ON SCAPEGOATING AND EVIL
According to legendary Harvard-trained psychiatrist and bestselling author M. Scott Peck, scapegoating is interchangeable with the term evil. In his groundbreaking book People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, wrote: ” [Evil is] the use of power to destroy the spiritual growth of others for the purpose of defending and preserving the integrity of our own sick selves. In short, it is scapegoating.” Arguing that a predominant characteristic of evil individuals is shaming and blaming, Peck goes on to to explain that “in their hearts, (evil people) consider themselves above reproach (therefore) they must lash out at any one who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection.” Never thinking of themselves as evil, Peck says that these individuals do, however, see much evil in others. In summary, he shares that “the people I label as evil are chronic scapegoaters…they attack others instead of facing their own failures.”
For a fascinating study on human evil, including case studies of both individual and corporate malfeasence as well as a clinical approach to demonic possession, read this book.
(E)SCAPEGOAT – THE PLUS SIDE
“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Now, as promised in the intro, here’s the official lighter side of scapegoating and rejection! A little known fact about the word scapegoat is that it’s actually derived from the word escape. Why? Because the scapegoat was the one who got away. If you recall our Leviticus story, at the beginning of the ritual there were two goats, one of which was “chosen” (and sacrificed) and the other, the scapegoat, which was banished to the desert. Who do you think was the lucky one?
So what is it, exactly, that scapegoats are escaping? The tyranny of lies and dysfunction, for one thing. Scapegoats don’t pretend everything’s okay when they know deep down it’s not. They’ve escaped from the need to please. They’ve escaped from the need to deny their own heart. They’ve escaped from one of the biggest fears hindering mankind — rejection. Scapegoats have already been there, done that, carried on (yawn.) So they’ll try things others won’t, accomplish things others can’t — because others are hindered by fear. They have some hard-won wisdom and strength. Most of all, scapegoats are no longer in thrall to what M. Scott Peck calls “The Lie.” (see The Great Soul Theory: On Evil and Scapegoating for more information.)
Embodying Christ’s declaration that “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,”(e)scapegoats are spared the awful fate that so often falls on their contemporaries. The other goat, after all, embodies unthinkable sacrifice — e.g. those sacrificing their lives, dreams, conscience and even their souls to a lie, and/or people bound to the lie. Scapegoats, on the other hand, enjoy a sweet and peculiar freedom others can only imagine. If that’s not worth celebrating, what is? Break out the bubbly, friends!
1. One that is made to bear the blame of others.
2. One that is the object of irrational hostility.
Examples of SCAPEGOAT
- The CEO was made the scapegoat for the company’s failures.
- <companies often use the economy as a scapegoat to avoid taking responsibility for dropping sales>
SCAPEGOATS IN HISTORY: WHERE, WHY AND WHEN IT ALL BEGAN
ANATOMY OF A SCAPEGOAT
The Black and White Thinker:
Scapegoats tend to have very black and white thinking. Things are either all good or all bad. They are completely right or completely wrong. This is one of things which will make change difficult. Convincing a scapegoat that there is a grey area or that giving in a little bit is not weakness is tough. They tend to see everything as all or nothing.
The “Different” One:
This often involves “too much” of something. Being too tall. Too short. Too pretty. Too smart. (Phoebe Prince falls into the pretty and smart category.) Too clumsy. Too talented. Too hyper. Too quiet. Anything that makes you stand out from the cookie cutter, whatever that is, is suspect. “Different” people who create fear, aversion, fatigue, anxiety, envy, guilt or other negative emotions in others are easier to scapegoat. In family systems, a disabled child (read “too difficult”) is often scapegoated, as are children with whom the scapegoating parents easily identify. For example, a father with anger issues whose son can’t control his temper may target the son. To learn more about how to handle this difficult situation, see How To Avoid Being a Target (In a Peer Group) and (In a Family.)
