Over the past couple of weeks, I've had a couple of close acquaintances that have gone through some tough things publicly. One was convicted of a crime that he owned up to, while another has been accused of a crime that will go through the legal process and we'll see how it all plays out.

I've often talked about the top 3 qualities I value above all else: loyalty, trustworthiness and honesty. Loyalty is at the top of the list for a reason. To me, loyalty shows more than anything else the type of person you are. Will you bail on someone at a moment's notice when things are tough, or will you wait to see what the outcome of something is? Do you evaluate a person based on your own standards or what someone else has to say about them?

What one usually finds is that if someone does something wrong, there's usually extenuating circumstances behind it. Many years ago when I was still a regular employee, I hired someone who, it turns out, had been convicted of a felony involving money. Her son had a critical disease and she was using money that wasn't hers to help pay for his medical care. She got caught, served whatever the punishment was, and was back out looking for something else.

In my instance, she passed the initial review by HR and the interview with my supervisor, so it was my turn. She was open about everything she'd done and was looking for another opportunity. We talked for about 45 minutes, and it was a much different interview than I would normally do. I didn't ask anything I wasn't allowed to ask, but I did want to get a sense of who this person was. I liked who I felt she was, so I hired her.

A few days later, stuff started to hit the fan. She hasn't lied on her application, yet it seems HR suddenly had a problem with hiring this person. Everything ended up coming back on me and my supervisor. Because the final word was mine, I said we were going to hire her and that was that. I did move her to a different position than the one I was going to put her in, acquiescing to that particular concern because it did make some sense. But I hired her anyway, and within a few months she was proving her worth as a valuable employee.

I was loyal to her, and that was someone I'd just met. Why would I treat someone I knew longer and better than that any differently because of an accusation? Now, I'm not going to lie; it would depend on what the accusations were at the same time, and what the "alleged proof" was that they had on someone. Murder, abuse, something along those lines, well, that would test loyalty to the extreme. After all, your hope would be that if you saw someone enough that a part of you would rub off on them so they wouldn't commit anything of that sort. But we never really know everyone, do we?

On my one colleague who's going to prison for awhile, another friend wrote something supporting his friend, saying he was a good person who had a bad thing occur. Someone else responded with "How could you say that? A person is dead because of what he did; I hope he rots in jail." His friend responded "I don't like what happened but I know my friend and he's got a good heart overall." I responded that he was a good guy who had a terrible thing happen to him, he owned up to it, and that's that.

How willing are you to support your friends without saying you agree with their bad behavior? It's a thin line to follow; are you up to it?