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Family Outcast: How to Tell If You Are the Black Sheep

FlourishAnyway is an Industrial/Organizational psychologist committed to uplifting and educating others to be reach their full potential.

Uh-oh, this guy's not ewe, is it?

Uh-oh, this guy's not ewe, is it?

Black Sheep: Different From the Rest of the Flock

Woe is the lowly black sheep of the family. He is maligned, misunderstood, and marginalized.

He may also be more creative, sensitive, or risk-seeking than the rest of the family. His lifestyle and values may set him apart, and he may face personal struggles that others do not. But try as he may, he just doesn't blend in.

A convenient focus of family gossip, the black sheep often sparks debate among the rest of the flock:

  • Shall we include him in family gatherings?
  • Will he finally mend his ways?
  • How can we manage him?
There is no fitting in here, fella.  The black sheep of the flock is the well identified outcast.

There is no fitting in here, fella. The black sheep of the flock is the well identified outcast.

Reader Poll:

The Origin of the Term

The negative sense of the term "black sheep" refers to the culling of lambs with darker, undesirable coat colors: grey, brown, and particularly black.1 Non-white wool has traditionally been viewed as less commercially valuable because it cannot be dyed.

In sheep, white fleece is the expression of a dominant gene, rather than albinism.2 Thus, in most breeds, black lambs are rare; they require that both parents carry the recessive gene. Dark wool is so undesirable that scientists are working to develop a genetic test to identify carriers of the gene for black coats.

Oh, the Yarns We Spin About the Black Sheep!

Traditionally, black wool has been considered less commercially valuable because it cannot be dyed.  Lambs with dark coats were therefore culled from the flock.

Traditionally, black wool has been considered less commercially valuable because it cannot be dyed. Lambs with dark coats were therefore culled from the flock.

You Might Be a Black Sheep If...

Can you say "yes" to several of the following?

Do you have a history of ...

  • criminal conduct & run-ins with law enforcement
  • substance abuse
  • financial problems
  • gambling or other addictions
  • mental illness
  • unstable relationships
  • ongoing conflicts with multiple relatives
  • long periods of unemployment

Do you differ significantly from the rest of your family in ...

  • values or lifestyle
  • professional/educational attainment
  • religious, philosophical and personal values
  • political affiliation

Remember: They're not bad by nature, they're just different.

Not B-a-a-a-a-d, But Different

These are the rebels, outcasts, and square pegs in a round-holed world.

These are the rebels, outcasts, and square pegs in a round-holed world.

Every Family Has One

In many cultures, the term "black sheep" has come to mean the outcast, the disreputable or undesirable member of the group, especially a family. Within human groups, the so-called black sheep often acquires his or her low status from one or two leaders who determine the unspoken values and rules for a family or group.3 Resigned to their status as the odd one out, many wear the label proudly and distance themselves from the group that devalues them.

The "Black Sheep Effect" refers to the psychological phenomenon in which members of a group judge fellow group members more critically than they do those who fall outside the group. Thus, a disliked group member is judged more harshly.4 For example, you'd be more tolerant of your flower child Aunt Suzie if she weren't related to you. We want group members to fit in because their behavior reflects upon our own identity, and family members who don't conform attract negative attention.

When wayward members don't comply with unspoken rules, there can be hell to pay: scorn, ridicule, and alienation are often attempts to bring the noncompliant member back in line with the group's dominant values.

Famous Examples

Rare is the family that does not have one. From pop stars to presidents to television preachers, even the so-called best must contend with a wayward lamb in the mix. Here are few examples to remind us that no family is perfect, no matter how famous or rich:

Black sheep Alice Roosevelt Longworth was beautiful and impossible to control.

Black sheep Alice Roosevelt Longworth was beautiful and impossible to control.

Alice Roosevelt - Alice was the eccentric oldest child of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. She smoked, partied until late at night, and kept a pet snake. (Go, Alice!) Once married, she had numerous affairs and a love child with a senator. Her exasperated father once remarked, "I can be president of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both."5

Al Gore III - The son of U.S. Vice President Al Gore underwent drug treatment in 2007 after he was pulled over in his Toyota Prius going 100 mph. The young man pled guilty to possession of marijuana and a variety of medications for which he did not have a prescription: Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and Adderall.6

Black sheep Billy Carter and his presidential brother, Jimmy, in February, 1979.

Black sheep Billy Carter and his presidential brother, Jimmy, in February, 1979.

Billy Carter - The younger brother of U.S. President Jimmy Carter was known as a "country philosopher" who loved the spotlight.7 His outlandish public behavior embarrassed the White House. Billy once urinated on an airport runway in full view of the press corps and dignitaries. He also attempted to take advantage of his name by endorsing a beer called "Billy Beer" and appearing on late night talk shows. The President publicly distanced himself from his brother after Billy made anti-semitic comments and accepted an ethically questionable $220,000 "loan" from Libya to facilitate oil sales.

Alison Carey - Alison, the older sister of pop diva Mariah Carey, is a recovering drug addict and former prostitute who contracted HIV in the mix.8 She once threatened to write a tell-all book about her famous sister and remains estranged from the superstar.

Vince Capone - How can you embarrass a crime family? Apparently, by playing it super straight. The oldest brother of mafia godfather Al Capone tried hard to disown his Italian crime family identity.9 Vince moved to Nebraska, changed his name, and lost the Brooklyn accent. During the era of prohibition that made Al Capone notorious and wealthy, Vince served as a successful federal prohibition agent, working to shut down illegal distilleries. His service on the right side of the law humiliated his mobster brother.

