Water is Thicker Than Blood

Just hours ago, I returned from a week-long trip with a combination of my family. As we walked down the beach, I imagined God looking down at the rainbow of color, size, and age. The youngest was 11, the oldest 85 and the rest fit the bell curve with me smack in the middle. Chinese, Italian, Polish, Dutch, and Greek, yet all a member of one family. How could that be? Certainly not all “really” related. Right? Grrrr…

When I was a counselor, I used to educate my clients about what and who pushed their “buttons.” You know, someone will say that certain something (think back to your teens and your mom giving you that look and saying, “Oh, you have a pimple.”) that will send you to the moon and back (again, thinking back, you in return give her the look of death, turn away, and blast Van Halen…just an example, of course.)

I have a few “buttons” and have educated my teens about them and now they know what not to say or they are likely to see a young, injured, wounded side of me emerge, lash out, then retreat and lick my wounds. That’s precisely what the “buttons” are all about: old pain pushed, reactivated.

One of my BIG “buttons” is the expression, “Blood is thicker than water.” Even typing the phrase makes my temple get a little heartbeat of rage. Big breath. What a stupid expression! AND YET, I have heard it many times in the last several years to denote that family ties by blood are the ultimate strong relationship and relationships by choice or adoption are somehow weaker and may not stand the test of time or adversity.

Okay. I’m done. “Back to the loving place”, as Ellen DeGeneres would say. So there we were, the nine of us, on the beach, strolling through Chinatown…no, that’s wrong…pushing our way through waves of people in Chinatown, delighting on fresh strawberries and bagels, screaming with excitement over 4th of July fireworks in a county that outlaws fireworks (hah!), and I had this moment that can only be described as: Full. Loved. Loving. Adored. Adoring. Loyal. Belonging. This heterogeneous group made up of many ages, cultures, and beliefs was united by the love of family. It didn’t matter that blood was not shared; that several of us were adopted into the family name; that the cousins share zero blood.

I’ve known that this expression, blood is thicker than water, is ridiculous and have taught my children this, but it’s great when we can have the lesson taught without words, isn’t it? Some of us may have created family through friends and our children learn that blood ties can be irrelevant; it is what is in the heart of the person and the close bond that counts.

I’m looking for a good come-back the next time I hear someone say, “Blood is thicker than water.” Maybe I’ll say, “Unless, of course, you’re on coumadin.”


10 thoughts on “Water is Thicker Than Blood

  1. Hi Susan, I just had a chance to view your new website. I always enjoy reading your stories. As Eliana romps around my room with her puppy dog I know for sure that a loving relationship requires no blood ties, just opening one’s heart to all the possibilities that loving one another can bring. I hope you are feeling well and recovered from the shingles and that you have a wonderful summer. Pam

    • Thanks, Pam, for visiting my new blog site. I’m back from Maui and so am finally getting around to my replies. Yes…the whole blood tie is quite silly. I love that Eliana and I have something in common 🙂 ! I AM feeling better for the most part; Hawaii sure helped. Could I simply relocate?!? Summer is going by way too fast. I’ll be posting my reflections on Maui, sibling love, and the ebb and flow of family life later this week. I’ll look forward to your comments.

  2. Hey Susan! I think that’s just an expression someone made up to justify spending so much time with our crazy family members!!! I agree that relationships are what you cultivate them to be…being born into them doesn’t make them perfect any more more than finding them outside your family makes them less significant. I think next time someone says that to you, you should say that blood MAY be thicker than water, but that’s just chemistry. Love matters more than science.

    • Yes, Lisa, and while 3 our the 4 of us share blood with you (I being the one that doesn’t), our cousin love is strong. Even if we weren’t related, and I’ve told you this before, I’d adore you!

  3. Hi, Susan. What a great post. For some reason, this phrase conjures up Godfather-like gangsters in my mind, as if the “blood” family is the only one that matters. I certainly agree with your philosophy as I’ve had and currently have friendships that I consider as close and closer than many kinships. Thank you for that delightful, and witty, insight.


  4. let a cup of blood sit and it will separate, let a glass of water sit and it will still be a glass of water. Water is pure and is made of strong bonds between hydrogen and oxygen. However, in blood plasma, red bloods cells, white bloods cells, etc. lack these bonds.

    That saying gets to me too!

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