When we use the phrase “blood is thicker than water,” we’re generally saying that our family relations are more important than relationships with friends. Be aware that this line is often used to shame people into remaining obedient and subservient to family despite the facts.
Interestingly enough, the origin of this saying can be traced back to a proverb with a radically different meaning: “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” Rather than “blood” meaning family relations, it means “blood covenants” that people made by cutting each other and mixing their blood together. Obviously the water of the womb relates to the family ties.
I’m going to be really blunt here. I might as well title this blog, “I’m going to trigger a lot of emotions with my family.” The truth is, I’m not excited about most of my family members. Don’t get me wrong, I love and accept them as they are, but I just don’t have much in common with them, and usually can’t relate with their thoughts and opinions. The Guru Girl would say “my energy doesn’t mix well with theirs, and we don’t sing the same songs or resonate at the same frequencies.” My family members aren’t any less wrong or right in their thinking, but it’s just not for me. I also know I’m not right for everyone.
The fact is, family is neither blood nor water – it’s a choice. Each time we interact with our family members, we actively choose the relationships we want to have. Let me share some real-life examples to illustrate this point.
If I’m a teenager using alcohol to control the stress from years of being assaulted and abused, and you bring Grandma to our house under false pretenses resulting in her crying and telling me “I don’t want you to sing at my funeral,” then you’ve chosen the relationship you want with me. …and so has Grandma.
If you call my aunts up and one comes and throws my little sister up against a wall and starts choking her because of false pretenses… well, that’s choosing a relationship too.
If you’re calling me names like “shallow” because I don’t want to marry the man you want me to marry, you just made another choice.
If I’m recovering from a brain injury and giving you an update about my recovery, and you cut me off and monopolize the conversation with family gossip and the latest church musician drama, then I know what kind of a relationship you want to have with me.
If I call you up because I really need you, and talk over me with a silly story meant to deflect from my pain. I know exactly the relationship you want.
If another family member is hitting rock bottom with major mental health and substance abuse issues, but you ignore my communications and then tell people I’m being dramatic… well, then yeah, I know the relationship that you want with me and family members in need of support.
If you go around spinning stories that are not true, or are an overly dramatic and exaggerated version of the truth, well, that’s just you choosing that you don’t want to be my family.
If you rob my house while I’m at work and then beg me not to press charges. Um… Enough said.
If you leave messages on my voicemail with expletives, threats, or veiled threats, well… you get my point.
In each of those scenarios, you clearly see that my family members chose the relationship that they wanted with me. You know someone wants to be your family member when they want to spend time with you – no strings attached. If they’re only coming around because you have kids, photo ops, money, gifts, relations, opportunities for the limelight, etc. then they’re not choosing you. They’re choosing you only for the benefits of what they can get from you. Oftentimes, you have no idea you’re in this kind of relationship. If your own intentions are not of the bloodsucking variety, then of course you expect people won’t have questionable intentions.
It’s not easy to recognize the difference between people who genuinely want to get to know you versus those who seek to take advantage of you. Sometimes there are red flags, but other times you need to evaluate the situation using other means. I have a “cup” test that I like to use. Here’s how it works.
There are two types of people: those who have a cup running over, and those who have a cup that is at least a little empty. When someone’s cup is empty or low, they generally do things to fill it up. To fill your cup you have a variety of options. You can take a nap, eat nutritious food, spend time with community, meditate, exercise, meet up with friends, throw a party, read a book, etc. You get the idea. When you do these things, you fill your cup up to the point it starts to overflow. When your cup overflows, it means that you are physically and spiritually complete, and you have extra to give away.
Some people however, have a perpetually empty cup. It’s empty because when they were kids, their parents, friends, and other family members robbed from it to fill their own cup. Sometimes those kids didn’t know how to distance themselves from the “cup suckers,” and also they didn’t learn how to fill their cups in a healthy way. These people often go on to be “cup predators.” Instead of doing their own work, they try to knock yours right out of your hands. Cup suckers are like the little jerk teenagers that steal the younger kids’ candy on Halloween. Cup predators just knock the candy out of their hands, but don’t take anything away. Get it? The only way these types are made whole is to rob from someone else because they don’t know how to get it themselves OR they just want to create chaos.
Due to the stress in our society these days, nearly all people are walking around with empty cups. We’re busy, but we’re not productive. We’re sleeping, but it’s not long or deep enough. We’re eating but it’s not the right foods. We have relationships, but they’re not rebuilding us. Our cups cry out to be filled. Road rage? Empty cup. School shootings? Empty cup. Police Brutality? Empty cup. All of it is the result of empty cups.