Noelle Bush - The niece of U.S. President George W. Bush (and daughter of former governor Jeb Bush) was jailed for prescription fraud after she attempted to illegally acquire Xanax. Noelle was ordered by the court to undergo drug rehabilitation, but she violated the terms of the court order when crack cocaine was found in her shoe during drug treatment.

Randy Potts - The grandson of evangelical preacher Oral Roberts is openly gay and seeks to reverse part of the family legacy of intolerance.10 When Randy came out as gay, his parents changed the locks. He was also denied admittance to his grandmother's graveside funeral service. Oral Roberts' eldest son, Ronnie, was also gay but died by suicide in 1982.

Are Ewe the Black Sheep of Your Flock?

Families can easily identify their outcasts.  Dude, is that you?

Families can easily identify their outcasts. Dude, is that you?

How to Cope If You Are the Black Sheep

Suffering the scorn and alienation can certainly take its toll, if you let it. If you struggle with fitting in, here are some tips on flourishing, regardless of the hue of your wool coat.11

Don't Justify Yourself or Your Choices

A responsible adult does not need to answer to family members for his or her values, lifestyle, political views, or choice of life partners. If you are hurting yourself and others with addictions or abuse, listen to reasonable concerns of your family. Ultimately, however, you must own your behavior and choices.

Realize Their Intent

When family members overstep their bounds and offer unwanted advice or assistance, consider that their intent may simply be to help you. They may be misguided in their efforts, but their hearts may be in the right place. Respectfully decline their advice and move on.

Tolerate Other Family Members' Choices

Tolerance goes both ways. Don't seek to change the minds or habits of your family members. You're highly unlikely to change others' deeply held beliefs, anyway. Allow other responsible adults to make their own choices, even if those choices are different from yours.

Demand Respect

Family members do not have a right to treat you rudely. Even though you are outnumbered, stand up to sarcastic comments, mean jokes at your expense, and eye rolls cast in your direction. Address such behavior in a timely and level-headed manner. Let the offender know their actions are inappropriate and disrespectful. Be consistent, specific, and to the point. Then move on.

Seek Support

It can be exhausting to have to constantly be on guard among family, standing up for yourself, and trying to fit in. Seek out others who celebrate and accept you the way you are. Rely on them for support.

Enjoy the Wool Coat You're In

Accept your flaws as part of life's journey, and appreciate the characteristics that make you unique. Learn to accept and value yourself. Don't let family members' criticism create in you an inner voice of ridicule and self-doubt.

Ewe Are Extraordinary

There's no one else quite like ewe!  Embrace your uniqueness.

There's no one else quite like ewe! Embrace your uniqueness.

Relevant Quotes

♥ "After all, the wool of a black sheep is just as warm." - Ernest Lehman, American screenwriter

♥ "The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you." - Kendall Hailey, American writer

♥ "Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements." - Queen Elizabeth II, British monarch

♥ "We are all searching for some form of family or foundation— for a place we can feel safe and secure." - Jena Malone, American actress

♥ "Absence is one of the most useful ingredients of family life, and to dose it rightly is an art like any other." - Freya Stark, British explorer

Uncle Amos, the Black Sheep of My Family

With eleven aunts and uncles and more cousins than I can count, my extended family offers up a number of strong candidates for black sheep of the family. However, they all pale in comparison to our dear old Uncle Amos.

You may imagine that being named Amos—meaning "encumbered, burdened one"— set him up for a life of trouble and turmoil. Ever the optimist, my uncle would tell you that he has far surpassed all early forecasts.

Every family has an Uncle Amos. Although there are several strong candidates, he is my family's black sheep.  I see him through rose-colored glasses.  That's what families are for.

Every family has an Uncle Amos. Although there are several strong candidates, he is my family's black sheep. I see him through rose-colored glasses. That's what families are for.

Presidential Bids, Mission Trips, and a Secret Chili Recipe

Depending on how he's feeling, Amos may recruit you to join him in his latest bid for the White House. You could even end up in his cabinet, like me.

Amos might regale you with memories of his friendship with author Pearl S. Buck. Although the memory can be a tricky thing, my uncle recalls clearly that he and Pearl organized Christian mission trips to spread God's good news to the people of Afghanistan.

Amos may also describe the autobiography he's been writing for the last 20 years. It details his escapades as Ronald Reagan's personal attorney. He introduced himself to everyone at a family wedding as Reagan's attorney and left quite an impression with the new in-laws.

Alternatively, he may awe you with his account of the secret chili recipe that he gave away to a lucky entrepreneur. It is now worth millions, or so he says. In a matter of minutes, Amos could curse the current government, tell a string of dead baby jokes, weep inconsolably, and uplift you in prayer.

Pulling the Wool Over Your Eyes?

You may think Amos is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. But that's the thing about black sheep: they are often maligned and misunderstood.

Yeah, we thought you were a little different.

Yeah, we thought you were a little different.

A Midnight Run Through the Briar Patch

At times, the weight of a wool coat you're born with can grow mighty heavy.

During one infamous dust-up with the law, Amos feared that the Republicans were after him and meant him great bodily harm. He fled home to safety. Not believing him, his immediate family left him alone while they went out to dinner. (White sheep will do that, after all.)

Amos sensed the Republicans gaining ground on him. He sped away, running over a neighbor's mailbox in the process. Later, after dark, his car stalled out in a farmer's rain-soaked soy bean field.

