What is Toxic Loyalty?

–Part 2 The Tribe: A Family

The Richness of Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of the 13 original colonies involved in creating the U.S.A. Students of American history are familiar with Paul Revere’s midnight ride to Lexington, MA. Also, we know our second president, a founding father, was from Massachusetts. Yes, Massachusetts has a celebrated history, being the state where I was born, raised, and lived all of my life in the Central and eastern parts of the state. What can I say? I am a creature of habit, never residing anywhere else.

Massachusetts is also rich in education and medical innovation. From the east, where the prestigious colleges of Harvard University and MIT, to central Massachusetts, which includes Clark University and the College of the Holy Cross to western Massachusetts, which is the home of Williams, Amherst, and Smith, we have an abundance of higher education institutions. Our medical centers are like no others. Leaders and Heads of states from all around the world visit our Boston hospitals for medical guidance. Not long ago, the Nobel prize was awarded to one of our young scientists from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center located 12 minutes from where I now reside.

With all of this lush activity, we also have a robust political history. Families of pedigreed backgrounds in the nontraditional sense held much prominence in our state. I would like to focus on one in particular whose zealous loyalty to members of their tribe wreaked havoc and suffering on many people’s lives.  Because of its destructive consequences, I would coin this type of loyalty as ”toxic.”

A Powerful Family Practicing ”Toxic Loyalty”

The family to whom I am referring is known more locally, except for one member who achieved notoriety on the national stage. The family hails from the Irish Catholic community of South Boston or, like those from Massachusetts, refer to as ”Southie.” This area of Boston was once upon a time more of a working-class part of Boston. Now ”Southie” is a desirable location for millennials. Like most of Boston and the surrounding suburbs, rentals and the real estate market have skyrocketed.

This particular family’s events primarily focus on two brothers, the older, a criminal, and the younger, a lawyer who became one of the highest-ranking politicians in the Massachusetts government. In his role, he could make a motion to end the session and allow even a vital bill to die.

The brothers appeared to lead very distant lives, but rumor has it they were very much entwined. Their separateness was accepted by those who chose to see this picture through a specific lens. One, allegedly, lived an exemplary life as a public servant while his brother carried on with crimes against humanity. The criminal committed murder, rape, pilfering, prostitution, as well as reputedly, sexual abuse against children. There was little that this man did not do. He was also an FBI informer, protected for his willingness to cooperate with the higher-ups. There was much corruption in this hall of justice. Consequently, to this day, an FBI agent remains in prison for his criminal actions. All of this seemed not to impact the so-called innocent brother who remained steadfast about his ignorance around his brother’s nefarious activities.

Although there is no hard evidence, many people speculate about the reason for his undoing.

For many years, the criminal avoided detection as he escaped justice. Eventually, he became one of the most wanted criminals on the FBI list of dangerous felons, yet he eluded all of those searching for him. At one time, several years ago, he was caught by a State Trooper who was just doing their job. Sadly, this Trooper was indeed in the wrong place at the wrong time. I do not know what happened to the criminal except that he managed to vanquish again. Unfortunately, for the Trooper, the result of ”toxic loyalty” appeared to rear its ugly head against him. With time following this event, this State Trooper was demoted and eventually lost his job. Becoming so demoralized, he committed suicide. Does one wonder how this happened after he intercepted the criminal? Who might have wielded their power to crush the will of this man in blue? Although there is no hard evidence, many people speculate about the reason for his undoing.

Over the years, the politician retired from his role in the legislative branch of the Massachusetts government and went on to acquire another position in higher education. This man of so-called good character continued to maintain his denial about knowing the whereabouts of his older brother. Eventually, he left his role in higher education, but he managed with the help of others to acquire long-lasting benefits included in his pension.

Justice Despite ”Toxic Loyalty”

The criminal was spotted a few years ago and arrested. The whereabouts of much of the stolen goods remain unknown. At one time, he was fortunate enough to have won the Massachusetts State Lottery, but supposedly, no tampering was involved.

