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Loyalty ( mhd. Triūwe , nominalization of the verb trūwen “be firm, be sure, trust, hope, believe, dare”) is a virtue that expresses the reliability of an actor towards another, a collective or a thing. Ideally, it is based on mutual trust or loyalty . The fact that someone behaves loyally does not automatically mean that this behavior must be assessed positively (see e.g. cases of loyalty to the Nibelung ). Also, behavior that outsiders interpret as an expression of "loyalty" cannot in every case actually be explained by the fact that the person concerned feels obliged to be loyalty to the beneficiary of their actions. Perhaps the behavior in question is merely beneficial to the doer. Only the behavior of a person can be checked by outsiders, i. H. whether or not he fulfills the loyalty expectations of others.


On the one hand, fidelity is the inner firm bond between a person and another person or idea . It is ritually symbolized by objects of material culture and an oath of loyalty be sealed , e.g. B. by a wedding ring . In addition, the dog , the symbol of the anchor and the color blue are pictorial symbols for the term loyalty. On the other hand, people who behave as loyally as is expected of them without the existence of a “bond” in the above are also referred to as “loyal”. Meaning could be demonstrated in them.

Linguistically related to the concept of loyalty, the terms of trust ( English trust ), marriage and the verbs a little trust , trust somebody something , entrust someone with something , someone supervise and English true ( "true"). Some Romance languages have borrowed the word for "armistice" ( Italian and Spanish tregua , French trêve or English truce ).

In the language of lawyers, the term infidelity denotes a criminal offense . Above all, it is about the embezzlement of money from a company or a community by a cashier or treasurer who was entrusted with the administration of the money and used it inappropriately.

The act of breach of a loyalty requirement and the resulting result is morally assessed as a breach of loyalty . Disloyal behavior (moral) is rated as betrayal if the person concerned has pretended to the person who has a right to their faithful behavior that the mutual relationship is characterized by loyalty. This behavior is rated as serious if it was the intent of the perpetrator to harm his victim and if the unfaithful person has concluded an alliance with opponents of his victim for low motives .


Loyalty between individual people

Loyalty is relevant for long-term social closeness of members in highly personal institutions such as B. in friendship , partnership or marriage . It can go beyond death. Goethe emphasizes this when in Faust II (in the 3rd act) he lets the choir leader say: “Not only merit , loyalty also preserves our person .” A special form here is “loyalty to oneself ”, then one stands about his principles, his inclinations or his past. Loyalty between two people is based on experiences in which an individual proves the truth of what he is saying through actions towards the other person.

Colloquially, the term “loyalty” is often used as a synonym for sexual exclusivity in the couple relationship, in the sense of the ideals of monogamy . In this context, loyalty should express that the partner does not enter into any sexual contact with other people outside of the couple relationship. If he / she does it anyway, this will automatically be understood as infidelity , i.e. breach of loyalty, by those who consider partners to be committed to mutual loyalty . Sexual behavior that is deemed illegitimate is prosecuted in legal systems in which " adultery " is punishable. In liberal societies, however, there is a growing belief that the question of whether people with a permanent sexual relationship should be faithful to one another is negotiable.

In general, the attribute “loyal” is not always associated with the idea of ​​an exclusivity requirement. So expected z. B. Nobody takes seriously that a "loyal" customer never (also) uses the offer of a competitor. In comparable cases, “loyalty” means maintaining a (here: business) relationship over the long term.

Loyalty between individuals and groups

Loyalty in the sense of mutual trust and the expectation of stability in relationships occurs e.g. For example, if a person permanently belongs to an organization (e.g. due to long-term membership in an association, “club loyalty”), or to an institution (eg “church loyalty”), to an employer (“company loyalty ") Or seller (" customer loyalty "). The sociologist Homans has put forward the thesis: "The more frequent the contact, the more intense the emotional relationship."

In recognition of behavior that they value as an expression of particular loyalty, some institutions award their members awards, which, however, often only have a purely symbolic value ( orders of loyalty ). As an incentive to remain “loyal” to them, companies often award “ loyalty rewards ” with a material value to their customers (e.g. “ loyalty points ”).

Belonging to a community is often associated with a more or less pronounced expectation of loyalty to its members. In extreme cases: one for all, all for one .

If this reciprocal effect of loyalty is disappointed by one of the two sides, it can happen that one of the actors terminates this loyalty relationship internally or externally (sociologically: " Exit "). ("Who can still build on nations, so much has been done for them." - Goethe, Faust I , Walpurgis Night.)

An individual's loyalty that persists despite disappointment is sometimes referred to as canine loyalty (compare Argos (dog) ) or Nibelung loyalty (a form of unconditional, emotional and potentially fatal loyalty).

Under National Socialism , the concept of loyalty was ideologically extremely inflated and presented as a particularly positive feature of Germanic culture. The loyalty of the people to the “Führer” presented itself in the public life of the “Third Reich” as a generally binding social obligation, the slightest violation of which was enough to be arrested or even murdered. Especially towards the end of the war, a slight mockery of Hitler's person was enough to be taken to a labor camp.

Loyalty between groups to one another

This can exist alternately between superordinate and subordinate parties (example: vassalage , cf. feudalism ) and between formally equated institutions (example: entente cordiale ). Since collective actors often seem to act unpredictably or randomly through their internal decision-making, this is a fragile form of loyalty. This also applies to contractual loyalty between companies (see Pacta sunt servanda ).

Loyalty Duty

Fiduciary duties are duties that certain legal subjects have to exercise by law. The secondary obligations of the employee are in labor under the term fiduciary duty. It arises from the principle of good faith according to § 242 BGB , its counterpart is the employer's duty of care . According to this, the employee must adhere to the rules of conduct required to maintain the smooth running of the business , observe the company rules and comply with the industrial safety and accident prevention regulations. Concretizations are loyalty , omission of certain actions ( enticement , acceptance of bribes ), confidentiality or a non-competition clause .

"The corporate loyalty is a key legal principle of company law ." You determine the content and limits of the rights that the individual shareholders in the company are entitled. For example, the board of directors of the stock corporation is committed to loyalty. If he violates the general duty of loyalty to the company, he can be called upon to cease and desist . Special forms of the duty of loyalty are the non-competition clause ( § 88 AktG ) and the duty of confidentiality ( § 93 para. 1 AktG).

The principle of contract loyalty in public and private law is characterized by the principle: Pacta sunt servanda ( Latin ; Eng. Contracts are to be observed ). This principle also contains a form of legal fiduciary duty.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Loyalty  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Loyalty  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Gerhard Köbler: Etymological legal dictionary. 1995, p. 409.
  2. Ronald Kelm, Working time and duty roster design in nursing care , 2012, p. 39
  3. ^ Piet Diepholz / Jan Eckhard von Horn, Arbeitsrecht für Steuerberater , 2008, p. 50
  4. ^ Peter Ulmer : MünchKomm BGB. 2002, § 705, Rn. 181.
  5. BGHZ 81, 263
  6. Cf. Jens Boysen: Review of: Buschmann, Nikolaus: Murr, Karl Borromäus (ed.): “Treue. Political loyalty and military allegiance in modern times. ”Göttingen 2008 . In: H-Soz-u-Kult . February 12, 2010.