Police discovered Amos' abandoned vehicle in the farmer's field, along with his shoes, cell phone, and every stitch of clothes he had been wearing. The police dogs later tracked him down near a swamp. Naked, Amos had been rolling in a briar patch so that he could hide from searchers' flashlights and avoid any bullets that the Republicans might still send his way. As a result of his midnight romp through the briar patch, Amos spent some extra time in the shed to recuperate.

It's a White Sheep World: Trying to Fit In Is Exhausting

Aww, no one shows this black sheep any love.

Aww, no one shows this black sheep any love.

The Dead Cat and the Bank Teller

Amos realizes he wears a wool coat of a different color, and he chooses to have fun with it when the mood strikes him.

An animal lover, he owned an elderly cat that he adored. With his cat tucked safely in the back seat of his car, Amos pulled through the drive-thru lane of his local bank on one hot July day. The bank teller peered through the window and smiled.

Amos had wrapped the kitty in baby blankets and nestled her in the back seat in a a handheld baby carrier that his wife had purchased at a garage sale. The bank teller cooed, "Aww, look at your kitty. She's so pretty, just laying there. I could never get mine to lay still like that. How do you do it?"

Amos grinned, "She's been dead for two days. We don't have the heart to bury her just yet, but we'll get around to it soon!"

Amos always knows how to leave an impression.

Ten Feet Tall and Growing

It is true that Amos can be unpredictable and difficult to control. He may be minimally compliant with medical or any other advice. His memory is not entirely reliable. He is more than eccentric.

However, he has come to embrace his outcast status. His favorite expression when he is feeling great is that he is "ten feet tall and growing." Granted, he may share that with his larger-than-life stories.

Reader Poll

The Surprising Truth About Uncle Amos (or the Best We Can Figure)

Many of his accounts evolve over time, but the family has come to know which ones are legend and which ones are just stories.

For example:

  • We know that he did conspire to "steal" my grandfather from a retirement facility that was making Grandpa miserable. Pretending to visit, he and my aunt wheeled Grandpa right out to the parking lot, and together they took off out-of-state.
  • Amos did run for state political office. The family thought it was mere bluster until we saw Amos' name on local television election returns with 2% of the vote. Jaws dropped, including mine.
  • When Amos was hospitalized for cancer, he so desperately wanted a good cup of coffee that he walked across the street to the Hardee's restaurant in his hospital gown and slippers. Police came and helped him back to his room. You have to admire someone who goes after what they want.
  • A self-ordained preacher, Amos ministers to prisoners and others who are down on their luck. Although I cannot vouch that Prince Charles personally funds his ministry, as Amos claims, Amos does have a tremendous verbal gift in front of audiences both large and small. Persuasive and dramatic, he loves an audience. He would be even more convincing if he had more teeth, but you cannot have everything.
Even the family black sheep deserves love.

Even the family black sheep deserves love.

The Value of the Lamb Underneath

Whatever the hue of a family member's wool coat, it is important to welcome them as a part of the flock, regardless of their tendency to stray.

More important is the need to value the lamb underneath. When coats are shorn, we are after all more similar than different—linked by the bonds of kinship. Like it or not.

Black Sheep Family

Sometimes there are entire families of black sheep.  Whoa!  Just imagine!

Sometimes there are entire families of black sheep. Whoa! Just imagine!


1Adams, Kelley. "Eco Friendly Fibers." Accessed July 23, 2013.

2Wikipedia. "Black sheep." Last modified May 13, 2013.

3Kaufman, Margo. "There's a Black Sheep In Every Family Fold." New York Times. Last modified November 23, 1988.

4Sage Knowledge. "Black Sheep Effect." Accessed July 23, 2013.

5Barham, Marcus. "Black Sheep -- Famous for Embarrassing Their Famous Families." ABC News. Last modified July 6, 2007.

6Flaccus, Gillian. "Gore's Son Pleads Guilty in Drug Case." Washington Post. Last modified July 30, 2007.

7Weird Worm. "Blacksheep: The Mortifying Siblings Of 7 Famous People." Accessed July 23, 2013.

8The Independent. "Black sheep! Even the best families have one." Last modified July 26, 2009.

9Kerby, Rob. "10 of History’s Most Famous Black Sheep." Inspiration, Spirituality, Faith – Accessed July 23, 2013.

10Miles, Jonathan. "The Amazing Story of the Televangelist and his Gay Grandson." Details. Last modified February, 2012.

11Thea. "How to Survive Being the Black Sheep of the Family." Write Change Grow. Accessed July 23, 2013.

Questions & Answers

Question: As the black sheep of the family, what should I do right now to alieve my situation?

Answer: Most people do have some idea why they are their family's black sheep. If the core reason for your marginalization is some moral or ethical transgression that you need to make amends for -- such as my brother-in-law's theft of several thousand dollars from his dying father -- then decide if and when to begin the long journey of repairing trust. You might start with a mea culpa (a heartfelt admission of wrongdoing) coupled with a request for forgiveness. Trust is hard to restore, but not impossible.

Decide if a relationship with your family is worth the work if you're in this category. The world can be a mean place, and we all need people who love us, even those we have hurt deeply. I hope your family is capable of that love and forgiveness, if this is you.

If the alienating factor is instead an issue of lifestyle, gender and sexuality issues, political, religious, and values differences, or struggles with mental health, addiction, or finances, then your choice is different. Decide whether you will

1) educate your family further

2) ask for targeted help from some of the most understanding family members in gaining the acceptance of other members, or

3) you'll instead merely agree to disagree.

