The Trap of Loyalty

During my morning quiet time, I often start by reading something spiritual and meditating on what stands out to me. Recently, I did a deeper study on a verse that gave me a lot of insight into why I sometimes struggle to make positive changes in my life. The verse is shown below.

Matthew 6:33 (KJV)
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; all these things shall be added unto you.

When I read this verse, the word righteousness seemed to “jump out” at me and lead me to ask the following question.

What is God’s righteousness?

To try to find an answer to these questions, I went back to the verse and gave it a second read and pulled out the main ideas, which are listed below.

  1. Look for, or pursue, the spiritual realm and the righteousness of God before other things.
  2. When I look for and pursue the spiritual life first, then all my needs are met.
    • these “things” in verse 6:33 are initially mentioned in verse 31
    • “things” in verse 31 are food, drink, and clothing
    • “things” in verse 33 could also refer to aspects of God’s righteousness that I want to embody

My heart desires to do #1 above, but in everyday life, I sometimes lose focus on His righteousness because I allow my brokenness to get in the way. God’s righteousness is His goodness, justice, mercy, love, honor, truth, and so on. I can have all of this in my life if I keep my eyes on Him instead of me. Grace tells me I am free in all ways– physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and so on. If that’s true, and I choose to accept grace, then what’s the deal?

Why do I still feel trapped by things in my life?
Why do I still struggle with destructive behaviors?

I think the trapped feeling comes from my limiting beliefs and my desire for control. I am not trapped because of God. He does not lack the power to change me if I surrender to Him. I know in my head (or ego) that surrendering and receiving God’s grace gives me the power and freedom to make lasting positive changes in my life, but I don’t always fully accept this in my heart. My head is afraid to let go of control and turn my will and my life over to God in order to receive His grace.

Why is it so hard to let my heart lead?

Well, my interactions with broken people throughout my life (and I am one of them) have taught me to be afraid of surrendering myself to anyone. My head tells me I should be afraid of being hurt, manipulated, abused, and used. My strong desire for safety sometimes often takes precedence over my desire for God. When this happens, I make my desire for safety and comfort an idol. In other words, God no longer has the #1 spot in my heart. For a moment, He is not my first priority, and something else occupies the spot in my heart that is meant to be occupied just by Him.

So, my struggle to change my behavior is a direct result of holding onto my strong desires and allowing my fears to drive me instead of my faith. My desires become my master and start to control me instead of me controlling them. This is what I call “self will run riot.”

The Spirit works in me to be a better version of my self when I am in a place of surrender to Him. He will not use power over me. He won’t take control of my life. Instead, He waits for me to let go and invite Him into my brokenness. He waits for me to give Him space to operate in all areas of life: my career, my health, my relationships, and more!

So, I asked the Spirit to shed light on my brokenness and show me some truth about myself that would help me grow. The following revelation is what the Spirit gave me.

You have an overdeveloped sense of loyalty.

I looked into the definition of the word loyal. It means “having or showing complete and constant support for someone or something.” Synonyms of loyal are faithful and devoted. And, devoted is defined as: “to give (oneself) up to.”

Given these definitions, the Spirit was saying “You give and show too much support to people’s expectations, wants, needs, beliefs, and ideas.” It’s true. I sometimes often give myself away to my parents, my boss, my husband, and my friends. Their human approval can be more important to me than God’s approval. Ohhh. Things were starting to make sense. I say “yes” to human requests (especially service opportunities) when I really want to say no. I value human opinions more than God’s opinions. I get used up instead of being useful. I make self-care a low priority.

Having and showing support for others is great, but not to the detriment of my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. Essentially, by trying to get human approval, I try to serve two masters. Scripture warns against divided loyalty such as this in the following two passages. 

Matthew 5:37 (HCSB)
But let your word ‘yes be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.

Matthew 6:24 (ESV)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Though Matthew 6:24 speaks of money as the other master, this verse works in the context of relationships with people too. Note how the text says a person will “despise” one of the two masters. I think this happens because of how loyalty leads to disappointment. Let me explain. 

If I am loyal to people instead of my God, I get disappointed. The word disappoint comes from the French word desapointer meaning “to remove from office.” An office is a position of authority used to rule. When someone disappoints me, I remove that person from a position of authority.  But, before I ever removed that person from such a position, I put that person on a pedestal and made him/her into an idol. This disappointment leads to resentment. Resentment equals dislike, which is a mild form of hate. Hate = despise.  Wow. This made me wonder about the following question

How did my sense of loyalty get so skewed?

Well, I believe it has to do with conditioning and a need for safety. I was raised without God and learned to remain loyal to the expectations and rules of my household because it brought emotional and physical safety. However, now that I am an adult and a believer, it’s my choice to turn over my sense of loyalty to God so I can be reconciled to Him. 

I want to look to Jesus and I want to be more like Him (i.e. loving, patient, kind). He is the only one deserving of my loyalty. He never disappoints me. Not only can I give Him my loyalty, but I can also always receive His loyalty—his constant support and fulfillment. Jesus shows me what healthy loyalty looks like. It is motivated by love rather than fear or guilt. In my relationships, I can be loyal and not give my loyalty to people. To do this, I need only place my loyalty where it rightly belongs—in my God’s hands. He will empower me to be a supportive wife, daughter, coworker, and more by filling me up with His love so that I can pour it out on others.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Consider the definition of loyal provided in the post, then think about the following questions.
    • When do you feel supported?
    • What do you look to for support?
    • When have you felt unsupported?
    • How did you deal with the feeling of being unsupported?
  2. How does your loyalty to your higher power differ from your loyalty to people and things? 

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