"Semper Fidelis"
Translation: Always Faithful
Motto of the US Marine Corps

"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 Federick Amiel

The word "fidelity" connotes faithfulness or loyalty. It can refer to our intentions and behavior toward a person, an organization, or an idea. As the dictionary says, "Fidelity involves the unfailing fulfillment of one’s duties and obligations and the keeping of one’s word or vows."

Fidelity means that what you say you are going to do is what you do. It means that your intention is powerful. It means that the object of your fidelity is worthy of sacrifice. The warrior is willing to die for his or her country. The spouse is willing to forgo relationships that would cause pain to his or her partner.

Selfish desire is the enemy of fidelity. Giving in to the desire for safety, the soldier may abandon his duty. Giving in to the desire for sexual pleasure or intimacy or the need to feel desirable, the mate may abandon the marital vows. Such failings suggest weakness of character. Such weakness may be in the form of confusion about what is really important. It may mean that we over value our own desires at the expense of the greater good. It is a disconnectedness from truth. It is dwelling in illusion. Character grows out of self knowledge, wise adoption of  values, and willingness to sacrifice the desirable for the important.

Sometimes loyalties conflict. For instance, we may desire to be faithful to an organization or an ideal in such a way that our conduct detracts from our fidelity to our family. Long work hours or frequent household moves in pursuit of a career may arise out of obligation to an organization, but it can strain the family. When loyalties conflict, difficult choices must be made. At such times it is especially important to know one’s self, one’s values and priorities. To choose between loyalties one must be self aware. One must be aware of one’s beliefs and one’s susceptibility to craving. One must learn the difference between the desire that seems important in the temporal illusion of craving and the desire to do the right thing.


Fidelity requires one to know one’s values and beliefs. It requires character that grows from self knowledge. Spend time contemplating what is most important to you. Perhaps, make a list of your deepest beliefs and most strongly held values, and rate them relative to one another.

Think about where in your life you typically find conflict between values. These may be areas where you find yourself getting in trouble with people or organizations. These may be places in your life where you feel stuck. Does school or work conflict with your desire for leisure? Does your career ambition conflict with your need for intimacy? Does your desire to feel pleasure or escape stress conflict with your commitment to long standing relationships? Once you have identified the conflict of values, examine your beliefs and feelings about those competing values. Do this with a quiet mind, so that you can access your true wisdom.

Seek the quiet, meditative mind where you perceive your connections to life. Strive for the stillness where petty ego concerns recede in importance, and the values of virtue and loving kindness take their rightful place in your awareness. Breathe in peace, and breathing out, let go of momentary worry and distraction. Take your time. Focus your attention upon the area of your heart. Note the feelings there. Seek a pure heart as you evaluate your level of commitment to your various competing values.

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© 1998-2011 Tom Barrett