Top Navigation  
 
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
 
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
 
 
Backwoods Home Magazine, self-reliance, homesteading, off-grid

Features
 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues
 Print Display Ads
 Print Classifieds
 Newsletter
 Letters
 Humor
 Free Stuff
 Recipes
 Home Energy

General Store
 Ordering Info
 Subscriptions
 Kindle Subscriptions
 ePublications
 Anthologies
 Books
 Back Issues
 Help Yourself
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

Advertise
 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

BHM Blogs
 Behind The Scenes
 Ask Jackie Clay
 Massad Ayoob
 Claire Wolfe
 Where We Live
 Dave on Twitter
Retired Blogs
 Oliver Del Signore
 David Lee
 Energy Questions
 Bramblestitches

Quick Links
 Home Energy Info
 Jackie Clay
 Ask Jackie Online
 Dave Duffy
 Massad Ayoob
 John Silveira
 Claire Wolfe

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Enter Forum
 Lost Password

More Features
 Meet The Staff
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address
 Write For BHM
 Disclaimer and
 Privacy Policy


Retired Features
 Country Moments
 Links
 Feedback
 Radio Show


Link to BHM

Every group needs
a black sheep

By John Silveira

Issue #74 • March/April, 2002

I used to play a lot of poker and I learned things about people that surprised me. They were things other than the "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em..." stuff Kenny Rogers sang about. They were things about the ways people get along with each other—whether they were in a poker game or not.

I usually ran the private games I played in and I felt everyone had to be on his best behavior for "my" games to stay together. My financial health depended on it. But it was frustrating because there was always someone in the games who was the model of bad behavior—the black sheep. What dawned on me one day was that the games not only stayed together in spite of the black sheep, they stayed together because of the black sheep. He was what made the other players conform. No one else wanted to be the black sheep. I began to realize how important the black sheep was to the health of my games. And subconsciously I think the other players realized they needed him, too. The black sheep made it so the rest of us got along. No matter how much complaining the others did about him, I never remember a time the players expelled a black sheep from the game.

My next surprise was realizing that if the person who was usually the black sheep dropped out of our game, it soon devolved to another person to become the model for bad behavior—the black sheep. The role of the black sheep really started to make sense. But later on, when I extended my poker horizons, I noticed that games in public cardrooms sometimes had a black sheep, but more often didn't. When I looked closer, I realized that when there wasn't one it was always when the players didn't know each other. But if it was a small cardroom, and it was more or less the same players night after night, there was always a black sheep, just like in the home games. I realized that because they need a black sheep to ensure the good behavior of the others in the group, the black sheep is not only indispensible, sometimes he's the most important person—to ensure the health of the group. To ensure the others bonded.

But what was even more surprising was that outside of the game, the person who was the black sheep might not be anything like he was in the game. He could be perfectly reputable. He only filled the black sheep role for the moment.

I began to wonder if I'd see this phenomenon other places. I did. Weddings, funerals, family reunions, classrooms, the job, and even sports teams seem to need to have someone assume the role of the black sheep. As long as people in the group know each other and they have to interact, there's going to be one to ensure everyone else behaves.

I took an honest look at myself and I realized I was often the black sheep, particularly back when I was in school, growing up in my family, and, as an adult, even on the job. Those times when I ignored the role, it devolved onto someone else, even if I'd been the black sheep before. And I realized you have to accept that role for it to work. And everyone fills it differently. We all have our own style. The important thing is, you must do it so no one else wants to be like you and everyone else conforms to the "proper behavior."

I also realized that some may appear not to want the black sheep role and they become defiant. They get that "you can't tell me what to do" mentality. But watch them closely. They're now the star. Many who seem to actively resist the role often relish the attention they're getting as they act out. Some of these people make it their life's purpose to always be the black sheep no matter what the occasion. They're making a career out of it. You know the kind of people I'm talking about.

Finally I began to realize that we even invent fictitious black sheep whose purpose is simply to ensure good behavior in society. It starts in childhood. No one wants to be the boy who cries wolf. And we learned the lesson of Little Boy Blue that, when he fell asleep, the sheep got in the meadow and the cows got in the corn.

Some people are better suited to being the black sheep than others, and it often depends on the function. In the poker games I was never the black sheep. I was the guy who kept the game moving, admonishing players to pay attention, keep the action going. Yes, admonishing the other players. I had a hand in determining who was to be the black sheep without even realizing it.

And when I wondered what there was in it for he who becomes the black sheep, I again looked at my own life experiences and it dawned on me that, while being "one of the others" in the group fosters security, being the black sheep bestows privileges. As I said before, it very often meant being the "star." It conferred a certain amount of freedom on me that others in the group didn't have, and I like freedom. I got to be funny in class, I could show up late at work, I could sleep anywhere. Because I was the black sheep, this behavior was expected of me. But I also discovered girls like "bad boys," and being the black sheep I got girlfriends without being a jock. Being the bad boy has its perks.




Read More by John Silveira

Read More Opinion / Commentary

 
      Please address comments regarding this page to editor[at]backwoodshome.com. Comments may appear in the "Letters" section of Backwoods Home Magazine. Although every email is read, busy schedules generally do not permit personal responses.


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.