My family is full of empty cups. Many of them don’t like to put in the work to fill theirs back up. That makes them cup suckers and predators. They try to steal, but usually they don’t even know how to steal correctly. Instead of stealing by leaching on others, they gossip or troll the internet making bigoted, racist, sexist, and abusive comments. All this does is temporarily removes their anxiety about their empty cups, but it doesn’t fill them up – just like the teens that stole but didn’t put it in their own bags.
This year, I decided to distance myself from many of the cup predators in my family. It has come with some pretty serious repercussions. When you’ve been a regular “cup victim” like I have, and you’re surrounded by cup predators and cup suckers, taking your overflowing self out of their line of sight can be devastating. True to the nature of who they are, they flame, increase their gossip, increase their lies, and increase the exaggerations until they find new victims. Some of them have moved on to easier or unsuspecting targets, and others that moved on a while ago, randomly check in to see if they can take their jabs.
Ironically, the same cup suckers are the ones who preach “blood is thicker than water” and other catchy phrases like “you’re supposed to be loyal to your family,” don’t understand that through their own actions, they aren’t choosing blood. They confuse the concept of loyalty with concepts such as suppression, censorship, repression, obedience, worship, and laudation.
In matters of the heart, a truly loyal person tells their friends and family what they know to be true. This is the case even if the truth hurts. A loyal person will speak their truth from the heart, and they will also sit with their family member as they both work through accepting this conversation. Family members who preach loyalty but don’t give it, and ones who blast you for expressing your heartfelt concerns are not loyal. Family loyalty should make you feel good. It should be associated with close, open, honest, and compassionate relationships. If it’s anything else, it’s likely not loyalty.
So keep these things in mind when you have interactions with your family. Learn to recognize when you’re being valued and when you’re being preyed on. Speak up, assert yourself, and set firm boundaries.
Sometimes you’ll run into family members that hide behind a mask. They say and do all the right things, but they’re tricksters and “posers.” These folks go to church, blend in with the community, and might post memes dealing with love, compassion, and all the other trendy spiritual stuff. However, they’re only posing as people who care. When push comes to shove, and you really need their support, the mask starts to crack, and they can’t hide it any longer. My family is famous for this. When I’ve needed help, and I’ve worked up the courage to ask them for support, I’ve usually been turned down. I’m not just getting any rejection notice either. I’m getting one with a crystal clear message that it’s “not my problem,” “go tell someone else,” and “sorry I have my own problems.” To throw cherries on top, these family members even take things a step further by turning this new found knowledge or weakness into social currency. Now they have the latest gossip. I call this “information brokering.”
Information brokering is basically when bad things happen to you, and you call someone you love and trust for support, and they pretend to help you. Once you feel settled, they immediately call everyone they know, tell them your story, judge you and others, and use it as a type of social currency to get attention from their peer groups. Sometimes they spin the bad news to make it sound more exciting. Sometimes they draw conclusions and pass it off as the truth. Information brokers also have a bad habit of using this information against you in arguments to exploit your weaknesses. I remember a time that I worked for a boss that was sexually harassing me. When I was in an argument with my sister, she said, “Well, you can’t even get along with your boss and you have all these troubles at work” to support her argument of why she thought I was a “loser.” That’s information brokering at its finest.
I know this stuff is heavy, but there is an upside to family members who treat you badly. When they make the choice, you don’t have to. They’ve given you an open invitation to move on without them. You don’t have to feel guilty when you move ahead on your own personal path without the weight of their predatory selves weighing you down. Without that weight, you’re free to fly, and with that freedom and flight comes personal and spiritual expansion. The sky is no longer the limit, and your future feels infinitely brighter.
You don’t need anyone but yourself to fill your cup. Once you learn how to independently fill it up until it’s overflowing, you’ll have plenty to share. And once you learn to sort out the predators from the people who unconditionally love you, you’ll have someone with whom you can share your overflows. Honestly, blood and water doesn’t matter because we’re all connected as human beings. Family is a choice, and you don’t have to be related by blood to be family.
In the end, we should be the family we want to have. If our family members aren’t in it for the right reasons, feel free to move on without them. Accept and love them for who they are, and accept and love yourself for the journey you’re on. It’s all ok. If and when any family members find themselves walking alongside you on your path, then you can accept their hand in yours, and walk forward together.
The Guru Girl