Loyalty Does Not Equal Blindness

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Blind Loyalty

Without my permission, I suddenly turned into a spurned lover.

                                                                                                                                                       


Note: While this writing touches on blind loyalty in the context of friendship, it applies to the bigger picture in the sense that mob mentality, unquestioning following and unexamined dogma contribute to everything from high school bullying to religious zealotry to ridiculous politicians inching toward power. As a details and close-ups sort of person, I tackle universal concepts from a personal, everyday perspective. If I were to make a mantra out of my most used subtextual universal themes, it would be this:

Investigate. Allow for compassion. Think for yourself.


Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Being a friend does not preclude you from being decent to people other than your friend. If you see me behave like an asshole to a third party and you’re my friend, I would expect you to tell me I’m being an asshole rather than join me in some army of assholery against a particular target — who may be an asshole themselves, sure, but we don’t live in the flipping Wild West. I’m talking the brutal, lawless, syphilis-happy Wild West with no regard for human life.

Imagine this: your friend’s house burns down in a fire. Your friend comes to you, all teary-eyed and sooty, demanding:

“Dear true friend, Person X set fire to my house. C’mon, gather your arson kit and let’s go burn down Person X’s house.”

For the sake of this scenario, let’s put aside the notion of legal consequence. Even then, would you, a true friend but also a reasonable human being, blindly jump to your friend’s bidding? Or would you raise an objection?

You might, at the very least, have some questions. For example:

“Wait, isn’t Person X the pyromaniac you willing sought out and lit matches with?”

“That’s not important. What matters is you proving your friendship by helping me burn down Person X’s house.”

“What about the other people who live in Person X’s house?”

“I don’t care and you shouldn’t either. You should only care about me, your friend.”

Insane, right?

But let’s take the scenario to a realistic level. Let’s say you are my true friend and you watch me for five years choose a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive person. This is true, by the way: I willing chose a relationship with such a person and my friends witnessed it. Also true are the following circumstances and examples of what he “did” to me.

You, my friend, knew that he broke my walls and doors, and at least once, my face got in the way of his brandishing crutch. His fucking leg-in-cast crutch. You didn’t see it happen, but you took my word for it and besides, my shiner spoke for itself.

Yet inexplicable to you, I stayed with him. Defended him, even.

Five years of Jerry Springer-caliber trashiness and cops called by neighbors and passersby, and the whole time you shook your head but remained friends with both of us. After all, it wasn’t like he was evil incarnate, or even a 24/7 jerk. In fact, when he wasn’t being monstrous, he was exceptionally charming and giving. No, not in a Jeffrey Dahmer way, although probably in a classic abuser way.

It also wasn’t like I was stupid or branded with the word “victim.” Really, if we’re to be honest, it wasn’t like my soul was angel-kissed and impervious to its own moments of monstrousness. We humans, especially people as close as lovers, are flawed by definition, each with varying degrees of issues and trauma to work through.

You know how lightly we allude to our ignorance of “what happens behind closed doors”? My theory is, we’re casual about “closed doors” because at some point, we’ve all been caught in an indoor storm of pressure and unbridled emotion. I’ve gleaned or outright witnessed at least as much “crazy” as sane in the majority of people I’ve met, and I’ve come across individuals from every walk of life and moral fortitude.

So no, he was not evil, he was humanly troubled; I was not stupid, I was humanly in love. Obviously somewhat troubled too — how else would I have chosen to stay? He didn’t have me chained up nor was it a situation where he threatened my life if I left. I made a choice, and you, my disapproving friend, accepted that I had agency over my own life.

Shit, you even invited him to dinner; he showed up to your performances; you regularly supported each other’s social media posts.

I was glad you were his friend.

He was a vulnerable human being with the love in him tragically accompanied by a side of near-lethal rage. I never stopped wishing I could take away his damage and bring peace to his interior.

The day I finally managed to ditch his vulnerable-but-troubled ass, you know, after the fiftieth devastating lie I caught him in, you thought, good for her. It’s about time. But you still invited him to your events and he attended, and you both continued being staunch supporters of each other’s all-important social media.

Remember the time he even raised a bit of money for your Kickstarter? That was after he had blocked me from social media because he couldn’t bear to see my tailored-for-internet life plastered on his feed and be reminded of…?

I don’t know. I’ll never know.

Of…how “hot” I am? Of…what a “bitch” I am? Of…the new man I have? Of…how I saw his ugliest scars? Of…how I called him out on every lie? Of…how he couldn’t bully me? (At least not as often as he tried.) Of…how I stood by him and loved him in spite of his deception and psychological addictions?

