Recently, I have been doing a lot of history reading on the phrase “Blood is thicker than water”. I gleefully discovered what I had suspected all along, that it did not always mean what a lot people interpret it to mean these days. The general meaning that comes to one’s mind when it is quoted is that family ties (blood) are stronger and more important than any other ties e.g friendship, and sometimes, Marriage (Water). Two groups of people prompted this;
a.Those who quote it to allege family ties over all categories of friendship
b.Those who do so for family ties over spouse
The initial meaning of the phrase as a lot of my reading had in common is-“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”. A research across various cultures give examples of blood covenants between two individuals, two men may decide to take blood covenants by spilling a tiny bit of their blood in place and vowing to protect and love each other like brothers. Smetimes, it is between young lovers who take these vows to be together even unto death, also spilling their blood in some form of a minor ritual. After this is done, they say that they have become even closer than brothers, by virtue of that blood which was spilled in covenant, unlike the relationship between siblings who have merely come from the same womb, after nesting in the womb water for nine months.
A look at some of the bible stories readily brings to mind the example of David and Jonathan, a covenant of friendship; entered into a solemn agreement to keep up and maintain a cordial respect to each other, and to support each other’s interest both in life and after death, whoever was the survivor.
So am I saying that the interpretation most of us give the phrase these days is wrong? That Family ties are not more important than other ties?
As this phrase applies to my life, family ties may indeed be thicker, but there is one corner I strongly refuse to be boxed into, the one that restricts my family to only those related to me by blood. Over the years, myself and Kabiyesi have acquired brothers and sisters too numerous to have possibly been born of the same womb.
“There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”-Proverbs 18:24
It is always amusing to me, rude and disrespectful to the sacrament of matrimony/institution of marriage to say and intend that quote either to a man or directly to his wife to stamp some sort of validation over who is more important in his life. There are two ways to look at it for me, I named them the Caste System and the Bond system.
The caste system tends to arrange a man’s relationship into a table. You could find samples such as Father→Mother→Brothers/Sisters→Wife, or Brothers/Sisters→Wife, or Wife→Mother→Brothers/Sisters. My dislike with this system is that it has a hierachical flavour to it.
My Bond system works best for me. Here, I do not believe in an outright demarcation or hierachical carving of who is more important in a man’s life. The Bond between a Mother and Child is unique, the one between brother and sister is unique, the bond between a friend and a friend is unique, the one between husband and wife is unique, each of these bonds have a role to play in a man’s life. i think families would be happier if we stick to playing our roles and not ear marking who is thicker than who or who is water.
In our role playing,Kabiyesi and I have an unwritten rule, that by virtue of our being married, our primary constituency remains the family we are building together. We do not look at it through the lens of importance.
One of my very close non-biologcal brothers had a quite apt quote on his birthday which is glued to my memory, he said
“I have learnt that family isn’t neccessarily blood, I have also learnt that Family is everything”
So the next time you want to go on singing with a narrowed view, that Blood is thicker than Water, remember to love and not kill your new brother or sister mosquito, who became your blood relative after that bite.