Whatever the case, calmly call out disrespectful behavior like namecalling and off-color jokes at your expense. Families need to respect one another, even if they don't like one another's views, or they disagree vociferously on lifestyle, choices, or identity.

While you're going through this process, it's crucial that you rely on a positive reference group that can support you emotionally and socially as you are. If you are deeply troubled by the way your family has shifted you into the black sheep role, then do not hesitate to seek counseling.

I leave you with my favorite self-empowerment quote about knowing who you are: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Question: Why are some children hated by family members?

Answer: "Hated" is a very strong word, and I'd question that family members actually hate your child. However, family members may have a strong distaste for him or her, most likely because of a steady pattern of "unadorable" behavior. Just because you're related to someone doesn't mean you have to automatically like them or approve of their behavior. Some people are simply much harder to like than others, regardless of age. I'm sure you have relatives you enjoy more than others.

In considering a child's behavior pattern, one does need to look at the consistency and quality of parenting. I know that's likely not what you want to hear, but kids learn guidelines of acceptable and unacceptable behavior foremost from parents. No parent is perfect, but if rude, aggressive, self-centered, or other problematic behavior is frequently permitted and rewarded at home, the child is going to repeat those behaviors in other settings where reactions won't be so forgiving -- at school, among extended family members, in friendship groups, at church and daycare, etc. The situation may be made even worse when parents notice how family members respond to their child; they may become overprotective, hypersensitive, or defensive of the child. (Remember that family members often say what others won't.)

Behavior isn't the only reason family members may dislike a child. Siblings may resent a child who is an obvious favorite, or extended family members may dislike the child for a reason beyond the child's control -- for example, the child reminds them of a disliked relative. However, first take a good honest look at the child's behavior. If the source of the issue is indeed behavior-related, then you can do something about that. You need to recognize and own it first.

Question: Why do people choose pets over family?

Answer: Sometimes family members aren't very kind or loving whereas pets provide a sense of unconditional love. It doesn't have to be an us vs. them competition, however.

© 2013 FlourishAnyway


FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 27, 2019:

Michael - Your pain is palpable. Thank you for sharing your feelings. I hope your family situation improves.

Michael on September 27, 2019:

The hardest part of being pushed away is that nothing the have done or if they were the worse black sheep their ever was,I Never Would Do To Them What They Dod To Me,turn thier back on me and base it all on assumptions! To me you just don’t do to family no matter what they’ve done it’s me and not them and it kills me with pain they would!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 26, 2019:

Sarah - I'm so happy this made you see that it's their issue. Accept yourself and demand dignity. They don't have to like you but they should treat you with respect. I'd personally make sure to stay in a hotel away from the family so you can get some distance as opposed to staying with the parents or your one of your husband's siblings. Good luck in dealing with them.

Sarah on July 25, 2019:

I thoroughly enjoyed your ariticle. I'm not sure how long ago you wrote this, but I was happy to find this today. I just realized this minute that my husband is the black sheep in his family of origin, and this explains SO MUCH. I've been frustrated for the past 20 years by how they always give us unsolicited advice on absolutely everything, from my hair color to my weight, to my career choice, to how we educate our kids and the list goes on and on. I've literally never enjoyed their company. But now I understand. My husband left his home country and married a woman (me) from his new homeland. I do not fit in at all with his home culture. I'm too tall, too independent, too blunt too straightforward, to everything. And they remind me of all of these things every time we see them. If it's a family wedding we're going to his mom will tell me 'exactly' what to wear, down to what color they are wearing that season and what style of shoe. I've been offended for so long that I just hate having to spend time with them. We're going to visit tomorrow for 10 days because of course, they couldn't possibly be content with a long weekend. In order to mentally prepare I've been scouring the internet for advice on how to deal with difficult, hypercritical, controlling inlaws. After reading your article, I'm somewhat amused to discover that the problem has been me all of these years. Not because I'm rude, or a jerk or lacking in social graces, but because I'm not anything like them. How interesting. And of course my husband as well, but it's a lot easier for them to blame me.

Instead of just letting us go, my mother in law is in the intense pursuit of somehow normalizing us and getting us to accept and fit in with their insular culture. I almost feel sorry for her! I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for finally being able to explain this situation to me in terms I can readily understand.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 17, 2018:

Mary Collins,

I'm sorry your large family has chosen to marginalize you and your husband, and your church family has made the same choice. My experience is that church "families" may be there for sudden events like a death in the family, birth or adoption of a child, or urgent hospitalization (as long as it's not too many), but for extended situations like two older, lonely people living alone, they focus their attentional resources on people with needs that "seem" more pressing to them.

My grandmother, for example, has experienced this firsthand and so has my mentally ill aunt who needed church inclusion after a hospitalization but was ostracized instead. Both admittedly are challenging people in that they are frequently ill, not always in great moods (I'm being kind), and conversation revolves around their ailments.

I wonder if they are simply too high maintenance for the church volunteers and preachers to invest time in. What makes me say that is when my grandmother called to tell the preacher she was in the hospital (hoping for a visit), instead of responding appropriately, he sighed, exasperated, and said, "Again?!?" Imagine -- a preacher! Compassion fatigue is definitely a possibility. We each have to be both givers and takers, and both of these relatives of mine come up way short on the giving side.

