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

Updated on June 20, 2017
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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? | Source

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. | Source

Reader Poll:

Who is the Black Sheep in your family?

See results

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. | Source

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.

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.

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

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

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. | Source

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

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

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 committed 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? | Source

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 it. 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. | Source

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

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. | Source

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 recently introduced himself to everyone at a family wedding as Reagan's attorney and left quite an impression.

Or, 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. In a matter of minutes, Amos could curse the current government, tell a dead baby joke, 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. | Source

A Midnight Run Through the Briar Patch

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

Recently, 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 in order to hide from searchers' flashlights and avoid any bullets the Republicans might still send his way. As a result of his midnight run 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. | Source

Reader Poll

Be honest. How do YOU treat the Black Sheep of your family?

See results

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 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 one hot July day. The bank teller peered through the window and smiled.

Amos had wrapped the kitty in baby blankets and nestled it in a handheld baby carrier that his wife had bought 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 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.

The Truth About 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 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. | Source

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.

Readers: Weigh In

Share your family's story in the comments section below.

Notes

1Adams, Kelley. "Eco Friendly Fibers." Slowyarn.com. 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 – Beliefnet.com. 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.

Hey, Black Sheep, If All Else Fails ...

If all else fails, bare your teeth and grow some horns.  That'll get you some respect.
If all else fails, bare your teeth and grow some horns. That'll get you some respect. | Source

© 2013 FlourishAnyway

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Danny - Thank you!

    • Danny Cabaniss profile image

      Danny Cabaniss 2 years ago from Shawnee, Oklahoma

      Brilliant hub! I love the perspective and the presentation!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

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

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      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 profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      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!

    • stevarino profile image

      Steve Dowell 2 years ago from East Central Indiana

      If the statistics on my hubs is any indication, I'm the "Black Sheep" of Hubpages.com! 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 profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

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

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      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.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      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 profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      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.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

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

    • elle64 profile image

      elle64 2 years ago from Scandinavia

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

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

    • Laura335 profile image

      Laura Smith 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

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

    • russinserra profile image

      Russ Inserra 2 years ago from Indianapolis, In

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      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 profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      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 profile image

      Buildreps 2 years ago from Europe

      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?

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 2 years ago from western pennsylvania

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

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      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.

    • nightcats profile image

      June Campbell 2 years ago from North Vancouver

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      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.

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 2 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

    • ezzly profile image

      ezzly 3 years ago

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 3 years ago from Cyprus

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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.

    • RachaelOhalloran profile image

      Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

    • bensen32 profile image

      Thomas Bensen 3 years ago from Round Lake Park

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

    • elle64 profile image

      elle64 3 years ago from Scandinavia

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great hub! Love your Uncle Amos stories :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 3 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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!

    • Relationshipc profile image

      Kari 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      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 profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      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! ;-)

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Marilyn Gentry 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Rebecca 3 years ago from USA

      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.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      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!

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      Rebecca Sutton 3 years ago from Rock Hill, SC

      Haha! Let me know if he needs a rep!

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Rebecca Sutton 3 years ago from Rock Hill, SC

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

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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.

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      Rebecca Sutton 3 years ago from Rock Hill, SC

      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 :)

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      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.

      Graham.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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.

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      Aga 3 years ago

      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.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Stephanie Henkel 3 years ago from USA

      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!

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Molly Madley 3 years ago from San Francisco,Ca

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

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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.

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      Sharilee Swaity 3 years ago from Canada

      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!

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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.

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      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      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.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Mira 3 years ago

      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...

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      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.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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.

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      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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. :)

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Larry Rankin 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      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.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Yves 3 years ago

      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.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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!

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      Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago from Texas

      Awesome play on words. Song is great.

      I don't take no wool,

      So the black sheep I may be

      But I don't really mind

      What that means to me?

      I am really one of a kind!

      I loved the dead cat, and the cup of coffee at Hardees, I am sure they know, when they see the hospital gown what "I.C.U." means.

      Voted -up all the way and shared

      Shyron

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      DzyMsLizzy - The black sheep are the ones with the most interesting stories to tell (or to have stories be told about). I enjoyed hearing about your family's black sheep from way baa-aa-aa-ack. Have a great day!

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      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Very well-researched; impressive bibliography, there! From a psychological standpoint, you explained this well.

      From a practical standpoint, with the origin of the saying, I would value an actual sheep with black, gray or brown wool, as it would not NEED to be dyed to produce those colors--hence--all natural, with no possibility of irritation from the dye chemicals. ;-)

      That aspect of the origin of the saying aside, as far as I know, my family had 2 black sheep on my dad's side, and 1 on my mother's. One of my dad's sisters disowned the family, rather than the other way around; somehow feeling that they were not good enough for her. Yet, she managed to marry and divorce 7 times, this in an era when such a thing simply 'was not done.' (She was born in the late 1800's.) When she did show up at any family event, she usually caused a scene, and when she left, was not heard from again for years on end.

      Another of his sisters married a bit of a no-goodnick, who, it was said, could not tell the truth if his very life depended on it. She divorced him, but not before they had a son; this cousin of mine ended up following his father's ways. Given the age difference between my own parents, this cousin I rarely saw; he was grown and married when I was still a young child. But oh, the stories I heard the grown ups exchanging of the underhanded things he would do! He is deceased these many years, though. As are all the other 'black sheep' in the family.

      The worst case on my mother's side involved a girl who ran off in the middle of the night to get married...again, simply not the done thing in that era; the story goes that she did write a letter to her siblings, but that they threw it away unopened.

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      MJ -Amos recently won over the friendship of a man who does website design professionally, so he has his own customized website that cost him noting. His friend also helps people publish their ebooks, so Amos is now actually an author (we checked it out). Black sheep went to town!

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      Marcy J. Miller 3 years ago from Arizona

      I enjoyed this tremendously … and learned something, too. I already knew I am the black sheep (B.S. -- how appropriate) in my family, but I didn't know of the phenomenon known as the Black Sheep Effect. Fascinating stuff, that. I've watched it many times but had never realized exactly what I was seeing.

      I think I'd have gotten along well with your Uncle Amos. I share the same sense of humor even if I don't have as much certainty that they're out to get me.

      Sharing this, because I just can't help myself.

      Best -- Mj

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Carolyn - I was intrigued by that, too! Do we all believe we just don't fit in?

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      Carolyn Emerick 3 years ago

      Funny how everyone who voted in your poll thought they were the black sheep of their family! Maybe we all do! ;-) Upvoted!

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Jenb0128 - Being the odd sheep out can leave one feeling very lonely and exposed. Don't feel baaa-aaaa-aaaa-dd. I'm sure the rest of the flock still love you.

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      Jennifer Bridges 3 years ago from Michigan

      I definitely feel like the black sheep of my family whenever I go to family gatherings. I haven't caused any trouble or anything like that, but I have vastly different political and social views than just about everybody else in the family (a couple of cousins lean more in the same direction as me, but they live out of state and are rarely at the gatherings to back me up).

      Great hub!

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Matt76 - If you are not getting the social and emotional support you need in your family, reach out to others around you for help and to build a human connection. You are not as alone as you may feel.

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      MATT76 3 years ago

      Well i was born in to a family with very little,my dad was harder on me than me than my other two siblings.As my dad + mam got older they got softer,i felt pushed out + rebelled !I know that their love is greater for them than me,even though i try to buy their love back,it don't work...My MUM lives in denial & my dad hates me really deep down inside,lonliness is my friend for most of the time asi suffer with mental illness..To them i'm a let down really,i do not enjoy waking up some of the time.matt76

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      CMHypno - Having different ideas or opinions certainly can seem threatening to the group. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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      CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      People like conformity FlourishAnyway and for everyone to be the same. Most wars are caused by our inability to accept that other people have different ideas and want to live a different way.

      Families are the same, they want all the family members to live their lives in the same way. So any family member who is a bit different can be seen as threatening to the whole

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Skye - Thank you for calling my writing a gift. What a beautiful compliment. We take our gifts and hopefully do good things with them. I am so happy for you that you have turned your life around and found both joy and purpose. Have a lovely weekend.

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      skye2day 3 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      flourish My oh my you truly do have a blessed gift of writing. Amazing your parables. Really amazing work. Love it. I am grateful to share with you that once a black sheep in the family I am now in the flock of Jesus Christ. He is my sheppard. He knows me and I know His voice. How dumb sheep are. But Jesus loves us still. He goes after the sheep. Blessed be His Name. He is the good Sheppard. Amen. Thank you for a very wonderful write. You are creative indeed. A blessing from above. Love Skye