The Insecure One:
Confidence is the issue, and is often related to being The “Different” One. This is often creates a scapegoat/bullying target combination.
The Rule Enforcer:
Self-righteousness is a heady and intoxicating emotion found in some scapegoats. The self-righteous assume only they know the proper way of doing things and that others should see things their way. They may assume there is only one right way of doing things. Again, you can see the black and white thinking. The self-righteous also believe it is their task to ensure that others do things in the way the self-righteous have determined to be right or correct. Intolerance of human foibles is one way the rule enforcer puts a giant target on his or her back.
Often scapegoats are a combination of the above. To learn more about avoiding being scapegoated, see How To Avoid Being a Target (In a Peer Group) and (In a Family.)
Adapted from the excellent piece: http://www.mentalhealthblogs.com/making-yourself-a-target-replicating-the-scapegoat-role-in-your-life-how-to-stop-doing-it/
ARE YOU A SCAPEGOAT? TAKE THIS QUIZ
1. Do you isolate yourself from others for fear of rejection and/or being ripped apart…AGAIN?
2. Conversely, do you keep returning to the same ol’ mess, hoping to fix it, and end up shattered yet again? (This is especially true in families.)
3. Do you engage in self-sabotage? Deep down, are you pretty sure you don’t deserve the good things in life?
4. Do you keep finding yourself in toxic work environments? Does your workplace resemble (shudder) your family of origin?
5. Do you sometimes think you carry an invisible “Kick Me” sign (and others somehow see it?)
6. Is your spouse and/or kids also bullied and scapegoated? Were your parents? What is the generational stuff looking like?
7. Do you suspect God is also a big bully, (just like mom/dad/sister/brother/peers/boss)?
8. Do you find that even when you move/change schools/change workplaces, the same ol’ same ol’ keeps happening? Does it seem you can’t escape bullying and scapegoating?
9. Do you surround yourself with unhealthy people (and, yes, family applies) and engage in unhealthy habits, even though you know better?
10. Do you find yourself in toxic relationships, or avoiding healthy relationships? Deep down, do you suspect you’re not worthy of a good man/woman/friend/employer?
11. If you’re an adult, do you find yourself shying away from pets, plants, kids or any other kind of life form? Does the idea of having these things exhaust you, striking you as extraordinarily high-maintenance?
If you answered ANY of these questions “yes”, you qualify as a scapegoat or scapegoat-in-waiting. Fortunately, you’re in the right place. Start your healing here.
1. SCAPEGOATS AND BULLY TARGETS ARE WEAK.
Some theorists argue bullying is social darwinism, a way to ensure survival of the fittest. They fail to take into account, however, that bullying and scapegoating targets are often the strongest of all.
Former bullying target Jessica Alba is a good example. In her own words, she didn’t fight back and “kept everything inside because (she) didn’t want to lower (her)self to the level of the bullies.” Far from weakness, Alba demonstrated extreme self-control. And as evidenced by her kick-butt movie moves and insistence on doing her own stunts, she certainly had what it took to take the bullies down.
Even in individuals who are naturally passive or otherwise vulnerable, “weakness” is really lack of confidence and/or a deep-seated worthlessness and shame. This needs to be dealt with from the inside-out (See Free Help. )
2. SCAPEGOATS ARE TROUBLEMAKERS WHO DESERVE WHAT THEY GET
While it’s true that some scapegoats do bring trouble on themselves due to self-righteousness or other obnoxious behaviors (see Anatomy of a Scapegoat), the only real crime of most scapegoats is honesty and, occasionally, a martyr complex.
Individuals who scapegoat often prefer the darkness and/or the lie and resent anyone who sheds light on the madness. They will then attack the individual bringing truth (see The Great Soul Theory: On Evil and Scapegoating for a chilling analysis of this phenomenon.) This has nothing to do with the target and everything with the perpetuator’s need to maintain the status quo.
