Written by Rebecca Ninke
“If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” How many times did you hear that growing up? I can honestly say that when the opportunity to jump off a bridge after swimsuit-clad friends did present itself, I declined. Unfortunately, my choice probably wasn’t out of loyalty to my parents and what they had taught me about thinking for myself, but more to do with my fear of heights—specifically, falling from them.
Loyalty isn’t something we talk about much outside of product marketing meetings these days. It’s a pervasive part of our world as consumers, but it’s not on our radar much as people of faith. Maybe it should be, especially for us parents who are eager to instill in our kids the right kind of loyalty.
That’s the catch, right? Loyalty is an enormous component of any steadfast relationship. But it can also mean trouble. You don’t want to teach your young child to be loyal to a friend who consistently mistreats him or her. When they are older, you don’t want them to feel pressured to be loyal to a person who tries to control or manipulate them or to a friend who is making dangerous choices.
So there it is: we want to teach our children to be people of integrity who are loyal to the right things.
The Book of Ruth in the Old Testament is a great little read about two women who had some really bad luck and a whole lot of loyalty. Because they stuck together, even though they didn’t have to, things worked out pretty well. When Naomi told the wives of her dead sons to return home to their people to find economic security and children with a new husband, Ruth responded, “Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16) Naomi couldn’t really argue with that level of loyalty.
Here’s a typical scenario today: imagine your daughter has been friends with a neighbor girl since they were toddlers bumping into each other on the grass. Through their early grade school years, they remained steadfast friends and playmates. Then one day, a popular kid approaches your daughter and asks with a sneer why she is friends with “that girl.” Like Eve chomping on the apple, your kiddo suddenly sees that her longtime friend dresses a little strangely, runs in gym a bit like an ostrich, and will probably never be among the ranks of the super cool. But she has always been a faithful friend through thick and thin. Will your child respond as loyally?
There’s a lot of evidence that as children grow, having one good friend can help buffer the stress of childhood and adolescence. Knowing that there’s one loyal person that can be relied upon, who knows all your quirks and likes you anyway, creates the important effect of a human shield through much of what life throws at kids growing up.
Help teach your kids to invest in those things that are life-giving—things like true friends. Model loyalty for them in your faith, friendships, and family.
REBECCA NINKE is mom to Reid and Kate, married to Dave. A host of pets made her children appear to be human Swiffers before they could walk. She works as a freelance writer/editor and a Lutheran pastor in the Madison, WI area. Her greatest professional accomplishment is not dropping a cuss word in
the pulpit in 20 years. Her idea of fun is running, biking, rollerblading, and adding rooms onto treehouses.