RIDE OR DIE: A Conversation on Loyalty

We first need to understand that our concept of “loyalty” is largely based on outdated paradigms and poisonous social and cultural contracts that were designed to exploit those who are inclined to offer allegiance, benefitting those who leverage that allegiance for their own advancement. This dynamic dubbed “loyalty” is an age old exchange between givers and takers. 

More often than not, it is the takers who condemn others as “disloyal” when they are met with a boundary. They will shame a well for running dry, when they are the ones who have depleted the source. 

Those who demean your boundaries and deem them as disloyal only take offense because they are the ones who benefit from you having no boundaries at all. 

Saying “no” is not disloyal. Not exploiting your network to put someone else on, is not disloyal. Choosing not to deplete your resources to help someone who mismanaged their own, does not make you disloyal. Protecting yourself, your interests and that which you hold dear is not disloyal. It is, rather, a demonstration of one who understand their priorities and holds their personal value in high regard. 

As we examine the elements that helped shape our belief systems (culture, family, religion, music, movies, organizations and group affiliations) we can begin to unpack and identify how breeding behaviors of unhealthy allegiance were actually created to benefit those on the receiving end of our self sacrifice. 

I contend that loyalty, through this lens, should be revisited and reconstructed. In particular, by Generation X (and beyond) who created and glorified the mentality of “Ride or Die”, need to recognize this as toxic idealism established by a broken and patriarchal social caste. 

“Ride until the wheels fall off” why?! 
It wasn’t until I began to care about myself and get my shit in order that I realized how ridiculous this is. I was driving on I-10 in Houston when my tire pressure light came on. I immediately pulled into the nearest gas station to find I had a nail in the rear tire. Without hesitation or procrastination, I had them patch it right then and there. While waiting I thought “Ride until the wheels fall off? Nah. I’m not even willing to roll on a flat, much less until they fall off. How is it then, that I’m willing to treat my car better than I treat myself?” 

The next time a man expects you to “Ride until the wheels fall off” ask HIM if he gets a flat tire would he roll on the rim. Won’t happen. 

Ask yourself this: who benefits from you riding until the wheels fall off? Only the person in the passenger seat who probably isn’t paying the car note or even giving you gas money. 

The same can be suggested of your professional career.
No one is obligated to help you. You are not obligated to help others. Assistance is a gift, not a right.

More people will expect you to help them as you ascend in your success. Which isn’t to suggest you shouldn’t help, or mentor, or open a door for others. Certainly we have all benefited from the generosity of someone in a higher position investing in us. But generosity is not to be confused with loyalty, just as someone being conservative with their resources should not be confused with DISLOYALTY. There is a difference between asking someone who knows the way for directions, and asking them to give you a piggy back ride to the destination.

It should also be noted; if the gift HARMS the giver, THAT is not true generosity. If you’re willing to accept a gift that you know harms the giver, you may just be a selfish asshole. 

As we find ourselves in a Cancel Culture that glorifies cutting people off, we’ve been reducing  our ideals and beliefs to only what can be consumed as a meme on social media. People are quick to dub others “disloyal” not because a betrayal took place, but because someone simply didn’t want to grant a request, or perhaps couldn’t self sacrifice in exchange for the other persons self interest. 

At this stage of my journey, I’m learning that life is about agreements. Agreements with our friends, family, lovers, employers, colleagues... and most importantly the agreements that we have with ourselves. 

My clearly communicated agreement with myself and others is that I am my first priority. My loyalty is an offering of faithfulness, support and honesty given ONLY after I’ve given it to myself first. 

Don’t expect me to “ride or die”.
I certainly don’t expect it of others. I can’t agree with that. 

Instead let’s LIVE to see where the journey takes us.