Some families are so dysfunctional that they can only be united when they have a common enemy. Scapegoating helps a sick family unite by choosing one person to blame for all the family problems.
When we first left home, one of my siblings began to see things differently than my parents. As they had children they began to have their own religious and holiday traditions. My parents often spoke of this person in sad tones and shook their heads and belittled them behind their back. These comments gave the rest of us a memo to agree with our parents or we too, would be shunned. We began to say things to agree with them to prove our loyalty to our parents. As I look back on it, I feel two things, surprise I couldn’t see what was happening at the time and shame for participating in this game. I wish I had the wisdom then that I have now.
Here are some things parents might say to color our opinion of someone else.
“If only he wasn’t so bitter.”
“If only she had kept her mouth shut.”
“Too bad he can’t stop living in the past.”
“I sure wish he could forgive and forget.”
When dysfunctional families talk, they like to talk about people. Scapegoating takes this to a new level because as long as everyone blames the scapegoat, no one else has to take responsibility for their own mistakes. Instead of blaming the boss, the bank and the doctor, scapegoating blames just one family member. Over and over. And it sucks. Scapegoating is a group delusion where everyone else feels pretty good about themselves.
Of course scapegoating won’t solve any of the problems. Blaming one person can’t fix anything because it takes more than one person to create a conflict.
I recently received a message from a family member who read a story on my blog and said all the rest of the family was fine–it was just me who was selfish enough to complain about the situation. I immediately recognized this person had made an agreement with my parents much like I had years ago. They probably felt a need to be loyal like I once did. I can’t blame them adn I am not responsible for them–all I can do is allow them to wake up on their own.
As I write about my childhood and teen experiences, I feel no bitterness toward my parents. I have compassion for them and I realize they learned from their imperfect parents too and sometimes circumstances were not what they planned. Perhaps they were scapegoated too in their families of origin. We are all products of the home we grew up in.
At the same time, I just wish instead of defending themselves, parents would have compassion on their children. Their choices have affected their children’s lives, their careers, who they marry and even how some of us eat today. While parents are not responsible for their adult children, they often influence their choices.
Regardless of whether we have been scapegoated or not, we are the grownups now. Part of growing up is to find our voices, stand up for ourselves and get the healing we need. No one else can do this for us.
Don’t take it personal when people make you into their scapegoat. Remember whatever we do, however we treat other people is about us. And the same is true for them. They made you a scapegoat because they couldn’t face their own mistakes and scapegoating someone–anyone, allows them to feel better about themselves.
Scapegoating is really a waste of time because it resolves any issues and it never allows a family to heal from the wounds inflicted by each other. I guess some people would prefer to keep their heads in the sand and scapegoating is their way to do that.
Therefore confess your sins to each other
and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.