On Loyalty: Ideas versus People

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
Gloria Steinem

I, like every teenage girl, fought with my mom a lot. Our fights were mostly aggravated by the fact that growing up (and still) I sat staunchly on the conviction that I was right and everyone else was wrong. I would get in heated arguments with my parents and teachers because their rules did not make sense to me, and so I would not follow them. I would only act in ways that were reasonable from my own limited perspective.

One of the worst arguments had between my mother and I was during my sophomore year of high school. I had chewed out a teacher in front of the rest of my class because she had assigned only a few chapters of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, asserting that the rest of the book was irrelevant because the AP tests wouldn’t be focused on those chapters. As one of the three members of my high school’s “book club,” I felt justified in voicing my righteous fury. I argued that education is not for test scores but for betterment of the soul. I kept arguing way past when it would have been appropriate, despite my classmates looks of horror.

Needless to say, my mother got a call that day.

Upon arriving home, I got to exercise my “righteous fury” for the second time within a four hour period. I knew deep down that my convictions were rightfully founded, but my mother didn’t want to hear it.

“It doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong.” She told me. “It matters that she is your teacher and you treated her disrespectfully. You need to make this right.”

I was so horrified that my own mother would choose this teacher she’d never met over her own daughter. I felt that some deep maternal code of loyalty had been broken. I felt betrayed.

But now? Now I say “go mom!”

What I can see now is that I am my mother’s daughter in every possible way. I become more like her by the minute—and what’s funny is now I can look back on that blow up and see it for what it really was. It was us being the same person with the same conviction: Ideas are more important than people.

Hear me out on this. In that argument my mother saw the idea of “authority demands respect more than my daughter demands protection” whereas I saw the idea of “the institution of learning demands protection more than my teacher demands respect.” In both of our minds, the idea we were fighting for meant more than the person we were dealing with.

The more I have grown to know my mother, the more I love her for this quality. The good and the true mean more to her than anything else. She will always tell people exactly what she thinks of a situation, regardless of how they may react. This isn’t to say she doesn’t love her family. In fact, I think it shows the opposite.

She loves her family so much that she is willing to tell them the true thing, even if it is the hard thing. I hope to someday be as brave as my mother. She’d rather have done right by you by telling you what you didn’t want to hear, than by being the friend who constantly supports you in your bad decisions or bad behavior.

It takes real courage to tell those you love the truth, even if it means they’ll hate you for it. The truth may sting, but I’ll take it over my own self-inflicted ignorance any day.

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