I don’t know why he didn’t want to be reminded of me. But he didn’t, so he blocked me.

My reaction? Something began seething in the pit of my stomach like lava, like strychnine, like a five-headed serpent. Without my permission, I suddenly turned into a spurned lover. There are few humans more dangerous.

And then…

I reigned it in.

It’s anticlimactic, I know, but it’s important to me to approve of myself as a human being, and I don’t approve of spiteful, vindictive behavior.

I didn’t badmouth him or concoct ways to contaminate his life. My misery was mine. As much as I wanted him to feel the hurt he made me feel — by simply living his life and moving on — I just took it. And it sucked. What sucked most was seeing you, my friend, still kissing his ass on social media. But I never said a single word to you, and this writing doesn’t count because I’m making a different point, a noble one.

You see, all that time I chose to stay with him, I expected you to respect my autonomy regardless of crutches to the face and holes in the wall. So now, just because I’m silly enough to care that he blocked me from his social media, if I come to you and demand we form a takedown posse because of what an all-around “monster” he is, I really hope you slap me in the face.

The facts are simple. I am an asshole who dated an asshole, and the other asshole got the last laugh. It feels like shit. But never will I call your loyalty into question because you chose not to take sides in a dysfunctional ex-lovers’ spat in which someone invariably feels spurned.

Decency dictates that we don’t act on the nasty feelings corroding our insides. Even if we’re all, “fuck decency, fuck him/her,” consider our own wellbeing: we will not heal in acid. And if I’m so utterly wounded that I can’t think these thoughts clearly, please, be the truest of friends and point me in the right direction instead of gathering a torch and pitchfork.

I’ve watched many variations of hurt people figure out ways to menace the people who hurt them. They harass, threaten and bombard. Privately, publicly, digitally. Incessantly. Sometimes they drag the target’s children into the unfortunate mess. It is not fucking cool. Friend or not, I could never give my support to someone who didn’t leave out the children, even if the target really burned down their house (a la my preposterous beginning sketch).

“But he’s a narcissist. He gaslighted me.” Don’t we hear that everywhere now? Hell, I’m convinced men have gaslighted me. Different discussion. In this discussion, let’s say “he” is a gaslighting narcissist. What does that actually mean in terms of justice and retribution? Are we supposed to charge into every lovers’ war and attack when our friends feel manipulated and undervalued?

In a life or death situation, say a car careening towards these same hurt, vengeance-seeking types, it’s likely I’d jump to push them out of the way at risk of getting myself run over. It’s instinct, courage by trick of DNA. As such, I have the courage to subject myself to potential backlash when telling you that blind loyalty is not loyalty — it’s foolish and undermines the work of humanity in the realm of justice and parity.

This recent over-saturation of supposedly narcissistic men feels the same to me as women being mysteriously “crazy” according to their exes. People tend to make their ex-lover the “bad guy.” Rather than salve for a broken heart, it’s the take-no-responsibilty route of coping with a failed relationship. Having been turned into the — blocked! — bad guy by my aforementioned ex, I speak from experience. In that relationship, an arguably smaller portion of actual bad-guyness had been doled out to me than to the truth-averse rage “monster” who hit me in the face with a crutch. And whom, let it be known, I still don’t consider a bad guy. Troubled, damaged, misguided, infuriating blocker — yes.

I respect friend code. And the code between women. Or men, for that matter. But no code is more sacred than a human code. It incorporates reason, objectivity and compassion. I stand up for my beliefs even when I’m alone in my quest. Sometimes I’ll take the fall in situations when two of us are equally culpable — no use both of us suffering. If someone’s coming at you, I’ll shield you and take them on.

On the other hand, I do not allow “you” to coerce me out of my definition of friendship.

For me, friendship doesn’t come with the prerequisite of blind loyalty. I want my friends to be wise and just, measured and composed during the times I can’t be because my very soul might be in pain. If we are friends, let’s show our loyalty by helping each other act with integrity.

 
Cathartic Monkeyism

  • Don’t lie, especially to yourself.
  • Be unafraid, especially of people. You can’t be bullied when you’re unafraid.
  • While I’m sincerely sorry if my cursing offends you, it’s part of how I communicate and it probably won’t change.
  • I’ll cathartic monkey on the occasions it’s merited.
  • For other bloggers and the curious: this post took me about twelve hours, including the editing, image search and bells and whistles. In case anyone wonders why I don’t have the time to blog consistently…

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25 comments

  1. 🙂 Interesting look into how you think; I have similar values with regard to friendship. I have lost friends both because I offered rational counsel and refused it. Also, the unintended consequences of a moment of emotion are well-documented – it’s not just a preference to help people you love see that – it’s a responsibility.

