Is Blood Thicker Than Water?

It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.  ~Johann Schiller

Everyone is familiar with the saying “blood is thicker than water”. I wonder if it’s really true and to what context it might be. I’ve been reading different things people have posted on Facebook, blogs, etc… in relation to that.

I honestly don’t know of anyone that would love an adoptive child any less than their biological child. I also have friends who are the adoptive children of parents who have biological children as well. These friends of mine were not any less loved than their siblings. So, in this respect I disagree with the saying. I also know that if I found that either of my children had been switched at birth (Come on, folks, this has happened in a few instances.), that I would not love them any less. Love is a binding of hearts not blood.

I also know that most of us feel free to complain about our siblings, but how dare anyone else say anything bad about them. They belong to us. They are “ours” , right? However, how far would we actually stand behind them? Would we choose blood over moral and ethical issues? I suppose it would depend on the situation. I think it is possible to love a person and not the actions of a person. Most of us have people related to us that make choices we are not proud of, but just because we might not like their lifestyles does not mean we don’t love them. I think it is possible to support a person but not stand behind their conduct. I suppose it can be a very fine line at times.

Most of us have dear friends or family friends, as we call them, that mean as much and sometimes more than family members. Another saying comes to mind. “You can choose your friends but not your family.” I know I have friends that I love as much as my siblings. I suppose the love I do have for my family doesn’t come from blood bonds but from a connections of growing together through the years. I don’t love them simply because I have to but because I choose to.

I would say it all comes down to how people are raised, but I don’t think that is true either. Unfortunately, the news everyday shows us examples of people who don’t care for life or relationship. They hurt their own children, parents, siblings, friends, and complete strangers. I think it comes down to the heart of the matter…how good someone is inside. Do they have love in them or not? When you do, you extend it to others. When you don’t, it is shown by your callous behavior toward others.

I conclude that I do not agree that blood is thicker than water. We might put up with more from family members than we would from other people, but that is probably because the relationship is deeper. We know them on an entirely different level. These are people that possibly if we were not related, we would not choose to friend them. Though I strongly feel that family relationships are important, I feel intimate relationships must be built on respect, honesty, love, and compassion. So I suppose the deciding factor would be the situation in question and whether the blood or the water held all those attributes.

20 thoughts on “Is Blood Thicker Than Water?

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. I was having a very similar conversation to this with my husband the other night, about a family member of mine. He believes that blood is thicker than water. I do not think as adults that this is the case – for me it certainly is not. Who I choose to have in my life is based on the relationship I have with them, the sort of person they are and whether or not I feel that deep connection, which is not born of blood.

    A friend of mine whose son has lived a less than exemplary life said to me recently “I still love him, I will always love him because he is my son, but I don’t like him very much.” I think we love and truly like the people who deserve that kind of appreciation.

  2. I think it depends on how you define blood. To me, blood is family no matter if the relationship is biological, adoptive, or by marriage. Q: How far would I actually stand behind them? A: All the way, but standing behind someone doesn’t mean always agreeing with their choices. With my family, I am much more assertive about trying to help, pointing out when there is a moral or ethical issue that needs addressing, etc. I don’t do that as much with water relationships. Come to think of it, I don’t have any friends (okay, maybe one or two) that I would back up to the same intensity as I would for family. I suppose, then, that for me, it comes down to how family is defined…which can be very different from person to person.

    • That’s my point…that “family” doesn’t mean blood…and even “family” can do moral things that some of us would not justify. Example: Murderists,rapists, pedophiles, etc…are somebody’s “family”, but at that time do they stand for justice or family? We all have issues and lines we draw them at, so it’s interesting to see how different people define them.

  3. “Though I strongly feel that family relationships are important, I feel intimate relationships must be built on respect, honesty, love, and compassion.”

    I must agree.

    Also, my stepmother is not my blood mother, however I feel more connected to her than I do some bloodline family members.

    “It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons. ~Johann Schiller”


    Have a wonderful weekend, dear lady!


  4. So true. I can talk about my family but nobody else better! LOL I also agree that there are some people that are as close or closer than some relatives and you may not love what a person does but you still love the person. Great post.

  5. I have friends who are closer than family to me, and I have family who are not friends. When it comes to my children, my husband, my grandkids, all bets are off. Don’t hurt them or I will hurt you! Other than that, I’m a peaceful woman.

  6. Family is complicated — I thought of exactly the phrase you’ve examined here the other day, just by chance. It flitted through my head while I was thinking about family history, the sorts of things we tolerate from our family members that we normally wouldn’t from other people (I’m generalizing, but for the sake of discussion …). I guess that’s where I’ve heard the phrase used more often — not to distinguish those we love by relation vs. those we “choose” to love, but to indicate our propensity for forgiveness of those same groups of people!

    This doesn’t even begin to cover the nuances to the idea, but I’m wearing myself out trying to be philosophical :). Enough from me.

  7. I agree with you completely. I also think, however, that the family of our own choosing – the people we surround ourselves with, our close friends and the families we build for ourselves – can feel the same as the family we were born into, and that sometimes we might even be more loyal to the families of our choosing than to the former kind.

  8. I agree with you; I do not think “blood is thicker than water” (although I guess if we were to get really picky technical it is). Growing up, I struggled with my feelings about my father. Finally, as an adult, I was able to acknowledge that he needed to be given the respect the position of my father deserved. I did not, however, need to love him or pretend to love him. I do love my now immediate family (hub, children, grandchildren), and I will always love them. Loving does not necessarily mean agreeing with every choice, but it does mean loving no matter what. But if one of them caused harm to another, would I keep quiet just because they were family? I think not.

  9. I am going to agree with you especially when it comes to kids and family, whether biological, adopted, step or whatever in my opinion when they come into your family whatever bloodline they have it is now yours too. 🙂

  10. Wow, you said this perfectly . . .”I think it comes down to the heart of the matter…how good someone is inside. Do they have love in them or not? When you do, you extend it to others. When you don’t, it is shown by your callous behavior toward others.”

    It is totally about love … when it comes to family, we may tend to put up with more and give more because of our long history together … but, without love, our patience and limits are much lower whether they are family or not.

  11. The blood is thicker than water label only scratches the surface–as there are many other factors within the relationships, like you discuss, that make the difference.

    I take the statement to heart even with in-laws and don’t criticize the Mrs. family even when she is railing on them.

  12. Your paragraph about family and moral/ethical issues reminded me of a quote by Jonathan Safran Foer (from his book, Everything is Illuminated), “One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family.”

    I agree with you when you say you can love a person and not their actions. I adore a certain family member of mine, but I would never support their harmful habit.

    I also agree that blood is not thicker than water. If you love someone, you love them – regardless of relation. Great post, my friend!

  13. I totally agree with you on this topic Suzi. I dearly love my friends and family the same. Sure…there is a familial kind of love that is protective as you have written. But my dearest friends have been in my life as long as most of my family. Further, I have a very small family of origin. It was just my mom,dad brother and me. my grandparents were gone by the time I was seven. So friends filled in as ‘family” over the years for holidays and special occasions. It is not blood that connects people with love…it is heart, emotion, memories and time. I really like what you have written here. It strikes a chord in me.

  14. I do not agree that blood is thicker than water. When my father was sick, my parent’s neighbors would drop everything they were doing in order to help him. He became my father’s honorary brother and when we had the private viewing this brother was present. You love not according titles, but what you feel from the heart.

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