My grandmother and aunt are more towards the extreme, but you may want to ask yourself

1) When people come over, do I complain about my life (such as my medical ailments) or do we talk about a variety of topics, including me asking them questions about their lives?

2) Do I take telephone calls, watch television, or engage in other distractions in the middle of their visit?

3) Do I make them feel guilty about not visiting more often ("Where have you been?", "Why haven't you visited?").

4) Do I make it awkward and uncomfortable for them to leave? If guests repeatedly let you know they've "got to get going," they've "really got to get going now", etc. then it's a yes.

5) Do I give them a "to do" list? (spread the favor asking around or hire someone)

With any wanted visitor but with family visitors in particular, make sure you tell those them how much you appreciate them. Have an open conversation with your one or two kids who visit about why the rest of the family doesn't come by more often. Really listen to the answers in case you're doing something. Sometimes, however, reasons have nothing to do with you.

If you want to be included, make it clearly known how you feel about being left out, and ask your children to be included in special events. Name examples (e.g., weddings, BBQs, graduations, birthday bashes, baby showers, etc.). Make it explicit that YOU'D rather be the one to decide if you're well enough or able enough to make it to the event rather than have the event organizer assume you don't want to come. My grandmother attends all of our events well into her late 80s, even though someone has to transport her. The activities exhaust her, although the social interaction and change of scenery generally make her more pleasant, at least for the day.

I'd also recommend not waiting for other people to invite you out. You're grown adults. If you are able, you and your husband should go on outings to the local park or museum and expand your social circle to include other seniors. Go to a matinee movie. Volunteer somewhere. Look to see what's available in your community.

You can also (carefully) check out online communities based on an interest or hobby you have. Sometimes knowing that there's another person with the same hobby or interest on the other end of the Internet -- even if you don't see them face-to-face -- can be a life changer.

Good luck to you, Mary. You have the power to make a change. You have inspired me to visit my parents today. They live only a mile away, and I moved from several states away just to be near them. Even I don't see them as much as I'd like although we phone call and text all the time. A big hug to you, FlourishAnyway

Mary Collins on November 16, 2018:

My husband and I are in our 70's and have 6 children and 20 something grandchildren . The problem is only one or two of the children check on us , hardly ever any of the grandchildren do . We are not invited for special events or get to gathers , so we stay in our home and take our selves out , and it is not any better with the church family either , so we hardly go to church even though we are religious . So explain this one please , for we are a pair of black sheep that has done nothing wrong except raise children that are self centered .

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 21, 2018:

Margaret - I'm going to go search for it right now.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 21, 2018:

Natalie - Black Sheep unite! If Uncle Amos were still alive and well, I know he'd appoint you to his Presidential cabinet. We all had a role that fit his exaggerated view of our talents. (Made you feel great to be considered so qualified.) If I ever get a sample of his ashes, I have joked with my family that some of his dust might just end up spread on the White House grounds somehow. I may end up getting arrested, but it would be a helluva story.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on August 21, 2018:

It's official, I am so the black sheep! Thanks for writing such an interesting article. The antics of your Uncle Amos show that black sheep are colorful despite the dark hue of their wool and, at least I like to think, have some of the most extraordinary characteristics in the family. This was a joy to read.

Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on August 21, 2018:

FlourishAnyway, Years ago I also wrote an article about the black sheep of the family. I must say, you went into much greater detail than I did. My article is puny compared to yours. I enjoyed reading it.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 21, 2018:


My uncle passed away within the past year, but his shenanigans have left us with so many memories and stories. At my cousin's wedding, he introduced himself to the bride's mother and a number of other lucky folks as having been Reagan's personal lawyer. He nearly interrupted the groom's speech wanting to do a toast of his own, but I stopped him. Maybe I shouldn't have; it certainly would've been unforgettable. We do know that the FBI and State Police had his name and investigated him a couple of times, but he was harmless, just unusual.

Thanks for commenting. You brought back good memories of my favorite black sheep. White sheep are boring.


Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on August 21, 2018:

Hello, Louise,

I meant to mention the two distance senses (vision and hearing), please, forgive me for my oops moment. My wife laughed at my post. Loss of mobility is certainly another impacting disability. I've seen this happen, unfortunately.

You are so wise because my professor used to point out: "If you live long enough, you will be impacted by disability." He went on to say, "Yes, even old age can be treated like a disability by many. It's all about people not being comfortable with changes."

My wife and I have friends who have dealt with all sorts of disabling conditions, that's why we think we have a "black sheep" flock. Your uncle Amos would fit right in with many of our friends. I like him; he keeps things interesting for your family.

Much respect,

Great article.

May your day be blessed.



FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 20, 2018:

Tim - I agree with you regarding disabilities being an unfortunate cause of being labeled a black shape. Just as mental health issues can emphasize how different one is from the rest of the family, changes to one's vision or mobility, for example, can alienate a person from the rest of the flock, sadly. Those white sheep should beware, however. Disabilities can strike any one of us at any time! Believe me! All the best to you, FlourishAnyway

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on August 20, 2018:

I love this, Louise. My wife and I take pride in being black sheep, we figure we will have our own flock. Besides, black sheep in families can be very independent and trail blazers, daring to do what their relatives would never attempt. (But we are not serious bs's, we are loved.)

But I wanted to mention that the onset of physical disabilities can cause a person who was often included in family events to be considered a "black sheep," especially, if one of the two distance senses (vision and sight) becomes impacted. These people can become shunned, isolated, and made to feel worthless without any fault of their own.

