Loyalty is good. I’m a loyal guy. But I’ve found that my loyalty can also be a weakness. Sometimes the most loyal thing I can do is to break off a dysfunctional relationship.
Sometimes our loyalty is covering up brokenness in another person. They don’t need loyalty; what they need is someone to call them on their dysfunction.
But our loyalty keeps us from speaking the truth and keeps us from holding them accountable. And if you were to dig around, you’d see that the reason we are so loyal is usually rooted in some broken pattern from childhood.
Henry Cloud wrote a book, Necessary Endings. In it he lists five ways in which we may be excusing bad behavior and need to make a change.
1. High pain threshold
Maybe your childhood was hard. For example, if you lived with an alcoholic parent and especially if you suffered abuse, you had to find ways to cope. Pain was normal, so you learned to live with it.
But if you numb pain too long, your coping mechanisms get in the way of living a normal life.
Pain is not bad—it keeps us from injuring ourselves. If you’ve lived with pain that is abnormally high, your habit of numbing yourself has kept you from experiencing life. Live inside a narrow emotional bandwidth and you’ll not connect with others.
2. Covering for others
If you’ve lived with an alcoholic parent, it’s an embarrassment. You want to hide their dysfunction so that you don’t have to deal with the pain. So you cover up. You make excuses and even take responsibility for the mess they’re making.
Taking too much responsibility for others can permanently scar your life. For example, it’s common for relatives of suicide victims to assume that they should have done something about it. The thought “if only I had …” plays on a permanent loop in their minds. The truth is, they need to not take responsibility for someone’s terrible mistake.
3. “If I quit, I’ve failed”
Some of you were in survival mode for years in your family. You were bravely trying to surf the high waves of severe family pain. You swore that you’d never quit and you tenaciously hung on. Maybe dad was absent, but you soldiered on anyway.
God bless you, the pain was horrific at times. However bad it got, you just gritted your teeth and tightened your grip. And now that habit is a part of your character, for both better and worse.