By Kelly Capriotti Burton
Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name?
I know for a fact why my mom chose the name “Kelly” for me. It was not because it was Irish (which she is, full-blooded). It was not because of my grandmother’ maiden name (O’Kelly). It was not because Mom had an affinity for a particular shade of green. It was because a friend of hers used the name a few months before I was born, and she liked the way it sounded. Hence, instead of Kimberly Rose Capriotti, I was dubbed Kelly Marie Capriotti.
It took me a long time to like my name. I have no idea why I wouldn’t have liked it, except as a kid you are sort of obligated not to like various things about yourself. It was when I started my telecommunications career in my early 20s that I embraced the alliteration of “Kelly Capriotti.” People said it sounded like a news reporter’s name. A few years later, I became Kelly Burton and then a professional journalist. Go figure.
Anyway, back in the day, I had a book mark for my Bible that bore the Gaelic meaning of my name, and it is, “Warrior maiden, loyal and brave.” For me, this used to conjure images of medieval battlefields and knights and the romantic but misguided notion of saving those in need. Yikes.
Today I look at loyalty and bravery a bit differently than I did then. Bravery… well, I don’t think I have the kind that would send me running, seemingly in slow motion, to rescue someone from the gunfire in the middle of a bloody battlefield (though I hope I would, if that were my unfortunate circumstance). But having kids has made me a lot braver about things like killing bugs with a lot of legs and riding crazy fast roller coasters in the front row with my eyes open. I wouldn’t do those things before having two C-sections along with the title Stepmom, but doing them now feels like…eh, nothing.
Loyalty, though, is a packed word with all sorts of connotations and priorities. Loyalty in and of itself implies commitment to someone or something. (Example: Our family is committed to certain brands of toilet paper, Pull-ups, peanut butter, diet pop, and salt and vinegar chips…Make fun. You know you have some of those preferences, too!) Brand loyalty means to me that even if another brand is on sale, I’m likely going to purchase the one I like most.
It’s not so easy with people. There is an age-old question about “who would you choose” if you could only save the life of one of your children – or your spouse versus a child. Who can possibly fathom what instinct would take over in this situation?
There are questions regarding the loyalty of ethics…If one person you care about is hurting or deceiving another person you care about, whose intentions do you protect?
I am absolutely entranced by legal and medical dramas, and absolutely dumbfounded by the decisions that the honor systems of these careers force people to make. Sometimes those codes involve withholding truths or making instinctive choices that could change or even save a person’s life! (Those of you who watched a certain 2-hour season finale involving a hospital shooting with me on Twitter know what I mean!)
Such complicated questions have no easy answer. How’s that for inspiring?
Fortunately, for Christians, there is at least a simple answer, or rather, a guiding principal. When we have a choice to make, when we must show loyalty to one entity over the other, we must look to our heavenly Father. Not in a trite, “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet kind of way, but in a gut-wrenching, down-on-our-knees, nose-to-the-Bible, prayer-and-fasting kind of way. If we look and listen, somehow, there is usually an answer spoken to our hearts.
Often, I have confused loyalty with defense, presuming that in order to show loyalty to my husband, my family, my friends, my company, I must defend every detail of it with exhaustive explanation and sometimes, with my fiery Irish-Italian temper.
What I am learning is that while the concept of loyalty is imbibed with dedication that is sometimes fierce, a key factor in devotion is honor. If I am loyal, faithful, committed to someone, I will honor his or her wishes. That doesn’t always involve an impassioned argument on that person’s behalf or as we say, going to bat for him. It might just mean quietly stepping aside and trusting in his wisdom.
Loyalty is proving to be a tricky balance for me in all my roles as a family member, a friend, and a minister. There are instances ticking off in my head in which I wanted to do one thing to show my loyalty but for a specific reason took a different action. There are other times I can recount in which I demonstrated what I thought was loyalty in a way that was just all wrong.
The most important ingredient of loyalty, going hand in hand with honor, is love. And so, instinctively, when my kids are hurt, I want to jump to defense no matter who is on the other side of the issue. When my husband or our name is besmeared, I want to point out all the facts that prove the instigator wrong. When anyone or anything I care about is mocked or not taken seriously, lied to or cheated, I want to fix it with a good fight for justice.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but there is another factor that joins with the honor and love, and that is wisdom. And like the serenity prayer says (I’ve been using that one more and more lately!), we must constantly seek the wisdom to know the difference – between what we change and what is beyond our control, between what fights are ours and which are…not.
The good news – the good good news! – is that just because it’s not always our jobs to fight the fight does not mean the fight isn’t going to be won:
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
…Incidentally, that promise was also the verse printed on my “Kelly” bookmark all those years ago.
Whatever loyalty I feel…toward peanut butter, my family, my beliefs, God feels it for me.
This Creator of the universe, who loves us so… He knows what He’s doing.
Hailing from Al Capone’s old stomping ground, Chicago Heights, IL, Kelly Capriotti Burton was a stranger to Southern Gospel music until marrying into it! Always a music fan, she discovered a fondness for gospel harmonies, southern hospitality, and road life while traveling with her husband Rod Burton begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Kelly has previously worked as a corporate project manager and a high school English teacher. She has written and taught in a variety of outlets and now spends her time caring for three daughters (two toddlers, one teen), assisting with Rod’s ministry, serving as Editor-in-Chief of SGN Scoops Digital Magazine, and to break up the boredom, working as a partner in YMR Music Productions, which presents the Branson Gospel Music Convention.
She considers life to be one unexpected adventure after another; her biggest so far was having two babies in 15 months after being diagnosed with infertility. She considers laughter (with a side of sarcasm) to be the best strategy, God’s grace to be the greatest gift, and miracles to always be possible.