So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.
(Sir Walter Scott)
FAITHFULNESS IS A VIRTUE THAT’S EASY TO ADMIRE IN OTHERS AND HARD TO ACQUIRE FOR OURSELVES. The tales that tug at our heartstrings the most powerfully are those that tell of people who, at great cost, held true to their promises and duties. In the presence of great faithfulness, we’re moved to love and admiration.
Maybe it’s risky to rate the virtues, but there does seem to be a sense in which faithfulness is a preeminent quality. “Let us be true: this is the highest maxim of art and of life, the secret of eloquence and of virtue, and of all moral authority” (Henri-Frédéric Amiel). The principle of faithfulness deserves some priority in our thinking. And if we’re looking for a good motto to live by, we could do much worse than to pick the old Latin slogan: semper fidelis (“ever faithful”).
The importance of faithfulness is not limited to one or two areas of our lives; it should govern everything we do, in every relationship. We should be faithful to our spouses, obviously, but that’s just the beginning. Our children also deserve our faithfulness, as do our parents. Our friends and our neighbors would like to be able to count on us. At work, our employers (and if we’re an employer, then our employees) need to know that we’ll keep our commitments. And yes, our great institutions and our nation need our loyalty too.
It’s the fine print in our contracts that undercuts our faithfulness. Often, when we think we’re being loyal, all we really mean is, “I’ll keep my word, if I don’t change my mind” or “if I don’t get a better deal” or “if what I’ve promised doesn’t become inconvenient.”
If you have any concept of God as a personal being, think about the link between that concept and your faithfulness to other human beings. Isn’t it a fact that our trustworthiness in social matters is tied to our trustworthiness in spiritual matters? If, in a pinch, we would set aside our commitments to God, wouldn’t it be foolish for other people to expect us to keep our promises to them? If not even God can count on us, then we’re simply not worthy to be trusted, period.
“When men cease to be faithful to their God, he who expects to find them so to each other will be much disappointed” (George Horne).