spirit that animates our bodies?
I'm by no means the only one to notice the loss. Victor Lipman wrote this in Forbes magazine in March 2019 about the death of loyalty: "In exchange for an employee's loyalty (combined of course with positive individual performance), that employee could expect corporate loyalty in return.
"That management philosophy has gone the way of the Edsel and the Studebaker. Replaced by, as our aforementioned manufacturing and tech executives know too well, something more short-term and transient with a very different feel. ... Richard Florida, a respected academic and author, directly addressed the issue in his book, 'The Rise of the Creative Class.'"
Florida explains: "If the social contract was already fraying back in the 1990s, the crisis of 2008 annihilated what little was left. Individual workers have assumed most risks, corporate and government shock absorbers have been removed, and workers today bear more responsibility--perhaps I should say all responsibility--for their careers and lives."
Philosopher Josiah Royce defined loyalty as "the willing and practical and thorough devotion of a person to a cause." Encyclopedia.com writes: "Used in political discourse, the concept of loyalty occupies the ground between patriotism and obligation."
This brings to mind the loyalty our uniformed public servants and fighting men and women have toward each other and our nation. It means something real when a fellow warrior tells you he's "got your back" and therefore you can rely upon his words and count on his sense of loyalty.
Another way of describing loyalty is to recognize it's not possible when an outcome only best serves but one person. I've read the truism that one can't be only partially loyal because loyalty, by definition, is either complete or nonexistent.
Finally today, from the POSH blog comes the question: "What happened to loyalty?"
"Loyalty used to mean something. It used to be something you could count on from your friends and family. In recent years, there has been a huge lack of loyalty sweeping our country. Slowly, loyalty has given way to self-interest."
The essay says that not long ago, employees would stay at jobs for 20 or 30 years to retire with that employer. "Today, co-workers easily throw one another under the bus in order to advance their career. Employers just get rid of someone who no longer fits or is no longer needed without giving value to personal worth and experience.
"Spouses too quickly seek divorce instead of resolution. If someone does something we don't like, instead of communicating and working through the issue, we simply throw them out like yesterday's garbage. Why are people and relationships disposable? What about seeing the needs of those around us? What happened to never forgetting the little people who supported you while you were making your success a reality? What happened to standing by your friends through thick and thin? What is happening to our society that we don't value the people in our lives?"
It may never happen in today's climate (where loyalty to university athletic programs has managed to survive). But I believe it must if our national fabric rooted in traditional values hopes to endure.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]