Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Loyalty Part 3

As a child, my family lived down the street from a family I'll call the "Duncans". Mr. and Mrs. Duncan had 5 or 6 kids (the oldest had left home or were away at college) including twins "Stevie" and "Evie" who were two years younger than I was. Mr. Duncan, an aerospace engineer as I remember, had been raised by strict Christian parents, but had rejected those teachings for himself and his family. He would come home from work around 4pm where his wife would have a pitcher of Martinis waiting for their next-door neighbors and them to consume before dinner. When the pitcher ran dry, Mrs. Duncan (or one of the older children) would refill it so the adults could continue with their own personal "happy hour". Mr. Duncan also liked to leave his copies of Playboy lying around the den for all to see. Probably his only redeeming virtue (and the only reason I was ever allowed at their house) was that he had built his daughters the most amazing two-story play house with lineoleum floors and paneled walls; the second story was a sleeping loft where the two youngest daughters could stretch out their sleeping bags and escape their brothers.

The one value that the Duncans did receive from their devout Scottish parents and then drilled into their children was FAMILY LOYALTY -you stick up for kin, right or wrong. I didn't quite understand this concept - if my brother was acting creepy towards one of my friends, it was my responsibility to make sure that his creepy behavior would be duly accounted for and my friend protected. The Duncans had a different idea. When I was about 11 (my brother would've been 8), Stevie, aged 9, decided it would be fun to sharpen a popsicle stick and repeatedly stab/poke my brother in the back with it. Evidently, my brother didn't mind much because although Stevie was older, my brother was much bigger and stronger than Stevie -Stevie would have come out the worse if my brother had decided to extract retribution for the stabbing.

That night however, my mother saw his scratched-up back after his bath time. After hearing the details of what had transpired earlier in the day, my parents marched my brother four doors down to confront the Duncans (not a good idea, remember the pitchers of Martinis they'd have consumed by then). This family closed ranks tighter than any Marine Corps unit in combat -it must've been my brother's fault, not Stevie's and so nothing resembling discipline happened to him. The following day, Evie told me that she and I were no longer permitted to play together because of what had happened. Neither one of us had been involved in the fray, yet further contact was prohibited - in fact now there was a "feud" between our families. Family loyalty demanded, in the Duncan's thinking, that their hostility be shared among all their members and directed towards all of ours. That mentality, I learned, had been what fueled the conflict between the infamous Hatfields and McCoys. The original offense had long been forgotten, replaced instead with a feud based on "blood", not on the righteousness of position.

And this is what loyalty is not -loyalty does not mean demonstrating unswerving allegiance to someone's misdeeds just because you have a relationship with them. In the story of David and Jonathan I mentioned earlier, Jonathan didn't take his father's "side" against David just because he (Jonathan) was the son of the man at war with his friend. Jonathan knew that Saul's behavior towards David was unjust and therefore he declined to take up his father's feud - so much so that Saul accused Jonathan of being a disloyal son.

Loyalty doesn't mean standing by silently when a friend (or family member) is doing something wrong. Loyalty to a company or country doesn't mean you must sacrifice your moral convictions to be a team player or a patriot. As a Christian, we have a higher duty, a more important loyalty to Whom allegiance is owed. In the next installment, I will discuss that loyalty.


  • At Sat Apr 22, 06:22:00 PM PDT , Blogger Paul said...

    You are right about loyalty. Sometimes we think it is sticking with a person no matter what, even when they are wrong. David and Jonathan are a great example of what loyalty is to be like. One of the amazing things to me about Jonathan is the fact that he remained loyal to David even when Jonathan realized it would me that he (Jonathan) wouldn't be king.

    On a side note my sister-in-law is a descendant of the Hatfields. I do my best to stay on her good side.


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