Monday Meditation: To whom is loyalty owed?

From Aesop's Fables

Painting by Sylvia Siddell
A GREAT conflict was about to come off between the Birds and the Beasts. When the two armies were collected together the Bat hesitated which to join. The Birds that passed his perch said: “Come with us”; but he said: “I am a Beast.”

Later on, some Beasts who were passing underneath him looked up and said: “Come with us”; but he said: “I am a Bird.” 

Luckily at the last moment peace was made, and no battle took place, so the Bat came to the Birds and wished to join in the rejoicings, but they all turned against him and he had to fly away. He then went to the Beasts, but soon had to beat a retreat, or else they would have torn him to pieces. “Ah,” said the Bat, “I see now
- He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends."

At one point in time, I might have agreed with Aesop here. Those who remain ‘neutral’ in conflict have historically annoyed me, as it seems these neutral parties tend to like to wait it out to see who the winner will be. I’ve grown somewhat from that position, now. I see the benefit of the “Not my circus, not my monkeys” mantra.

Loyalty is something that is not only earned, but maintained. It must be freely given, and it is a two-way street. Both the birds and the beasts expected loyalty from one to whom they’d shown indifference in the past. 

It can be difficult to be a bat, a bird or a beast in a situation like this. Online relationships seem much more disposable than those in real life. It's a lot easier to "unfriend" on a social media site.

In online relationships, we tend to jump into social contracts without taking the time to read that fine print and slowly build up trust as we do when we're in an offline group. We also tend to be much more forgiving toward bad behavior online than off. The bat may have seen that the birds behaved very badly toward the beasts, but chose to ignore that the birds were the actual "bad guys" in the situation because the bat wasn't directly affected.

Unfortunately for the bat, those birds aren't really his friends. Deep down, the bat knows that he doesn't fit in with the birds, but he needs a tribe. The beasts don't really care for him because they have pointed out the unforgivable behavior of the birds to the bat, and the bat doesn't act upon it. The beasts see the bat as unscrupulous and the birds see the bat as indecisive. In the end, the bat doesn't really have any true friends in either tribe.

So, what’s the poor bat to do? Honestly, I’d tell him to make his own tribe. He doesn't fit in with either of these groups. I'd advise him to find those who aren’t interested in pointing fingers, getting involved in online dramas, and who aren’t so enamored with themselves that they don’t give him any notice until they want something from him. I’d tell that bat to be happy with himself until he does find his people, and never stop looking for them. He’s better off alone than with those who demand fealty from those with whom they almost never interact otherwise. In the end, his loyalty belongs with himself, and with those who celebrate rather than tolerate him.

It's something to consider.



  1. This is so true! Often times, the best path is to gather your own tribe. But, I would hope that the lesson we learned was incorporated into how we interact with other tribes in the future.


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