Beyond that, people who are “different” (read: too beautiful, too smart, too handicapped, too whatever) may create fear, aversion, envy, guilt or other negative emotions in scapegoaters and bullies. Again, this has nothing to do with the target and everything to do with the perp. Finally, those who lack confidence and suffer from “social anxiety”, or shyness, are often targeted. The bottom line is, regardless of the target’s specific background, NO ONE DESERVES ABUSE.
3. ONCE A SCAPEGOAT, ALWAYS A SCAPEGOAT
Not so. You CAN break the pattern, but first you have to recognize the pattern. See Healing Resources and the excellent piece: http://www.mentalhealthblogs.com/making-yourself-a-target-replicating-the-scapegoat-role-in-your-life-how-to-stop-doing-it/
4. THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME (BECAUSE I’M A SCAPEGOAT)
Often the only thing “wrong” is your honesty at all costs. This must be tempered with wisdom (Remember: Don’t cast your pearls before swine.) Often your confidence has also taken a serious beating. To beat this, see How To Avoid Being a Target (in a Peer Group) and In a Family as well as Healing Resources.
5. IF I JUST TAKE IT, (THE SCAPEGOATING) WILL GO AWAY ON ITS OWN
Doing nothing is never the answer. Repeat –passivity is never, never, never the solution. Often it just leads to being bullied, which complicates your already-existing situation by leaps and bounds. Fight wisely, but fight well– for your personal integrity, wholeness and truth about your particular situation. This site is a good beginning!
See How to Handle a Bully (For Kids) and Adult Bullies for practical tips.Site Map
How not to be a scapegoat among peers? The key is Confidence, Confidence, Confidence!! This involves a lot of inner work, so check out Healing Resources for some good foundational material. In the meantime:
1. Build Bridges
If you are trying to break free of the scapegoat pattern it is important to “play well with others”. Work hard at building bridges with the other people in your group – whether it is a group of colleagues, roommates, family members or friends. Not being isolated to the outer fringes of the group makes you harder to villify and scapegoat because you are one of them. Generating positive feelings in others makes it harder for them to scapegoat you.
If you are an employee, but happy and pleasant about where you work. Be determined to work in harmony with others and let gossip, office politics and other people’s opinions and issues fall away. If Mary has a problem with Joe, let it stay with Mary. You don’t have a problem working with Joe.
2. Avoid Negativity
Scapegoats tend to surround themselves with gripers and complainers, and these folks tend to bring their beefs to the scapegoats. Why? So the scapegoats will fight their battles for them. Ergo, scapegoats need to change the people with whom they associate. Stop listening to gossip and negativity. If it starts, go back to your office. Cut off endless negative comments about other people. Stop your own griping. If you’re not happy about where you are – move. Whether it is a job, a geographical location, a living situation or a relationship, change it or leave it. Remember that negativity draws negativity to you, so stop carrying other people’s emotional garbage around.
3. Use Wisdom with Respect to Truth , a.k.a. “Don’t throw your pearls before swine!”
If you are scapegoated because you tell the truth, look at that behavior. This truth telling had a purpose in your family of origin because it brought out the real issue behind the dysfunction. But scapegoats often carry over this need to tell the truth into their adult lives with disastrous results.
It is important for scapegoats to take control of their truth telling in two different ways:
1) Only tell your own truths
Do not speak up for other people. Be clear whose emotions you are expressing. Often, in a relationship system, whether it is a family, an office or a group of friends, other people will come to the scapegoat to express their distress about a situation. They subconsciously try to lure the scapegoat into picking up his sword and shield and fighting their battle for them. This is often done as “Let’s go say something to the boss about this” or “We need to talk to Mom about her drinking.” Ahem. You know this game. Somehow “we” becomes “you”. If you indeed tell Mom that the family is upset about her drinking and she goes to the others and asks them about it, they often will claim they have no idea what she is talking about. Now you and Mom are fighting about how you feel about her drinking. And the person who is really worried about her drinking is nowhere in the room.
