Friday, June 24, 2011

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

I must give a shout-out to my dear, dear friend Upsi. She is brilliant. She left the following comment on my most recent post, and I wanted to highlight what she said in a special post:

I've been researching the origins of the expression "blood is thicker than water" and it turns out it means exactly the opposite of what people use it for. People use it to mean family ties are the most important, but really the saying comes from the idea of a blood covenant - "blood of the covenant is thicker than water of the womb" - in other words, the bonds we make in faith are stronger than those of family.

The bonds we forge in choice, with all our hearts and all our faith, with those we make a promise to stand by and honor, are thicker than the water we're born in - stronger than the bonds with the family we're born into. Because we choose to make those covenants. What we choose for ourselves is stronger than what is chosen for us.

Fuckin brilliant.

Upsi, YOU are brilliant.


  1. Brilliant is an understatement on this one!

    I'd forgotten that, in the past, my NM used this expression to try to turn me against my DH. I almost wish I could see her again so I could ram the real meaning down her throat.

    Key word there was "almost"!

  2. I agree this is brilliant. I had it used against me too. I appreciate the real meaning. If it is all right with you I will post it over at my blog too. I wonder if there is such thing as a comment going viral?

  3. Thanks for the reminder!! I've felt this way, but couldn't figure out why, because the other meaning was always thrown at me. What? They used their own interpretation to turn things their way? They lied? Thanks so much for sharing this!

  4. Thanks for posting, Jonsi! The way LSV's EF phrased his "warning" about "separating" from his "blood family" gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about this particular expression & sentiment in our culture. So glad it resonated with you!

    The strength highlighted in images of "blood brothers" or "blood pacts" does, at my gut level, seem "thicker" than bonds of "the womb" that are not chosen. The fact that blood is mentioned opened the phrase to be misappropriated by the 4th Commandment and "family first" drumbeat so prevalent in our culture (but I'd gamble prevalent in most cultures). I find the origins of the phrase fascinating.

    I'm delighted to find a good place for this discussion, xoxox!

  5. Brilliant!! I had this phrase thrown at me for years by an abusive sibling who couldn't stand it that I enjoyed the company of friends more than the company of family. He didn't have the capacity to "get" why I would prefer kindness and pleasant conversations over physical and emotional abuse. He was known as a bully outside the family too, had very few friends, and people were nice to him because they were afraid of him. Thanks for posting this, you made my day!

    Anonymous (aka "The Lost Child")

  6. I felt guilty about always choosing friends over family in my teens. Not any more.

  7. It seems that there are SO MANY PEOPLE who have misused this phrase in order to evoke guilt in members of their families.

    Ruth - Thank you for asking permission to post. Of course you can re-post it.

    Judy - I agree. I always had a funny feeling that people who used the phrase weren't getting it right. The meaning of the phrase has been so warped, that people no longer understand what they're actually saying. Perhaps we can use their ignorance to our advantage. The next time someone uses this phrase (or something similar) you can nod, smile, and say, "You're absolutely right!" And then go on about your business. The point is that YOU know what it really means and will act accordingly.

    The Lost Child - I'm so sorry to hear that your brother was abusive and that he lacked the ability to understand why you would seek healthy relationships outside of your FOO. I imagine that if he did understand you, he wouldn't have been a bully in the first place. And the fact that he would use the idea that it was okay to treat you that way because he was a blood relative is appalling. I'm glad you found meaning in this post.

    PA - Given who your family was, I understand that you were probably made to feel guilty because you chose friends over family. I'm glad you are able to shake that guilt now.

    I owe thanks to Upsi for doing the research on that phrase and sharing her new-found knowledge with me. It really struck a chord with me and I thought it needed to be highlighted. I can see it has reached many others as well, and I'm so happy for that! Thank you, Upsi, for continuing on your road to Truth, and sharing your discoveries with the rest of us.

  8. Mulderfan - Don't know how I missed you! I'm sorry! It's my thought that your NM wouldn't understand the real meaning of the phrase, even if you did share it with her. She'd find a way to distort even that Truth! So I'm glad you aren't "wasting your time," so to speak, trying to explain it to her. I think it's great that you feel comfortable enough in your truths not to have to try and make her See them too.

  9. This is fascinating. I hope Jonsi, since you granted Ruth permission, you'll also not mind me re-posting (and with Upsi's blessing too. Which side note, I sure miss Upsi. She's is a wonderful writer and brings so much to the table. But I'm glad she's focusing on herself.) Anyway, this kind of comment, and others in there vein are used so often to shame and shackle people to family that are horrible. And I believe any healthy family would relish and welcome others enriching their lives.