I enjoyed reading this well written, informative, and thought provoking article.

Much respect,




FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 23, 2017:

lala - Just keep being you.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 17, 2015:

Danny - Thank you!

Danny Cabaniss from Shawnee, Oklahoma on July 16, 2015:

Brilliant hub! I love the perspective and the presentation!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 07, 2015:

Always welcome my friend. You too. Hope you have great weather!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2015:

Kristen - Thanks so much for the encouraging feedback. Have a great week!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 05, 2015:

Flourish, this was an interesting and humorous hub about black sheep and famous ones in history and current events. Your photos had clever and funny captions too. Thanks for sharing this insightful hub. Voted up!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 19, 2014:

stevarino - I'm sure you're not the HP black sheep. Stats go up and down. Keep at it. You're a talented writer and we sure need you here!

Steve Dowell from East Central Indiana on December 18, 2014:

If the statistics on my hubs is any indication, I'm the "Black Sheep" of! Seriously, my Uncle and I were probably considered the "Black Sheep" of the family - but there is not much family left any more and things tend to change over time. I think "Black Sheep" is not such a bad label anyway. They tend be the risk takers and increased potential to make things happen.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 12, 2014:

Perspycacious - If you give him 5 minutes, Amos can be very convincing. If you give him 10, you know you've never met anyone quite like him, if you know what I mean.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 12, 2014:

pstraubie48 - Thanks for stopping ba-aaaack by and for commenting and sharing. Have a great week.

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on December 11, 2014:

I was ready and would have believed his story that he created, not a famous chili recipe, but the universally enjoyed "Famous Amos Cookies"! The "royalties" for his Christian mission are well deserved, and so is your love for famous Uncle Amos. Great Hub.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 11, 2014:

Interesting, amusing, and informative!!! This has it all. And quick question..would I know if I am the BS on the family??? Hee hee..

Enjoyed reading this so much ....

Voted up up and away and shared and g+

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 05, 2014:

Mary615 - Amos is not one to sit quietly, unnoticed. He is truly the life of the party. At a family wedding recently he had lost so much weight that his pants fell down at the reception, completely to his knees. He had us roaring. Only Amos, the life of the party. Although another lady snagged him long ago (so he's not single) he'd be glad to have another voter supporting him in his 2016 White House bid. He'd probably even find room for you in his Cabinet. Press Secretary, perhaps? There are a few open positions still left, I think.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on December 05, 2014:

I just love your Uncle Amos! Is he single?? He would be so much fun to have around (I think).

I have an Aunt who is our black sheep of the family. No one else in the family wants to have her included in dinners, etc. She's been in jail for drugs and for stealing. She isn't nice like your Uncle Amos. No one wants to be around this woman!

Great Hub! Voted UP, etc. and shared.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 05, 2014:

elle64 - At this time of year, the black sheep feel especially baaad. Very sad. Thanks for reading.

elle64 from Scandinavia on December 05, 2014:

Very good hub, sad we all have a black sheeep in the family,but also shame on us to let it happen!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 24, 2014:

Laura225 - There are so many nuts on my family tree I could make a fruitcake. Gotta love the holidays!

Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on November 24, 2014:

They make you crazy, don't they? But, they can't help the way they are. This is so relevant for me right now. Well done.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 13, 2014:

russinserra - Thank you so much! I appreciate the gushing praise!

Russ Inserra from Indianapolis, In on November 13, 2014:

Entertaining, uplifting, educational and very well written. I am not one to loosely gush, but this is a great article!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 10, 2014:

Buildreps - Wouldn't that be something if most of us really do think we don't belong?!? We are all really more alike than we are different.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 10, 2014:

handymanbill - Be who you are and love every minute of it!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 10, 2014:

fpher48 - The eccentricities make life interesting. No sense in folks hiding who the are. Just flaunt it and embrace the differences. Thanks for sharing and tweeting. Have a great week!

Buildreps from Europe on November 10, 2014:

Excellent subject. I was always the black sheep of the family! I checked out your poll and saw that nearly thousand others feel they're the black sheep as well. Might it be that everyone thinks he/she's the black sheep?

Bill from Greensburg Pennsylvania on November 09, 2014:

Baaa, I am the black sheep of my family. I'll admit to it. I can't control it, it just happens.

Suzie from Carson City on November 09, 2014:

Great wisdom......wonderful writing and very special messages. I must confess my family is a huge RAINBOW of colors.....maybe a few slightly black sheep, but we love them anyway.! UP++++ shared & tweeted

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 31, 2014:

nightcats - Eventually the Black Sheep learn to embrace the coat they wear because they can't take it off and can't bleach it. Gotta work with what you've got and people will either love you for it or they won't. Flaunt your style.

June Campbell from North Vancouver on October 30, 2014:

Great concept for a hub. Yes, I was the Black Sheep of the family. Not the only one -- there were two in our extended family. Now that I think about it, I guess I still am the Black Sheep, but I really don't care any more :-)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 27, 2014:

Efficient Admin - Everyone has a role in a family. At a family wedding out of state this weekend, he was awesome at getting our large group a table during peak breakfast hours at the hotel buffet. He just sat down at the table we wanted (never mind that there were other people there scoping it out first). A few words about running for President and some off-color jokes, and he was golden. Three people moved. By the time we were through the buffet line, we had a place to sit thanks to Uncle Amos. And, of course, we had entertainment through breakfast that we're still talking about.