    1. It is a responsibility, absolutely. Rational people bring me a sigh of relief.

  2. First off great mantra. If everyone took this as basic common sense, the world would be a much better place. I’m right there with you, I get angry enough because of my own neurosis, I can’t handle being angry with whoever my friends are angry with as well.
    As I was reading I was thinking this must have taken you awhile, as you can’t stream of conscious this kind of web. I definitely appreciate a blog that goes for quality over quantity. No, I’m not sucking up, I was actually thinking that as I was reading. We’re happy whenever you find the time to share.

    1. I was over here editing this piece — as I do incessantly with every piece — and saw that somehow I had missed your comment! And what a lovely comment, thank you.

      Also, this made me chuckle:

      “I get angry enough because of my own neurosis, I can’t handle being angry with whoever my friends are angry with as well.”

      Finally, with all the editing, we can add another four hours to the piece. Sigh. Some people churn out two or three great posts in four hours.

  3. You are an intense writer GG – as always. I find the same operating rules and beliefs apply to a relationship with religion as well. When you walk away from a meeting hating someone or something, it is time to get out before you start to hate yourself.

    As an aside GG, I have a guest post over at Mark Bialczak’s. I would be honored if you had the time to drop be for a read. https://markbialczak.com/2016/06/19/janices-bicyle/comment-page-1/#comment-80893

    1. I do feel intensely about my beliefs regarding human decency, not a single doubt about it. Looking forward to checking out your post!

  4. Are we on the same page about friendship and loyalty? Hell, yea! I done many excessive, foolish, silly, and downright stupid things in the names of friendship and love and loyalty, but not of the “burning down Person-X’s house” sort. If my friend chooses to be a friend to my “enemy” I likely will not choose to be part of their relationship, and, I may question my friend’s judgment (privately if possible), but their connection is not a test of loyalty to me. All in all, a wonderful post.

    1. Thank you Bob, both for your honesty and your rationality.

  5. Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
    GG writes of friendship, loyalty, and deep values.

  6. I will support my friends until my dying breath. But not at the expense of innocent people. A good friend is there to help us be the best we can be and sometimes better than we thought we could be — A true friend does these things even when we don’t want them to, but NEED them to.

    1. Ned, you’re a lovely person. That’s been clear to me for a long time.

  7. This is providing a lot of food for thought for me today. I lost a friend over my own less-than-ideal behavior with respect to my personal life awhile back, and at the time, all I could see was her disloyalty. She could have handled the situation better, too, in my opinion, but I have to own my behavior, even if it wasn’t directed at her, and I have to recognize that she was trying, as an act of friendship, to speak to my better nature. Now that I’m out of the relationship that drove the less-than-ideal behavior, I can see it all much more clearly – it was so hard at the time to see anything other than my own pain and frustration. I want to reach out to my friend but am afraid the damage is too far gone.

    With respect to the shitty relationship, I do still want the asshole who betrayed me to suffer, but I am working to let that go and let karma sort it out. As you said, “we will not heal in acid.”

    Thank you for crystallizing all of this – it’s helpful.

    1. This comment is very important to me, thank you. It’s immeasurably gratifying any time someone tells me they found my writing helpful.

      Everyone is guilty of less-than-ideal behavior some of the time. But look at you now. If it were me, I would reach out to that friend.

  8. One of the reasons I enjoy your writing is exactly that you DO relate the topics to your own life, and isn’t that the truest, most honest kind of writing/opinionizing/advice giving/examination? Yes, at least one of those words is made-up, but I’m confident you won’t mind.

    And because I find your style so smooth, almost poetic, it never feels voyeuristic or uncomfortable to read about your private life, which I think is impressive. It’s not really private if you’re putting it out in a fairly public forum, right? But somehow you’re able to share and it doesn’t feel tabloidy and yet isn’t IM-personal. That made sense in my head, lol

    Thank you for posting. Considering your careful consideration of which words you choose to share we’re lucky that it takes a little while in between these posts.

    1. Sean, it seems you really get the post, which is gratifying, because it’s not about just one thing. As far as the private life question you raise — if I think about the notion of privacy/discretion too long, I definitely get uncomfortable. How does one know what’s important to say and what’s better left unsaid? In this case, I used myself as an example (that happened to be true) in order to make an important point. The description of my long ago relationship was merely a tool to avoid identifying the real life situation involving someone other than me, a situation nevertheless, that desperately needed to be addressed.

      I’m relieved it didn’t feel tabloidy to you. It’s always a fine balance.

