As I sit at my computer typing away I can almost feel the intensity of his gaze. Glancing over my shoulder I see him sitting there, eyes glued to the pear tree in the backyard – the home of a local family of squirrels. One move down the trunk and Griffin is off and out the doggie door in a mad chase to defend the backyard. Griffin has been a part of our family for over 14 years, and from the very beginning, he has deemed himself the protector of the family. He has been there as we have raised our children, watched them one by one leave for college, and now he sits – most days at my feet – as I write. Historically dogs are known for their loyalty to their master, but we’ve come to think of Griffin as fiercely loyal.
John Grogan, the author of Marley and Me, said this of his dog Marley:
“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. He taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things – a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.” (Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog)
Loyalty. A fairly straightforward word, attribute, and characteristic. We expect it from those we are closest to, but how often do we contemplate our loyalty to our beliefs, values, and others.
Learning to understand what matters most in my life has helped me to develop greater loyalty. I recently read a book, Choices that Change Lives by Hal Urban, that included a simple exercise in determining whether your priorities are in line with your values.
- List the top 10 most important things to you. Spend some time and be deliberate and thoughtful in making your list.
- Make a second list of the top 10 ways you spend your time. If it helps, calculate how much time you spend on each item.
- Go back to your first “most important things” list and write what you do each day to prove its importance.
Are you spending your time proving what is important do you or is there a contradiction between the two lists? This exercise can help us understand what our governing values are. Discover what adjustments might need to be made, and empower us to stay on track.
My loyalties are determined by my heart – what I value and feel a firm allegiance to. Sometimes it’s hard when I feel conflicted between two things I seem to value. Jeffrey R. Holland, religious leader and American educator said: “Think of the heart as a figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our value; then consider Jesus’ declaration that in the last days “men’s hearts shall fail them.” When what we say and what we do don’t match up we are living the definition of a hypocrite, showing evidence that our heart or loyalties might be failing us. For example, if we profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but the way that we act during the week reflects something different we should probably question where our real loyalty lies.
It was some time ago when I was participating in a discussion at church about obedience when someone defined their obedience to God as loyalty. At first, the idea seemed a little foreign. Obedience is doing what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it. It’s compliance and submission, but is it really being loyal? And does it have anything to do with God?
As I sat and pondered the idea, I thought again of Griffin. He is obedient to his master. He sits when we command him to sit – not because he feels obligated to, but because of his faithful and unwavering love for us. Our master does not demand the unreasonable of us – he simply wants us to come unto him and enfold ourselves in his love. He gives us commandments not to be mean or to make life hard, but to protect us and help us grow. Fiercely loyal means standing up and being true to your values and beliefs, but it also means being humble enough to hear our master’s call.
What are you doing to become fiercely loyal?
Be Fiercely Loyal is part 3 in the Choices for Change series.