Michelle Dee from Charlotte, NC on October 27, 2014:

I enjoyed reading this hub and actually wouldn't mind having a relative like Amos. He sounds very interesting (although the part about him believing the Republicans were chasing him may be a bit scary).

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 13, 2014:

ezzly - Those black sheep can certainly add some fun and entertainment to family gatherings. Gotta love 'em. Thanks for reading.

ezzly on October 12, 2014:

Very enlightening ...think most families have a black sheep but you know as you say they aren't baaaaad :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 01, 2014:

kislanyk - I'm glad they embraced you regardless. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Marika from Cyprus on September 30, 2014:

In my youth I was the black sheep of the family, but they still loved me (but yeah, I did feel it at times, I guess I was too rebellious in nature).

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 13, 2014:

Rachael, That's very sad that you are not included in any way in your family. I'm so sorry for that. We have multiple black sheep in our family but they all belong to the flock. Amos provides adventure and wonderful stories. You never know what to expect when he is around. No one else in our family has dared to even consider runring for such high public office.

Rachael O'Halloran from United States on September 13, 2014:

All of my family members would probably tell you that I am the black sheep in our family but believe me when I tell you that all of them are black sheep and I am the only "white" sheep.

If that wasn't so sad, it would actually be funny.

You see, I was and am the only law abiding citizen in a family whose family gatherings revolved around the gift of brag - to outshine each other with stories of how many years they spent in what prison for what crime.

And if it was for a crime that another family member had also got sent up for, then they competed for bragging rights on whomever was the most creative in either committing the crime or eluding the authorities long enough before getting arrested for the crime.

I was the first born child who was recognized as the smartest one of the bunch, who was consulted for advice, asked to "fix" things that had gone awry, and asked for bail money for whomever got arrested that weekend.

By the time I graduated from high school, I was expected to become a card carrying member of the family business. So I married my beau of 3 years instead.

From then on, it became clear that I wasn't going to change my ways. How dare I not join in the family business! It got to be so that chatter at family events became whispered or hushed in my presence. Soon the phone calls stopped to invite me, or to notify me when someone died, got sick, was sent to prison, or got married, or had a baby. By the time I was in my 20's, on holidays, I was not good enough to sit at the same dinner table to eat food that came from ill-gotten gains. It is 47 years later and it is still ok with me.

I enjoyed your stories about Uncle Amos, he was quite the character. I guess every family has at least one, and for our family - we had about 100 of them.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 11, 2014:

bensen32 - Dear Ole Uncle Amos does have that effect on people. Thanks for reading!

Thomas Bensen from Wisconsin on September 11, 2014:

Great Article, mad me laugh quite a bit, thank you

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 10, 2014:

elle64 - Yes, that should be what families are for. Thanks for reading and weighing in.

elle64 from Scandinavia on September 10, 2014:

There should be a place for everybody in each family....

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 25, 2014:

SheGetsCreative - Glad you enjoyed this. He is a hoot!

Angela F from Seattle, WA on August 25, 2014:

Great hub! Love your Uncle Amos stories :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2014:

techygran - Thank you so much! Have a great Sunday!

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on August 23, 2014:

What a well-written article, and so full of compassion and insight! Voted up and shared widely!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 15, 2014:

Nadine - Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the read!

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on August 15, 2014:

What a fantastic hub. Learned a great deal. Voted up!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 13, 2014:

Relationshipc - I'm glad you don't have any black sheep in your own family. I agree that Randy Potts was indeed brave. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment!

Kari on August 13, 2014:

I can honestly say my family doesn't have any black sheep, it's just not big enough, but I can say that I just came from a trip across country and met some black sheep in my best friend's family. Lol. I would say that if anyone was going to be the black sheep, it would be me.

Randy Potts was a strong man to come out amidst that family. I looked him up and I love his policy on how 'labels divide rather than unite'. He is a great example for other people who are scared to come out.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 11, 2014:

Homeplace Series - Being quirky or unusual (i.e., talented) should be an honor. Embrace your differences. Thanks for visiting!

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on August 11, 2014:

I think I stand out as different in my family, but not necessarily in a bad or negative way... just march to the beat of a different drummer, to use another of my many cliches... Thanks for a very interesting, and very popular, hub! ;-)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 01, 2014:

Marilyn - Thanks for reading. I'm glad you help the black sheep.

Marilyn Gentry from Ontario, Canada on August 01, 2014:

Great hub. In our family my younger brother seem to be the laziest but we do loved him so much. He's just lazy to study to do chores and so what we can do is to give him advice and help him up.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 30, 2014:

Bishop55 - It sure seems like there are a lot of sheep out there. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great week!

Rebecca from USA on July 30, 2014:

I am the sheep. So I had to choose "other" for the poll. But this was a great hub (as always! yours are gems). Good info here.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 29, 2014:

VioletteRose - Thanks for reading and commenting. Black sheep are relatively rare but always wonderful.

VioletteRose from Atlanta on July 29, 2014:

Great hub! The coping tips you have suggested look really helpful for those in need. I actually didn't know about the "black sheep effect", and I also didn't know that the black sheeps are rare compared to the white ones. Voted up and useful!

Rebecca Sutton from Rock Hill, SC on July 27, 2014:

Haha! Let me know if he needs a rep!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 27, 2014:

Rebecca - Just wait til he hears he has a contingent in South Carolina.

Rebecca Sutton from Rock Hill, SC on July 27, 2014:

I will have to register to vote, just or him!!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 27, 2014:

RebeccaSutton - Thanks for reading and commenting. And hang on to your hat because Amos is ready to announce his bid for the White House 2016.