      And Sean, thanks so much for being here! People like you make it worth it.

  9. I’m sad you were in such a tempestuous relationship, and I’m sad you were hurt, both during and after.

    I tend to fall on the fence, with regard to this type of situation. I will always assume there are two sides to the story, but I don’t think that just because the reason for the problem is a common one, it makes it any less real.

    Kind of along the lines of “You don’t get to say you didn’t hurt me” – in so many cases, no matter the facts and complexities and tangles of the matter, the FEELINGS are very, very real, and very raw.

    If it comes to siding with a (probably tempestuous, tangled-up) friend, vs a (probably tempestuous, tangled-up) other person who I don’t know so well, my thoughts at that point are (and I sometimes wonder whether this is…not manipulative but something of that ilk, which makes me slightly uneasy) that my friend needs support and shoring-up. My friend needs to know I’m in their corner, and whilst I hope I wouldn’t condone revenge or retribution, and I’m pretty sure I’d advise against that kind of behaviour, what would matter to me is that my friend was so very, intensely HURT by this other person, that they feel this kind of behaviour is appropriate.

    Whilst I wouldn’t condone acting on those intentions, I would try to comprehend the level of pain which engendered them.

    A thoroughly thought-provoking post, but for me, the view is not so black-and-white 🙂

    1. Ah darling, I‘m not sad, so you shouldn’t be either. I don’t experience a lot of regret in life.

      This post wasn’t about diminishing the awful hurt someone may feel, but saying in plain language — perhaps the only plain part of the text — that I will never condone any friend harassing someone. I will speak my mind about it and I will not back down. If the “friend” then turns around and questions my loyalty — yeah, I especially won’t back down then. Bullies and emotional blackmailers have no place in my life.

      My longtime friends know I’m in their corner because they’ve seen me speak up for them when no one else would. But then again, they never harassed the fuck out of other people, so it was always easy for me to defend them.

      You have no idea how much I dislike bullies. On the other hand, I will offer up my life for transparent people with integrity.

      In some ways, it seemed like you and I were saying pretty much the same thing. Until “black-and-white.” You see, being an asshole and not being an asshole is exactly black and white. But never ever do you have to feel you must agree/side with me in order to be my friend. I’m not that person. I’m not a “friend dictator.” I value free thought and I welcome being called out on things I haven’t thought through.

      1. I think *I’m* not black-and-white. I definitely think you are 😉 And I’m glad because it means I will always know where I stand with you.

        I’m with you in that I’d always rather someone told me if they thought I was being an asshole. I have friends who have done that for me, at very much needed times, before, and it’s really helped. OBVIOUSLY I haven’t liked it much at the time but it did help me in the end.

  10. I came back because I have more to say (clearly).

    I’m the kind of fuzzy-moralled, grey-area’d, fence-sitter who ALSO has huge difficulties being enough of her own person to even stand up for herself in the face of [insert seemingly unstoppable force here], and whilst I will do what I can to support my friends, TRULY, I try to sideline myself in these cases – I’m bad, bad, bad with conflict, and it makes me feel horrendously uncomfortable inside.

    I don’t like taking sides, I really don’t. If it’s between a friend and a stranger, I’ll side with my friend, on the whole. If it’s between two friends, I guess my attitude could be seen to be somewhat ‘playing both sides against the middle’, and it’s NOT to try to downplay what either person is feeling, but to try to acknowledge both, and then (if possible) find some common ground and pour oil on troubled waters. I’ve seen this done expertly, and I know I’m a bumbler and not good at it, but I’m all for LOVE WINNING, rather than things turning into knock-down-drag-out issues.

    1. See above. Hugs.

      1. 🙂 *hugs*

  11. I loved this post! I could relate on so many levels and I’m always endeavoring to treat even those that hurt me with compassion without being a doormat (sometimes I’m less successful than I’d like to be). I never think there is a case for bullying or mob-mentality, especially when it’s just for “loyalty’s sake”.

    Also, I may be showing my age here – but what is Cathartic Monkeyism? I haven’t heard that term before.

    1. And I loved you comment, thank you! As far as Cathartic Monkeyism, that really made laugh — you see, it’s just something I made up.

      From my About page: “You could say Cathartic Monkeyism is objectivity derived through my subjective experience. But mainly, I made up Cathartic Monkeyism so I don’t sound like a complete ass when ending posts with little axioms.”

  12. Brava. When I’ve had friends offended, expressing feelings of betrayal, that I remained friends with someone they felt hurt them, I wish I had similar words to respond. I do not take sides in personal wars.

    1. Perfectly and succintly put, Kitt. Thank you.

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