Justice eventually prevailed, and at long last, prison became the permanent home for the criminal. The brother never breathed a word. The criminal finally reaped what he sowed, enduring a grizzly murder by another prisoner. The brother and his family planned on suing the Federal government for not protecting the criminal. Ironically, the United States taxpayer spent exorbitantly to search for this menace, and now the aggrieved family wants us to fork over more. As of this date, I have not heard anything more on this issue.

What if one of your family members, including children, suffered at the hands of the likes of this criminal?

This criminal inflicted a reign of terror on a community like no other at the time. If “toxic loyalty” was put aside for the greater good, innocent people would not have suffered. Many individuals believe that “family is family” and should trump all else. For those who are adamant about this, I ask one question, “What if one of your family members, including children, suffered at the hands of the likes of this criminal?” Would you hold such a high ideal? The Unabomber’s brother recognized the mayhem his brother created and knew he needed to intervene to prevent further murder and destruction. Luckily for others, this brother put aside any attachment or loyalty in favor of protecting those upon whom his brother preyed. As someone who is fiercely loyal, I recognize it has its place, but there are times when this virtue can genuinely be a vice.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts about loyalty and its place? Do you recognize when it is a virtue from vice? The next part of this series will address other organizations that have practiced it to the point where it became ”toxic” and wreaked irreparable harm.


Darlene Corbett
Darlene Corbett
Darlene Corbett views herself as a life-long learner, a pursuer of excellence, a work-in-progress, and a seeker-of-the-truth. She is also referred to as the "Unstuck Expert" in her many roles. Why? Because for over thirty years, she has been assisting people to get unstuck. Darlene's primary roles are now Therapist, Hypnotherapist, and Author/Writer. Although she loves speaking, it is now secondary and done mainly through her podcast, "Get Unstuck Now. Because of her wealth of experience, Darlene began putting her thoughts on paper.  Many of her blogs can also be found on Medium, Sixty and Me, and Penning these articles set the stage for her first book, "Stop Depriving The World of You," traditionally published by Sound Wisdom. Being a believer in pushing oneself as long as one has life, Darlene has tried her hand at fiction, hoping to have something completed in the no-so-distant future. Over the years, Darlene has been described as animated or effervescent which contradicts the perception of a psychotherapist. She firmly believes in the importance of being authentic and discusses platinum-style authenticity in her book.

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  1. Your post reads like one of my thriller novels! Family is family only goes as far as my personal values which includes compassion. My children are exempt because they are my children; this does not mean I would keep their lies if, as you say above, they act ike a criminal. Others have fallen by the wayside..many cousins numbering about 100+ have disappeared because I was unwilling to play their game. It is not family first for me at all…it is me first, then others who have earned the right to be in my life. Good job, Darlene, per usual.

  2. Thank you Darlene for this incredible share.
    I really needed some minutes to think about it and then it occurred to me that even knowing that it is out there, knowing that it is not right, but it is a very ugly truth of our world. This is the story with two brothers, toxic-loyalty in family-relationships destroys more than only what happens inside the family.

    I feel there is so much to share when it comes to topics like this.
    Especially the recognition of the difference when it comes to loyalty as a virtue or vice.

    • Thank you so much dear Ineke! I appreciate you taking the time out to read and respond. Yes, this family was quite dominant in Massachusetts. Sadly, so much was allowed because of toxic loyalty.

  3. Goodness my beautiful Darlenne! You already know I love who you are and value our soul connection going beyond the physical world! Today, with this story, you were elevated to a new level 💙🧚‍♀️💜

    I will answer your question with an extract from my second essay (written 14 months ago when my love story with the words accidently started!):

    The trigger for writing this article and sharing my thoughts with you was an insightful quote I read yesterday.
    “Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality. Upgrade your conviction to match your destiny.”
    – Stuart Scot

    I just thought of giving a try to detail it a bit; because this might be a bit confusing.
    What I believe is that this has everything to do with growing as a person. This has to do with becoming truly self-aware. This has to do with being ‘brave’ enough to deal with the accompanying pain. This has to do with becoming real and starting living ‘wholeheartedly’ as one of my favorite authors known as Brené Brown likes to call it. This has to do with centering our life on ‘Principles’.

