Blood Really Is Thicker Than Water

I may be a freelance writer, but I am definitely not one of “those” people – you know the type – who, when you ask them about a television show or movie, look down their noses in disgust and declare, “I read books.” Yes, books are absolutely wonderful, but I am also a big fan of the visual arts and pop culture.

I was watching one of my favorite television shows last week, and the main character referred to the common adage “Blood is thicker than water.” Of course, everyone is familiar with this saying. It is regularly used to assert that nothing is more important than family. The character then went on to note that the saying is misquoted. Immediately, I took to Google to confirm. Sure enough, she was right…kind of.

I will set aside, for now, that someone could have coined the phrase on their own and that there are plenty of people who debate the possibility of other sources. Instead, I am focusing only on the fact that it is believed by many that the saying is derived from the proverb, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”

The original proverb asserts the exact opposite of our “nothing is more important than family” interpretation of this well-known saying about blood and water. This centuries-old phrase was used to demonstrate that the blood that was shed by soldiers fighting together on the battlefield created a stronger bond than familial ties ever could. Of course, it could also be applied to the metaphorical battlefield of life.

Other people are more important than family? This is not an argument that anyone who knows me would expect me to make. I adore my family! I have a HUGE family filled with incredible characters and amazing human beings, and I would kill or die for most of them.

I began to ruminate on the original proverb and, much to my amazement, found myself agreeing with its assertion. When you have fought and struggled side by side with someone, leaned on that person and had that person lean on you in return, cried together, prayed together, faced your most horrible fears together – even death – and emerged victorious, there exists an unbreakable bond between the two of you that could not possibly be replicated in any other way. I have been in epic life battles and looked around me to find a select few battle-scarred comrades still by my side. These are “my people” (also inspired by the same television show), and I am inextricably linked to them.

Now, I must qualify my statement because, when I look at my people, I see that incredible bond purchased with the blood of battle, but many of them are also connected to me through another bond – we share the same DNA. I realized that my confusion over the years has been caused by the fact that so many of my family members have played a dual role in my life, having also been my brothers and sisters in arms. Not everyone has been blessed with such an amazing family, and it is unfair to apply the modern meaning of the adage and insist on a loyalty that has not been earned.

Mixed in with my people are those who do not share a genetic link to me. With such a strong bond, it is tempting to say that they are “like family,” but this would be inaccurate. This actually diminishes their role in my life because it presumes the more modern interpretation of the proverb, rather than the original one. When I meditated on all of this, I realized that a person is not promoted to family-like status in order to bestow the closest bond; instead, I recognized that there is an inner circle of people without whom I would not live to fight another day, and whether or not the members of that inner circle can also be categorized as family or friend is not relevant to their ultimate title of battle-bonded. In fact, it is this group – my battle-bonded people – for whom I would kill or die, as they would for me.

2 Replies to “Blood Really Is Thicker Than Water”

    1. Thank you Janaiah! It was a bit of an “aha!” moment when I heard and read about the original quote. So glad that you enjoyed what I wrote about it.

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