Authentic and Inauthentic Loyalty

Loyalty is a desirable core value, but I think, that sometimes it is misunderstood. I’d wish to distinguish between two types of loyalty – authentic and inauthentic.

Authentic loyalty is the stance one thinks of when we talk about loyalty – the steadfast quality of sticking with a person, group or organisation, that comes from a deep feeling of caring and belonging.

Inauthentic loyalty looks on the surface the same – grin and bear, stick through good and bad times, . Under the surface, it can however harbor resentment, contempt and even anger.

If you consider loyalty as your core value, it is worth investigating what is its ultimate source.

 The near enemy of loyalty is complacency

Buddhism has an interesting concepts of “near enemies”. These are undesirable emotions that can be confused with noble ones. For example, compassion is a desirable emotion and its near enemy is pity (because pity is is divise at its core).

I’d suggest that near enemy is of loyalty is compacency.

What on looks like steadfast loyalty, can under the surface be complacency based on fear, lazyness or other source of resistance to change. This “poisons” the relation and causes slow, silent damage to both sides (individuals, groups, organisations).

Can inauthentic loyalty turn into authentic?

Sometimes “fake-it till you make-it” does indeed work. My suspicion is that inauthentic loyalty can indeed sometime turn into the deep, authentic stance. However, I expect this is rare in personal relationships and pretty much non-existent towards organisations and business.

Resentment and contempt are particularly hard emotions to deal with and time tends to deepen them rather than heal.

So if the way “through” is unlikely, what other possibility can we have?

Escaping the trap of inauthentic loyalty

As with any “near enemy”, inauthentic loyalty can only be recognized with patient, self-compassionate, introspective mindfulness. The recognition is often not a singular moment a breakthrough, but a slow dawning, possibly painful and with backtracks.

Ultimately moving beyond inauthentic loyalty brings liberation and eventually growth, but it is not an easy process.



Niches between two absurd positions


In many discussions we are drawn to extreme boundary values. Here is a possible dilemma for a potential parent:

“If all comes down to genetics, there is nothing I can do to really affect my child. It is a total gamble. I have no control.”

But imagine it was 100% nurture: every interaction with your child, every word you say shapes its personality – permanently and possibly irreversibly.

Who could bear this kind of responsibility?


This can be extended to everything in your life. (Learned) helplessness is a serious condition, when one believes that everything that happens to him is completely out of his/her control.

The other extreme is Total Responsibility – you are responsible for everything that happens to you, to your current conditions and future prospects.

Again an immense burden.


As it is often the case, the truth is in-between: Genetics does determine most of the variance in traits (even complex ones) and its effect depends on time and overall socio-economic status (hereditability increases with both). It seems that nurture doesn’t do much on long term – but at least something short term. Beyond partner selection, one is largely (but not completely) absolved of metaphysical responsibility (definitely not the case for physical responsibility – shelter, food, protection).

For life outcomes it is similar – any outcome is a mixture of elements you control (your skills, resources you invest in it etc.) and random noise. The mix depends on the task/decision on hand, going from pretty much all noise (playing roulette), to much more controlled environments (but never completely without noise). You have some responsibility for the outcome, not total.

We are caught somewhere between two absurd positions, reminding me of:

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

— Voltaire.