Who Deserves My Loyalty

A father was helping his young son learn to fly a kite at the beach.

The son complained, “Dad, I’m at the end of the string. The kite won’t go any higher!”

The father replied, “Then that’s the perfect height.”

Again, the son griped, “But I want to see how high it will go! Let’s cut the string!”

The father asked, “What makes you think it will go higher?”

The son groused, “Because I’m holding it back!”

Without a word, the father pulled out his pocket knife and cut the string.

They both watched as the kite flailed downward into the ocean, much to the child’s dismay.

“Dad…I don’t understand. The kite was pulling so hard, I thought it would fly a mile high?”

“Son, the kite only flew because you kept tension on the string. Think of the kite string as loyalty. When you cut the string, loyalty was severed. Once loyalty is broken, it’s hard to regain.”


This past weekend my oldest son, Brian, asked if I knew the difference between love and loyalty.

He explained, “Love is an emotion you feel, but loyalty is an act you demonstrate. It’s the reason some people see loyalty as being stronger than love.”

That reminded me of something I heard a few years ago: ”I appreciate love, but I would rather have loyalty.” 

This got me wondering how others perceive loyalty, so I looked for some observations on the subject by famous people. 

Legendary NFL Fullback Jim Brown

Jim Brown starred as running back for the Cleveland Browns back in the days when I was growing up in Cincinnati. 

Brown’s success on the field was rivaled only by his loyalty to teammates, fans, family and friends.  

He once said, “I’m not loyal to my friend because he’s right…I’m loyal to my friend because he’s my friend.”

Certainly, Brown occasionally got sideways with his coach and teammates, but you’d never know it because he never showed it. When he lost love he didn’t lose loyalty. 

Entertainment Mogul Samuel Goldwyn

Movie producer Samuel Goldwyn started a film company and produced his first feature length motion picture (The Squaw Man) for Hollywood when he was 33 years old. 

Over the next 35 years he became a film industry icon (Goldwyn is the “G” in MGM, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer).

Goldwyn often commented on the duplicitous and deceitful nature of the entertainment business, famously stating, “I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.” 

Like Brown, Goldwyn understood the paramount importance of loyalty. He favored employees who liked the job and had his back over employees who loved the job but might stab him in the back.  

“The Great American Author” Mark Twain 

Mark Twain was outspoken about everything, loyalty to his country being no exception. But he was careful to make a distinction, famously stating, “Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”

Twain believed that when he disagreed with government, it shouldn’t affect his loyalty to a country he loved. He apparently felt like to love is to be loyal.  

Author of The Godfather Mario Puzo 

Mario Puzo’s father abandoned his family when he was 12, leaving his mother to raise him and his six siblings on her own. 

Perhaps that’s why no other story exemplifies the distinction between love and loyalty better than his most famous work, The Godfather. 

When asked about the intense family loyalties threaded through the novel, Puzo commented, “The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other.”

While Twain believed love requires loyalty, Puzo did not. In The Godfather there are numerous instances where love is lost, but loyalty remains. 

What do I think? 

To love is to be loyal, but to be loyal does not mean to love, and…

“A person who deserves my loyalty receives it.” -Joyce Maynard