    To give you a quick sample of what it means to be principle-centered versus any other biased Center, let’s suppose I have a kid who accidently killed somebody when driving drunk. Because I am centered on my children, I will do all what it takes to protect my child. I will bribe a killer (who is used to being in jail) to take the responsibility of the incident. If my Center was the ‘Principles’, I would have been the one to accompany my kid to the police station.

    “Your center is the basis for your love manifestation. If your center is your children, the love that manifests from that will mostly benefit your children. If your center is the ‘Principles’, the manifestation of your love will benefit the universe.”

    ‘Upgrading our conviction to match our destiny’ has absolutely nothing to do with reaching a global notoriety through celebrating ones’ demons, through making use of one’s emotional smart’ass to manipulate codependent and insecure people. This has nothing to do with being a ‘F*cked up & mediocre’ person and doing ‘Great’ things. This has nothing to do with compromising with integrity. This has nothing to do with all this CRAP no matter how ‘amazingly awesome’ our ‘targeted achievements’ might seem to be…

  4. Congratulations, Ms. Darlene, for such a beautiful essay highlighting the probable nexus. It will be anybody’s guess if the other brother is innocent until proven guilty. What a fine example of ‘toxic loyalty!’

    Corruption is a multi-faceted evil that vests its followers with complete mastery over disguise. Your story brings me back to the last few years I had the misfortune to live in my motherland. India, under the rule of the longest-reigning party, had become a hotbed of corruption. Human life had lost its meaning. Opponents captured and thrown into jails en masse. So many of them were never heard from again. Every level of government demanded bribes.

    Where is the comparison, you may ask? Thankfully, the government has changed for the better. Still, the perpetrators’ progeny leave no opportunity to accuse the honest leadership every step of the way. Why, because they claim to be innocent until proven guilty. Let them first handover the Billions, their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents looted from the country.

    In the same vein, if the ‘honest’ brother can plan to sue the government, why should he not be accountable for the other guy’s misdeeds?

    Thank You, With Warm Regards, and A Prayer For All

    • Thank you as always Bharat for your thoughtful and lovely comments. I appreciate it. Also, thank you for apprising us of the situation in India. Yes, power begets more as well as corrupts. As far as the brother is concerned, no matter what happens unfortunately he has had the support of those on the national stage even though he was not. I suspect he has the goods on others. Consequently, he will remain a silent but powerful individual. Thank you again.

  5. Hi Darlene,
    Excellent story/article… a true story always hits great interest. We know corruption is everywhere but when it hits home… it seemingly becomes a different story, for some… and they turn a blind eye, pretend it’s not there, or not so bad. For, others, we call a spade a spade.
    It’s the thing John Grisham writes about and is why I always read his novels. I’ll bet there isn’t a business or family who doesn’t have some kind of toxic loyalty story. I think our judicial system plays a part in some degree of criminal toxic loyalty where people choose to turn a blind eye rather than bother for some petty criminal activity.

    • Thank you Laurie as always for your wise insights. Yes, you are right on. I need to read more of Grisham (read The Firm and The Pelican Brief). Thank you for the reminder.

    • Thank you, Lynn! I appreciate your reading and commenting. Please write as much as you wish. I just am happy you took it in. As I said to others, I apologize for the delay in my reply.

  6. I always learn …I am in Canada.. am I an outsider looking in?

    It is through the reflections of others that I see how people are affected

    This subject will never be resolved… it is a part of the world….toxic and greed.

    Loyalty is not loyalty if the price is toxic and when you are burdened it seems this is toxic. The more we are familiar with something the more toxic it can be when greed gets in the way?

    Just immediate thoughts Darlene. I’ve read too much today.. my mind feels like it needs a detox I guess

    Thank you so much …I always learn from you🙏

    • Thank you so much, Paula. As I stated to Laura, I am beyond tardy. I appreciate your comments, and I certainly agree. Also, I understand reading too much! Because of my many endeavors, I have been beyond busy and not reading enough.

