What does it mean to be loyal?
Amador Barbosa and his unit were clearing the side of the road of land mines. Without warning, a truck came barreling down the road at highway speed and stopped abruptly in front of them. The soldiers inside leaped out like they were being chased by a tornado.
The truck was armored. And it was on fire.
They had to act fast. Barbosa and three other soldiers were ordered into the back of the truck to rescue the store of explosives inside. As they worked among the flames, .30 caliber bullets began exploding. Then .50 caliber bullets. Smoke bombs started shooting a rainbow of colors into the heavens. A box of grenades caught on fire. Barbosa knew he was a goner.
Once he realized he was still alive, he kept shoveling that ammunition outside to safety until the job was done.
Now that’s loyalty.
He was awarded a Medal of Honor for that heroic, unselfish, truly loyal act.
True loyalty has perseverance and persistence mixed with it. It perseveres even through the danger of exploding bullets, enemy attacks, and the imminent threat of death. It persists until the job is done, down to the limits of available energy, or until death calls us home.
John Wooden believed that it’s okay for players to negotiate contract terms. But they put their loyalty up for sale when it’s always on the market for the highest bidder. Also, for a player to withhold his best effort until he gets what he wants from his team is to compromise his integrity.
That’s not loyalty.
There are two words that appear in the dictionary definition of loyalty. They are steadfastness and faithfulness. Amador Barbosa illustrated both of these when he spent those harrowing minutes unloading that burning ammo truck. John Wooden illustrated them when he honored his three year contract at UCLA after initially having serious second thoughts about fulfilling it when he first arrived.
We can illustrate loyalty when we keep our commitments, no matter how dark the road, how great the opposition, or how many times we feel like quitting.
Loyalty like that is rare. It’s simple to do, but it is far from easy. It is the greatest weapon against selfishness known to man if you’re willing to use it.
Think about that the next time your best friend is a half hour late to lunch, doesn’t call, and makes you want to kill him.