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Which one leads to the greater good – integrity or loyalty?

A peaceful afternoon turns into a chaotic, murderous situation, when two servants, one from the Capulet household, and the other from the Montague’s, in the name of loyalty, begin a rude, sexist banter that ends up in Tybalt almost harming Benvolio.




This is the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare's way of showing the intensity of the hatred between the two families. The servants do not have to fight for their family. They are not obliged to do so, nor have they been commanded to. They are just servants, who, for the sake of loyalty, get into a fight. The question thus arises: is it really wise to act with loyalty if it urges you to not think critically, rather to blindly follow the person you are being loyal to?


Integrity is the ability to maintain one's moral code when circumstances tempt one to act otherwise. Loyalty, on the other hand, encourages one to break one’s moral code in order to support another’s idea of morality. Loyalty causes one to lose their individuality and often act in contravention of one’s conscience. A simple analysis would show that in most situations it is better to act with integrity rather than loyalty since integrity doesn’t disorient one’s moral compass, whereas acts of loyalty have a high propensity to distort into conflict and chaos.


The argument often made is that loyalty is a virtue that unites people. What is the price of this unity when probably righteous individuals do not condone the actions of the so called ‘loyal’ majority but are afraid to speak out? In fascist regimes, it is evident that loyalty plays a key role. Stalin’s Great Purges were aimed at exterminating even those who were simply perceived to be disloyal to him. Those loyal to him either didn’t mind this barbarity, or convinced themselves that it was correct, thus a compromise of not only their integrity, but effectively allowing one of the most brutal dictators to flourish. As Rob Asghar puts it, “loyalty is what allows followers to not merely overlook the crimes of their leaders, but to spin them into acts of heroism.” Thus, loyalty not only has questionable merit, it also risks metamorphosing into something worse.


A person with integrity, however, acts with the exact same moral codes throughout and saves themselves from the torment of doubting their actions. Hypothetically, if everyone were to act with integrity it would make the world a much better place. To quote Charles Marshall, “integrity is doing the right thing when you don’t have to.” With people doing the right thing even if no one was watching, it would preserve the crux of humanity. If everyone were to indeed act with integrity, it would be easier to trust people, which in essence would be true loyalty.

In conclusion, it is therefore wise to act with integrity as it helps maintain individuality and permits humanity to progress. Integrity also helps construct the foundation of loyalty, letting loyalty, in its true form, thrive.


References –


Asghar, R., 2018. Loyalty Isn't A Virtue, It's The Enemy Of Workplace Ethics. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/robasghar/2018/07/03/loyalty-isnt-a-virtue-its-the-enemy-of-workplace-ethics/?sh=21f30a804d4b> [Accessed 24 January 2022].


Cox, D., La Caze, M. and Levine, M., 2021. Integrity (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). [online] Plato.stanford.edu. Available at: <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/integrity/> [Accessed 25 January 2022].


Donahoe, W., 2015. Integrity Vs. Loyalty. [online] Linkedin.com. Available at: <https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/integrity-vs-loyalty-william-donahoe/> [Accessed 23 January 2022].

 

©Aaira Goswami, 2022. All rights reserved.




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