Thursday, January 7, 2010


Recently I have thought about what loyalty means to me and I want to share with you some thoughts based on the definitions from Wikipedia:

Loyalty and Marketing
The practice of providing discounts, prizes, or other incentives to encourage continued patronage of a business. Generally, loyalty programs are considered less expensive to maintain than allowing customer defection or 'churn'.

In most of my work life I have been working in what we call "Customer Relationship Management" (CRM), or Customer Relationship Management Analysis.

To manage your customer relationship means among other things that you want to decide which customers you want to keep and which you do not want to keep, and how much you are willing to pay to keep your customers.

You might think that it is a simple calculation: money in - money out, by watching the balance. It's not that simple. I used to work for a phone company, and I can tell you: there isn't a simple relation between what the company earns per customer and size of their bills! It's a calculation of the amount of in going and out going calls and where there are directed to and from. What time were the calls, did we get the information on the call or were there delays? How much time did we spend on the customer, what price the phones were that we gave them. And last but not least: who is his network? If we loose one will we then loose others, because they are used to call each other at a cheap rates?

We did not want to keep all our customers, or we did not want to keep them all on similar terms. We wanted to keep the customers who paid well for the services we provided. Among those customers we looked for the loyal customers and we looked on how we could increase their loyalty.
  • Step one is purchasing and re-purchasing (what we call having a long lifetime)
  • Step two is having them not use our competitors’ products
  • Step three is advocating for us
On the other hand: having a large number of customers was important at the stock exchange, regardless of the value of each customer. So we also wanted the not-loyal customers, but at what prize?

Loyalty and ethics
The concept of loyalty is an important part of ethics. Plato originally said that "only a man who is just could be loyal", and that loyalty "is a condition of genuine philosophy". The philosopher Josiah Royce said it was "the supreme moral good", and that one's devotion to an object mattered more than the merits of the object itself. Loyalty is a quality you look for in a friend.

I agree: Loyalty is definitely what I look for in a friend. I see loyalty in a friend as someone who is true to their word, who'll do what they said they would do. Who will say the same things to my face as they would say behind my back.

I find it interesting that Plato relates justice and loyalty. To be just means to have the "right" morals, but according to whom or what? Does it mean that I can only be loyal to someone or something who is sharing my perception of what the right morals are?

I guess: Yes!

Let me give you an conversation I had with an ex: If I believed that one should never lie and you believed that it was ok to lie but that one should never say something bad about another person. And then you would ask me about your haircut and I didn't like it. Saying that I didn't like it would then be disloyal to you, saying I liked it would be disloyal to me.

What I take from Plato is that loyalty is subjective and that we will always see loyalty according to our own ethics. Even if we see ourselves as loyal, people with different ethics might see us as disloyal.

Loyalty is an illusion
If I get Josiah Royce right then being a loyal friend means that the value of being a friend means more than the value the person you befriend has (according to whatever standards).

So maybe loyalty is an illusion, or loyalty is based on an illusion. It is not based on values or facts but just a decision: this is what I make up that loyalty is and these are the people or causes I want to be loyal to. And no one can prove that I am loyal.

Loyalty within Hierarchy
Within hierarchies loyalty usually has to be given to authority.

This is one of my favorites, because I know that when it comes to authorities I have a different way of showing loyalty than most others: I am authentic! I believe that being honest is one of the biggest signs of authenticity and loyalty I can give. Some people believe that obeying or pretending to agree is the biggest signs of loyalty.

Loyalty in the Bible
Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24 NIV)
Attempting to serve two masters leads to "double-mindedness" (James 4:8), undermining loyalty to a cause.

James 5:2. The Bible also speaks of loyal ones, which would be those who follow the Bible with absolute loyalty, as in "Precious in the eyes of Jehovah, is the death of his loyal ones", (Psalms 116:15)

I used to believe that I had made up my own religion. I wasn't brought up in a religious home but as a kid I learned a lot about the bible. And what I understood was that "God will always forgive you", "There are no sins" and "Thou shall love thou brother". What I got was: we are all doing our best and God loves all of us. I really meant ALL OF US. So you can imagine I got confused when I heard people condemn gays or people of other religions. First I thought that they just hadn't read the bible yet. Later I thought that I had just made up my own religion since I seemed to get something different from the same book.

I believe in Jesus saying that you cannot have two masters. You have one or none. But this also means to me that if God exists, them I am one with God. Because if I am loyal to God I cannot be loyal to anyone else unless they have the exact same morals as I have. I can only be loyal to God if we share the same morals. If not there will be times where I will be disloyal to him or to myself. I believe that I am always doing exactly what I want to be doing so I cannot really break my own moral standards, I can only change them. So if I am loyal to God then my moral and my ethics are the same as God's morals.

If I am God I guess that everyone who believes in God is God. But in my thought process this leads to God is everyone, and this means we are all the same, which really confuses me because I experience that we are not always loyal to each other. I have had friends who would one day say that they would help me, and the next day they would say that helping me would mean being disloyal to someone else.

I just want to be loyal in my own way, to my own standards, and I am blessed with the knowing that my loyalty is the same as being God.

So maybe loyalty is one big illusion based on an illusion. Maybe that's why Wikipedia writes that:

Loyalty plays an important rule in Literature.

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