  7. Thank you for this article, for calling out toxic loyalty — the awful consequences that ripple out beyond one hurtful word, one harmful action, one heinous crime, one lie into an entire heinous web of poisonous righteousness and seemingly blind loyalty that suppresses truth, justice, healing, and transformation. Your article makes me think about how silencing others through violence and fear perpetuates silence, fear, and violence. I believe it takes many, many people to stand up, become very brave, speak their truths, and break the toxic bonds of loyalty when innocent human lives have been lost or traumatized. (All the young men who bravely came forward in the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State-one example) Is loyalty more important than a commitment to the life of innocent human beings? These are a few reflections I offer regarding your thought-provoking, and yet, disturbing article. How do power/money/fame weave into toxic loyalty? And I concur with all the questions that Jeff Ikler asked- I, too, believe I know the difference between vice and virtue.

    • Hi Laura,

      I apologize for this delay. I have been swamped. Yes, I wanted to bring up Jerry Sandusky, and I may in my next section. I agree. Power and money reign. How did the government not know what Jeffrey Epstein and his brother did for a living? They certainly know what all of us common folk do. Yes, I could go on. I agreed with most of Jeff’s sentiments, but as I stated to him, whether or not you agree with a politician, every one of them works for us and should be held accountable. Thank you for reading and commenting. Part 3, hopefully, I will have completed it by Monday.

  8. Darlene – Loyalty to an individual is loyalty to what that individual represents and, as you point out, often results in toxic consequences. Is the Catholic Church demonstrating toxic loyalty when it reassigns priests who have likely committed child abuse? Are police departments demonstrating toxic loyalty when they relocate officers who have repeatedly exercised excessive force? Are teacher unions demonstrating toxic loyalty when they protect ineffective teachers? Is the Attorney General of the United States demonstrating toxic loyalty when he helps remove an attorney who is investigating potential wrong doings on the part of the president’s associates? So, in answer to your question, yes, I do recognize the difference between loyalty as a virtue and loyalty as a vice.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thank you so much for reading and responding. Coming attraction, part 3 will address the first two organizations to which you are referring. As far as what goes on politically, I have no problem having any politician being held accountable as they should. These public servants work for us. With that said, unfortunately, due to a biased press, if one politician views the world through a similar lens, they turn a blind eye. The Fourth Estate should have always been as diligent as they are now.

  9. I probably shouldn’t say this (I start a lot of sentences that way), but this story makes my blood boil more than the more familiar acts of injustice in recent headlines. This is a story of true institutional and system corruption, the kind that is easier to miss and harder to combat.

    One of the most evil kings in Jewish history was Ahab. He and his wicked wife, Jezebel, propagated idolatry throughout the Kingdom of Israel and eroded the people’s commitment to their national mission. But his most heinous crime was carried out against an individual, Navos, who refused to sell the king a parcel of land because he knew Ahab wanted to erect an idolatrous monument there.

    In response, Jezebel hired false witnesses to testify that Navos had cursed G-d and cursed the king, for which he was put to death and his property seized by Ahab.

    Why did a single act outweigh a national campaign of evil? Because leadership is a trust, and the leader who exploits the power that goes with that trust to pervert the system of justice for his own twisted ends does more damage to a nation’s soul than through any other exploit.

    Divided loyalties can be painfully difficult. But a culture of ethics demands that we rise to the occasion and put principles over personal loyalties. It isn’t always black and white, but that’s a conversation for another time. Ultimately, it’s our commitment to grapple with the gray areas of morality that develop us into people of character and contribute to a morally healthy society.

    Thank you, Darlene. I haven’t read many articles that affected me this deeply.

    • Hi Yonason,

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing such a thoughtful, passionate comment. I learned about Ahab and Jezebel after listening to this book called The Paradigm. Thank you for adding more, however. I did not know or do not remember.

      I agree loyalty has two sides to it, and certainly, we understand the sheer torture when one has to give over a loved one. With that said, there are times when more people are hurt as exemplified in both my articles.

      I love your posts. There is one to which you responded so thoughtfully, but I decided not to weigh in. I have my opinions, and one is that I love our country. Being founded by human beings, of course it is flawed. With that said, I feel blessed to be living here.

      Thank you so much!