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Why Being the Black Sheep in the Family Is a Good Thing

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Being a Black Sheep Is Not Always Negative

You might have been labeled the black sheep of your family by you or other family members. Most people think being the black sheep of the family is a bad thing. However, being the black sheep of the family is not always derogatory or negative.

The black sheep of the family is typically known as the one who brings shame and disgrace to the family. This is not always true. Hopefully, this article will be good news for anyone who thinks he or she is the black sheep of the family.

While the term black sheep is typically used in families, you might be interested to know that it is also used in companies, churches, and other organizations where there is one member whose behavior is different from the majority especially if that behavior seems to jeopardize the group's image.

It might also be interesting to know that in some cultures, the odd family member is considered a good luck omen.

Meaning of a Black Sheep

Black sheep is an expression used to describe an odd or disreputable member of a group, especially within a family. This expression gives negative implications, implying that a person is different from other family members. The expression comes from the idea that because a black sheep is in the minority, it will surely stand out among the majority of sheep which are white.

The expression "black sheep" is based on the idea that black sheep were less valuable than white ones because it was more difficult to dye their wool in different colors.

It was rare for a black sheep to be among a flock of white sheep. Because the black sheep was rare, its wool is more highly prized.

The black sheep is prized in certain cultures. So originally the black sheep was special, but today it has come to have a derogatory meaning.

The expression "black sheep" is an American expression. This expression is also used in other countries, but the animal is different. In Russia, the odd thing is a "white crow." In other words, it is the thing that is different from the majority.

You might remember the nursery rhyme: "Baa Baa black sheep, do you have any wool? Yes, sir, Yes, sir, three bags full." That black sheep was valuable and produced a lot of wool.


Being a Black Sheep Is Not Always Bad

Personally, I believe the black sheep in a family is the one who is different or unique. However, that difference doesn't have to be bad. For example, if everyone in your family is a drunkard and you don't drink, they might call you the oddball or the black sheep. That is not a bad thing.

Another example is that you might be the only one who graduated from college. That's a good thing, but your family could tease and taunt you about it and call you the black sheep.

Biblical Examples of Black Sheep

Throughout the Bible, there are examples of people who might be considered black sheep.

Joseph was different so his brothers put him in a pit and sold him into slavery. (Genesis 37-50). However, in the end, it was Joseph who saved his family from starvation.

Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 was considered a born loser. His mother named him Jabez, meaning "pain." Jabez prayed to God and God changed the circumstances of his life. Then Jabez became more honorable than his brothers.

Gideon in Judges 6 was a young man from an otherwise unremarkable clan from the tribe of Manasseh. He was called by God to free the people of Israel and to condemn their worship of idols. Because Gideon considered himself to be a black sheep among his own people, he requested proof of God's will by putting out a fleece. To make sure he had heard from God, Gideon put out the fleece twice.

Jephthah in Judges 10:1-3 was driven away from home by his brothers because he was considered the black sheep of the family. Trying to do something worthwhile, Jephthah vowed to God that he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house if God would allow him to win a battle. He had to keep his word, and he sacrificed his only daughter because of the vow that would cause his brothers not to think of him as a black sheep.

Jeremiah's family thought he was the black sheep of the family. Jeremiah was made a laughing stock when he prophesied the words of God. The people in his own hometown tried to run him out of town. When that didn't work, they tried to kill him by putting him in a well.

Jesus encountered some of the same things that Jeremiah experienced. His family denied Him until after His death. He could not perform miracles in his hometown because some people did not believe Him. He was considered a prophet without honor. In other words, Jesus was considered a black sheep just like some of us.

  • Psalm 23: A Sheep's Testimony
    Psalm 23 is the best known and most popular of all the psalms. Many people know this psalm by heart. The psalm is loved by Jews and Christians alike, speaking as it does of God’s protection and care.


Sannyasi Raja from Durgapur, West Bengal, India on September 01, 2020:

Really enjoyed reading this.

Thank you for sharing this.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 18, 2020:

Thank you for this article. I like this new way of looking at black sheep. Especially because Jesus was a black sheep in his family. That is something that can be helpful to anyone who fears they are not special in their family, or who is not accepted by their family.

Laura on May 15, 2020:

Thanks. I had a good chuckle. It's nice to know that we "black sheeps" are in good company. Resilient indeed.

Adebiyi Emmanuel Akanni on November 14, 2019:

Without Faith you can never please HIM

Alice on July 18, 2011:

Thank you so much, revmjm, for your answer! And thank you once again for your article! I wish you to be 'a white crow' (as we say in Russian). It means different as I wrote, but not in a bad way. Have a nice day!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on July 18, 2011:

Yes, Alice. You are right. Being a black sheep in the family means being different usually in a negative way. No one likes to be labelled "the black sheep of the family" in our culture.

Alice on July 18, 2011:

Dear revmjm, thank you for the post. Sorry for my comment, maybe my question should be asked on any other site, but you're my last hope :). I've been learning English for a while, and am trying to find out more about the term 'being the black sheep'. Yes, you're right, in Russian there is a phrase, meaning that somebody or something is different - 'being a white crow'; but it doesn't have any negative connotation. We use it to say about somebody who's different and who seems strange, but not bad.

Having read your article, I realized that in the English-speaking world, 'the black sheep' implies something bad. But it's obvious that being different is not always bad. But anyway, if I tell someone that he or she is the black sheep, I might hurt him/her. Am I right?

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on February 23, 2011:

Betty, thanks for reading and responding.

Betty Johansen on February 23, 2011:

Thanks for putting a new spin on the "black sheep" concept - different, but not necessarily bad. I like that!

Dave Mathews from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on February 21, 2011:

Actually speaking I believe the wool sheerings of a black sheep during the time of Jesus fetched more worth than a white one, although spiritually a sheep had to be pure white and without blemish to be a sacrifice.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on February 21, 2011:

Dave, I know exactly what you mean. I have been called the black sheep of my family, friends, co-workers and even church members because I do not agree with some of the things they do. And certainly they misunderstand some of the things I do including spending so much time writing here on HubPages. However, I know I am doing a worthwhile thing in the Kingdom of God. I might be a "Black Sheep" in some people's eyes, but I am precious in the sight of God.

Dave Mathews from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on February 21, 2011:

I am viewed as the black sheep of not just my family but including friends and associates and co-workers too, for the simple reason that God and Jesus hold the only importance in my life,my existance.

I am not important to myself, nor to anyone who knows me, but God sees me as important and needs me.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on February 20, 2011:

I used to think I was the black sheep of my family. I knew I was unique, but now I know being different doesn't make someone a black sheep, and being a black sheep is always a bad thing. While talking to my brothers and sisters, I found out that each one thought he or she was the black sheep. Among the 10 of us, all of us couldn't have been the black sheep.

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