Loyalty is defined  in the dictionary as faithfulness or devotion to a person or cause.  Each one of us possesses and exhibits loyalty to different people,  to different organizations or institutions and indeed to various movements or causes. Loyalty can also be motivated by both negative and positive agendas. For example , some of our young people today are extremely loyal to a gang. Others are devoted and loyal to their school’s sports teams . Both of these examples are evidence of devotion and loyalty on the part of its members but I want to concentrate today on one specific area in which unchallenged loyalty , unquestioned devotion should be evident and that is in the family unit.

         Last week I was walking by a small group of boys who I know …there were about three or four of them standing together in a group just talking and joking around like kids do. These guys are all about sixteen years old.  As they were standing there, the younger brother of one of the sixteen  year olds walked by the group .This younger brother is approximately twelve years old and was simply walking by, minding his own business.  After he walked more than a few yards away and out of earshot,  I heard one of the sixteen year olds (who was not the older brother) make a cutting , derogatory remark about the  younger brother who had just walked by.  It was one of those typical adolescent type jibes that are thrown around now and then by teens who basically feel insecure with who they are, so they attempt to knock and cut down other kids in order to somehow elevate themselves in their own mind. The rest of the group, to include the older  brother of the twelve year old,  broke out in loud laughter .  I was not at all surprised by the critical remark because that kind of thing happens daily in the lives of kids, has been for years, and will continue to occur because it is a part of growing up. What occurred after the remark was made however is what gained my attention rather quickly.  When the sixteen year old made fun of the younger brother of one of the guys he was standing with, I immediately looked at the older brother who is a friend of the fellow who made the negative comment and I watched for his reaction and what he would do. I was stunned by what I saw….which was nothing. When his friend was cracking a joke at his little brother’s expense, the older brother simply looked slightly uncomfortable, sort of chuckled and said nothing. I am not the mother of these two brothers but had I been, you can take it to the bank, that the sixteen year old , that older brother would have been in very serious trouble when he arrived home at the Hastings’ household. Thankfully  I was not ever to the best of my knowledge ever put in that position because from the time that our three guys were very small, we were diligent to instill the concept of family loyalty in those little hearts and brains. I am being completely honest when I say that our boys fought fiercely with one another growing up. They had their share of fist fights , some mean spirited bouts of throwing each other around and I distinctly remember blood being drawn on more than one occasion between them as they grew up together. However, in spite of that, should the three of them be out in the neighborhood together , and one of them was being picked on, or in some altercation with another guy outside of the family , woe to that other boy- because he had no idea of the trouble he was inviting upon himself.  From the time they were little, something came bursting forth from inside my sons when one of them was being assaulted in any way and that was unbridled and unleashed loyalty in it’s purest or ugliest form, whichever way one looks upon it. How did I feel about that as their mom? I loved it, I really did. It is one of the blessings of having siblings and I was proud of my sons every time that they defended one another.I know that there are moms who are reading those last two sentences who may heartily disagree but I stand by my statement..not that I condoned fighting because I didn’t but I totally supported my sons defending their brothers.  Now they are all grown men and are the closest of friends and it is a precious thing. I do not say that in a proud or braggart manner but with a very grateful and thankful heart. My advice to young moms of today is to always instill in all of your children, both sons and daughters that their allegiance and loyalty is first to their brothers and sisters, and second to their friends. My oldest son is a preacher and I recently heard him say in a sermon that his two closest friends in the world are his two brothers. My heart thumped a bit harder when I heard him say that and I remember wondering at that time if he would have ever said that as a man if my husband and I had not continually hammered home the need for family loyalty from the time they were little tykes. I remember once that my youngest son somehow became the main target of some flying snowballs during a fairly intense snowball fight and my middle son who is three years older than his younger brother came to his rescue by pummeling with return snowballs at the other boys who had initially begun the attack. This took place at a church youth activity and I remember the incident well. The following day , the adult in charge of the activity spoke to my husband and I about how wrong the actions of our older son had been to come to the aid of our other son like that. My husband replied that he was responding in the way that we had taught him to and the activity supervisor responded in turn that he grew up as one of four brothers and that neither he nor any of his brothers ever defended one another without question.  My husband and I responded back to him simultaneously saying the exact same words….at the same time we said “We feel sorry for you then.” I want to be clear that we did not encourage our sons to start disputes or scuffles in any way shape or form, but once one did start,  family loyalty was first and foremost.

           Perhaps some of my readers will disagree with my view or perspective on this issue and that is certainly your right, but I stand by it. It is a philosophy that has worked well over the years and also one which I honestly feel God was pleased with. Just recently  I heard  our own preacher say from the pulpit “My brother and I almost killed each other growing up , but if anyone else ever messed with either one of us, we were always right there for the other one and today, we are the best of friends” . I was tickled to hear that as it confirmed to me that we were not alone in our mindset and methodology!

           Give this topic some serious thought young parents as loyalty is first learned in the family unit. Then as these young children grow into adults and loyalty towards a spouse, a work unit, or any other organization is required of them, it will come like second nature as they will fall back on that familiar field of loyalty that they have been practicing on since they could walk and talk.  Families and loyalty….two concepts that sadly are often times strangers when they should go hand in hand. How about you and yours?....What is the relationship of the concept of loyalty to your family?....is it a friend or a foe? Make it your friend !