Ten Thousand Relatives

Ten Thousand Relatives

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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. 

THE ALL AMERICAN FULLBACK

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.”

Brown must have occasionally gotten sideways with his coach and teammates, but you never knew it because he never showed it. When he lost the love he didn’t lose the loyalty. 

THE ICONIC AMERICAN PRODUCER

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 an 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 would favor 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 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 loyalty was independent from love. If you are loyal you are loyal. 

THE AUTHOR OF THE GODFATHER 

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 illustrates a distinction between love and loyalty better than his famous work, The Godfather

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

Puzo also apparently believed that love and loyalty are two different things. In The Godfather there are numerous instances where love appears to be lost, but loyalty remains. 

TEN THOUSAND RELATIVES

Most of us have relatives. We often tell them we love them because they are family. But does this mean we should be loyal? 

American author Ethel Watts Mumford apparently believed that love and loyalty need not go hand in hand when she wrote, “God gives us our relatives…thank God we can choose our friends.”   

2500 years ago, Greek playwright Euripides agreed when he wrote:

“One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.” 

What do I think? 

To love is to be loyal, but to be loyal does not mean to love…and I’m glad I don’t have ten thousand relatives.

– Greg Hague

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