The Virtue of Loyalty
Requiescat – Rest in Peace by Breton Riviere (1888)
“Nothing is more noble, nothing more
venerable, than loyalty.”
- Cicero, attributed, Day's Collacon
Interview on Loyalty, with Paul Tomory
Paul Tomory has chosen to talk about loyalty as a virtue because it has played an important part of his working life, and because he has been exposed to both loyalty and disloyalty in his long career.
Tomory, 81, was born in Budapest, Hungary and fled as a young child with his family to Austria in 1944, just prior to the Soviet invasion, which followed Nazi occupation earlier in the Second World War. (His father was a senior member of the Hungarian Army, which fought to preserve nationhood against both the Nazis and Soviets.) His family later immigrated to Canada in 1951.
The retired father of seven was an electrical engineer, later working on large construction projects for Westinghouse. Ultimately landing in a sales management position, he had staff reporting to him, he reported up the corporate ladder and he had to deal with customers and suppliers on many large and complicated developments.
The constant juggling required to execute those projects, because of their complexity, required teamwork, honesty and ultimately loyalty to and from all involved.
While he saw examples of great loyalty, he also saw disloyalty, mostly in the form of dishonesty and putting short-term gain over long-term success, often for personal reasons. “It was a case of anything they could do to get the carrot dangling in front of their nose, rather than playing a long game for the greater good,” he said.
“It is important to ask: Are my personal interests overriding loyalty to others?”
This lack of loyalty to the team, the company, clients and suppliers resulted in some people either misleading others or being outright dishonest, as opposed to being truthful and reliable.
A lack of loyalty in a work environment can lead to distrust, lies and chaos, whereas loyalty can make for a more functional business environment. It helps overcome petty differences or larger conflicts in everyday affairs and leads to more predictable and peaceful work relations, and ultimately, a more successful business.
“It’s as simple as when people realize someone is telling you the truth, they work with you,’’says Tomory.
Tomory has had his mentors, including manager Ed Winner who taught him how loyalty benefits the wider group and the larger cause. He has also done his share of mentoring, often informally and leading by example.
Tomory said loyalty is greatest when it comes naturally without intent or deliberation, as opposed to when it is deliberate and conscious.
But it also raises the question; Are there limits to loyalty? For Tomory, loyalty to Jesus Christ and God is a given and the example that Christ set for all of us.
However, loyalty does become an issue when it is to someone or something that is not good or perhaps even evil. With the right moral compass applied to loyalty, it is critical to always be aware of who or what you are vesting your loyalty in. Blind loyalty can be destructive for all concerned, he said.
At its highest level, loyalty is connected to charity and love. As a Christian, if I love someone, am I necessarily loyal to them? Likely so. Is it possible to be loyal to someone without loving that person? According to Tomory, maybe so, but it doesn’t come as easily.
Paul Tomory. 81. Now retired, Paul was an Electrical Engineer, then Senior Manager on construction projects for Westinghouse, where he worked for many years.
What is Loyalty?
To be loyal is to persist in a valued relationship over time, through difficulties and challenges, ups and downs. Loyalty is a relational virtue, involving a subject or subjects, who exhibit it to individuals, or groups of people.
The cardinal virtue most closely related to loyalty is fortitude, or courage, which moderates our fear and our daring, enabling us to overcome difficulties we face in seeking to act rightly. It is a mean between cowardliness and rashness. To be courageous, we must both be able to actively confront difficulties through magnanimity – the capacity to know, love and seek out great things, worthy of honour – and endure them through patience, perseverance and constancy. (2.)
It is these qualities of endurance that are most characteristic of loyalty. To be properly loyal to our friends, family, associates, colleagues, and various organizations we may be affiliated with, we must be patient with them as they undergo challenges, we must persevere in our commitment to them, which requires time and investment, and we must do so with constancy – our loyalty cannot be switched on and off, but persist through thick and thin.
All of this must be done within the ambit of fostering good through the relationship. With that goal in mind, it is important to remember that loyalty is not blind, but involves a prudential judgment, wherein the relationship is maintained and fostered insofar as there is the potential for greater good to be realized through it. This involves wisdom, good judgment, and sound practical reasoning.(3.)
Written by: Doug Kelly
1. Edward Sri, The Art of Living: The Cardinal Virtues and the Freedom to Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2021), 113–14.
2. ST II-II, q. 129, a. 1 Thomas, Summa Theologica, Complete English ed (Westminster, Md: Christian Classics, 1981).
3. ‘What is Loyalty?’ section written by Peter Copeland