Is Blood thicker than water? Or is it Family First?

Is blood thicker than water?

I bet you thought that quote meant the same thing as family first! I did, too, but then I Googled it. Guess what? The real quote “might” mean the opposite! The actual quote is “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” according to this website. But according to Wikipedia, this claim is based on no evidence. So you can keep using this saying however you want. I think most people think it means that the family bond is stronger than other relationships.

Caring about Family versus Strangers

I was thinking about how it’s often easier to feel compassion for total strangers. Millions of people donate money online to strangers even though they don’t have any way of verifying their sad story or identity. We feel sad for the people we see on the news who die or suffer tragedies. Special profile photo frames are created and fundraisers raise millions of dollars in hours.

But do we have the same reaction when a family member is having some life issue? Do we easily click a $20 donation to some cause on Facebook, but never offer to help pay our sibling’s vet bill or hospital bills? Or do we resent it a little because we know them so much better and blame them for problems we know they brought on themselves?

If we know our family member has been loafing around, living an unhealthy lifestyle, or has a bad work ethic, do we feel sorry for them when they suffer the consequences such as not having money for medical bills, getting cancer, or losing their job? Knowing the inside story, especially if we have tried to help before and watched our money be wasted, can harden our hearts.

Even if we do help them out, we might be irritated with them or less compassionate simply because familiarity breeds contempt. I love my family, but my expectations of them are a lot different than those of strangers whose behavior doesn’t directly impact my life.

It’s just a lot easier and less emotionally risky to care about people who can’t hurt you, especially when you know it’s a one and done thing. “Here’s my $50 and my prayers. Best of luck to you!” But with a family member, that type of thing can become a habit. And many of us have been truly hurt by the poor choices and bad behavior of family members.

However, in times of major crisis, family loyalty can be much stronger. In other words, when the chips are down, I think most people will have their family’s back more than a stranger’s even if we don’t particularly LIKE our family member. If the world was running out of food, would you share it with a stranger or make sure your immediate and maybe extended family had enough first? If WW3 breaks out, will you let your family move in with you? What if that person had a long history of abusive behavior, would you you leave them out to die?

Having healthy boundaries is very important. But the traditional rules of family and loyalty and compassion seem to be shifting. People seem much less forgiving and willing to put others first and it can be hard to know how to do the ‘right thing’. Enabling bad behavior is not helpful, but sometimes compassion has to come before change can begin. People are not machines and we shouldn’t treat them as such.

What do you think? Do we have more contempt for family and more compassion for strangers, except in times of severe crisis? Are you more likely to help out a stranger or your own family?

woman giving coins to the man playing trumpet


  1. One of life’s mysteries to me has always been (or at least since these things have come up in our time) how people put up memorials or rally for victims to whom they would not have given the time of day a week earlier. Yes, most of us feel comfortable with showing “mercy” to strangers… as long as it is not an imposition on us. Thus, we assuage our consciences and feel like we are good people. Hard truths.
    ❤️& 🙏, c.a.

  2. One reason I find it easier to donate money to strangers is that I can do it anonymously, and know that that person will never feel beholden to me. When I want to help out people I know who have financial needs, I always try to find a way to do it anonymously through a third party, usually their church.

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