Rebecca Sutton from Rock Hill, SC on July 27, 2014:

Now that was a great article! Lots of variety and I love the wordplay. Very creative and unique point of view. I think there are a few black sheep in my family, including me. Everyone needs and Uncle Amos :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 19, 2014:

Graham - Some folks in families are miles apart, only share genetics. Thank you for the kind compliments. Have a great weekend.

Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on July 18, 2014:

Hi Flourish. You left a nice comment on my poem about the black sheep. I then see this absolutely top class hub. You touch so many bases in it! I particularly liked the info on Al Capone's brother, I cannot imagine what they thought of each other. First class hub.

voted up and all.


FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 16, 2014:

Monis Mas - You're right. Some folks seem to have more of those moments than others, the poor dears. I appreciate your reading. Have a great week.

Agnes on July 16, 2014:

Truly fantastic article. I think we all feel like black sheep in our families from time to time... When for some reason nothing goes well, and we see that other family members magically do so great. It'a just our perception though, and it shall pass.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 14, 2014:

Stephanie - There's (at least) one in every crowd. I appreciate your kind comments. Amos is certainly one-of-a-kind.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on July 14, 2014:

This is a fascinating article! Every family does seem to have a black sheep or a scapegoat. Often it's a sad situation, and family members will do anything to distance themselves from an embarrassing family member. I found your analysis of black sheep so interesting. Your Uncle sounds like quite a character, and he was lucky to have a family who tolerated his eccentricities. Thanks for a great read!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 13, 2014:

Peggy W - Thanks a bunch! Hope your weekend was a good one.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2014:

I enjoyed reading this just as much as I did the first time and thought it is worthy of a share so that others may enjoy it as well. Will also tweet.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 18, 2014:

Molly Madley - Makes you wonder about the rest of the family, I'm sure.

Molly Madley from San Francisco,Ca on June 17, 2014:

Very insightful. Now I'm thinking about my family dynamics. Haha.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 15, 2014:

Prairieprincess - It must be difficult to be the child of the President. There's not much of a way you can match or surpass the success of your father so I can see them rebelling in order to make their mark. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on June 14, 2014:

This was a very interesting article! I did not realize where the term came from. You really fleshed out this concept well, with many fascinating anecdotes. It seems like there have been quite a few presidential children who rebel against their father's position and make a name as the black sheep. Thanks for taking the time to do such careful and interesting research and writing!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 12, 2014:

PegCole17 - Oh my, so sad to hear about your family's black sheep. Some of them have hair that is so dark you wonder if the black goes straight to their soul. Bless you, sweet lady.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on June 12, 2014:

Flourish, this was entertaining, funny, touching and well written. You've evoked some deep thoughts with this one.

My Dad was disowned by his mother who wrote him out of her will and wouldn't allow him to attend her funeral - but she was truly the black sheep as a well-known child abuser. She's passed away now and I've written a dark story about her that I've yet to publish. Maybe someday.

At this point, the black sheep would be my cousin who spent her mother's life savings before putting her in a nursing home, then disappearing the night she passed away. The day of the funeral was the next time we saw her when she showed up late. I could go on but it would turn into a hub.

Voted this one all the way up. Your Uncle Amos was quite a likeable if quirky character.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 10, 2014:

Mira - You count, too. I hope you have found that place in your life where you can celebrate you.

Mira on June 10, 2014:

This is so amazing! I was also the black sheep in the family.. All of my siblings are very intelligent. Im not dumb but im just not the same level as them in terms of intelligence. They were all excelling in their studies and were usually loved by the crowd. And they always made me feel i was different. My sisters would always tell me how im not as pretty and smart as them. And because of that i grew up tyring to find a foundation/group if friends so i can feel i belonged somewhere...

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2014:

grand old lady - Ole Uncle Amos is a living legend. You can't make some stuff up.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on June 09, 2014:

I love your Uncle Amos and, for all his eccentricity, to quote your name, he Flourished Anyway. This is a very kind, loving and compassionate hub. More, more, I say.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 01, 2014:

Peggy W - He does add lots of color. I'm hoping your family's departed black sheep have found green pastures in the great baa-baaa-beyond. Thanks for reading.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 01, 2014:

What an interesting fellow your Uncle Amos is! Imagine what he could have done had he gotten 92% of the vote instead of just 2%! Ha! I had to laugh at some of his antics. He certainly adds a lot of color to your family! Most of my most interesting family characters are now doing whatever they can in the next life. :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 13, 2014:

Larry - They certainly add color, don't they?

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on May 13, 2014:

Another great article. The term black sheep is so interesting because it is relative to the given family's normal practices. For every great humanitarian, it is so nice to have a Billy Carter urinating on a runway. People that are different give life its beauty, in my opinion.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 09, 2014:

Savvy - It looks like the black sheep have found finer pastures with one another. Thanks for reading.

savvydating on May 09, 2014:

What a well written piece! I enjoyed it from beginning to end. I have to say that Amos is quite the character...I like how he went and got a cup of coffee in his hospital gown. It makes for a hilarious visual. I was also interested to know about the daughters of famous men. Hmmm. Who woulda thunk?

Well, in my family, I'm the black sheep, but it would seem, from your voting poll, that I am in good company. I love it!

Up, awesome, interesting.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2014:

Shyron - We're all a bit different, but some of us -- like Amos -- are truly one of a kind! Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing!