The Black Sheep
By Bernadette A. Moyer
“The black sheep is a member of the family or other group who is considered undesirable or disreputable.” American Heritage Dictionary “The most egregious form of rejection that anyone can ever experience is parental rejection.” (Hardy 2002)
“We speak figuratively of the one black sheep that is the cause of sorrow in a family; but in its reality it is regarded by the Sussex shepherd as an omen of good luck to his flock.” The Folk-Lore Record 1878
Love the Same
I do not love my children the same
I love them for who they are
Each child individually named
Each child loved, just the same
I do not love my friends the same
I love them for who they are
Each friend individually named
Each friend loved, just the same
Love is love, but surely love is never the same
(Bare Breasted Heart – Bernadette Moyer 1999)
Parents may say they love their children the same, they may strive to love them the same, but everyone in every family can point out the favorite child and the least favorite. All families have their own dynamic and each family member has their own place, the role that they play in the family.
“Treatment of the black sheep is very much in line with the clinical description of scapegoating.” From Bye bye Black Sheep, the causes and consequences of rejection in family relationships. Julie Fitness
Scapegoating is defined as; “The projection of blame, hostility or suspicion onto one member of a group by other members to avoid self-confrontation.” Mosby Medical Dictionary
I have always known my role in my family, I knew that I was the black sheep and I knew that I was the scapegoat. It goes back to my very early years. From my birth to my mothers’ death, she openly had issues with me. She stayed in the hospital just after I was born as I was sent home. Upon her death, I was excluded in her obituary. It was full circle. I believe now, as an adult that she taught my sisters how to treat me. She set the example.
As a little kid, I took the blame for something that I didn’t do to stop the inquisition, I was punished severely however, it did end the drama. After my brutal punishment, the sister who actually did it, spoke out and owned it. By that time, the parental anger was already diffused upon me.
Oprah Winfrey – “Years ago, I did a show specifically about the black sheep of the family. Somebody said something I never forget, they said, “The black sheep of the family is usually the person who is the most sensitive, who absorbs all of the other family members’ energy.”
I could immediately relate to the above statement. As a teenager, my mother once used the word “indifference” to describe me, the truth is and was that I felt it all, took it all in, and in the end, it wasn’t “indifference” at all but survival and the desire to save myself. I had to move away from them and all their scapegoating, look at myself, work on myself and ultimately save myself.
My mother and my youngest sister both celebrated a birthday yesterday, they are 30 years apart, and my mother is no longer with us. Our family is broken; the bonds weren’t strong enough to survive multi-generations of abuse. The reality however is that God created this family, not my mother nor my sisters or me, and only God can break the bonds that bind us.
If being the black sheep in the family means that I am the “most sensitive” I’ll take it, it could be worse, I could be one that doesn’t feel anything at all, blames others rather than taking a hard look at themselves and what role they play in the group dynamic.
So here is to all those “black sheep” there seems to be one in almost every family, “After all, the wool of the black sheep is just as warm.” Ernest Lehman