It’s important that you stop fighting battles for other people. If someone is talking to you about a situation that is upsetting (they won’t say upsetting them personally; it’s just universally upsetting) and they are asking you to join them in confronting the situation, stop. Step back. Breathe. Check yourself. How did you feel about the situation before the person started talking to you? If you were O.K. with it, then it was O.K. with you. You are not upset about it. They are. Get your original emotions back and back away from the other person’s emotions. Hand them back to the person who brought them to you. You can verbally do this by saying something like, “If this is really upsetting you so much, why don’t you talk to Mom about it yourself?” Eliminate the triangle of them, you and Mom. Direct it back to one-to-one communication: you (the person who has the emotions) talks to Mom (the person with whom they are upset).
2) Wisely choose the truths you tell
What happens when you are the one who is upset? Must you always speak every truth that exists?
Scapegoats often have the belief that it is their job to tell the truth — every truth, every time. And they are right. It is their job. But I thought you wanted to resign from this job. If you want to resign as scapegoat, you will have to resign your job duties. Hanging onto the belief that it is your duty to tell all truths you see leaves you powerless and at the mercy of everyone else who does not feel this need. Other people who restrain themselves and approach truth telling with wisdom have a much more peaceful and pleasant life.
Make choices about which truths you speak.
3) Examine your motives.
If you just want to feel self-righteous or “right”, you may be truth telling as a way of scapegoating someone else. Pointing out someone else’s flaws becomes a way of making yourself look better. Therefore, examine your motives carefully. It is better to save your truth telling for things that really matter to you. If you are constantly complaining, people stop listening and you are perceived as a snitch or a poor team player.
Many scapegoats have a tendency to be perfectionistic and hypercritical. Take this into account before telling any “truths”.
4) Know the truth does not have to be told at all times.
The mistaken belief here is that the truth must be told at all times, a result of black and white thinking (see Anatomy of a Scapegoat). All truth does not have to be told every time. If your wife turns and asks you, “Honey, do you think this makes me look fat?”, do NOT tell the truth.
The belief that the truth must always be spoken is paired with a belief that failing to tell the truth makes you weak or hypocritical (often because the people in the scapegoat’s family of origin were too dysfunctional to deal with their truth). The scapegoat generalizes this opinion to everyone in their lives. They fail to realize you might fudge on the truth to spare someone’s feelings, to avoid a confrontation with someone who is unreasonable or to avoid stressing about an issue you don’t care about. The scapegoat will not realize that other people may be just as capable of fighting battles of their own, but unlike the scapegoat, they carefully pick their battles rather than taking on every battle that comes their way.
To change this behavior, the scapegoat has to realize that letting the truth slide a bit can smooth out their rocky relationships and go a long way in avoiding frivolous and self-defeating confrontations.
4. Shed the “Defender” Role (see Anatomy of a Scapegoat)
Want to know the magical word that serves as the scapegoat’s call-to-arms? “Unfair.”
The problem with this type of thinking is that it isn’t really fair to the person being defended. If someone else always fights their battles for them, they never learn to stand up for themselves. In fighting their battles for them, the scapegoat communicates to them that they are too weak to help themselves and only the scapegoat can save them. This glorifies the scapegoat more than it helps the defenseless. To truly help someone, you help them stand up for themselves and fight their own battles. *
This constant fighting of other people’s battles also makes the scapegoat a target because they are labeled a troublemaker and/or complainer. This makes it twice as difficult for the scapegoat to get their own needs met. If, for example, the scapegoat has gone to the boss every week for 10 weeks in a row to complain about some injustice that is being done to so-and-so, when the scapegoat goes to the boss on the 11th week to ask for something they themselves need, the boss is already sick of them complaining and turns a deaf ear.
How to stop it? Ask yourself, “Did I care about this before Joe came to me about it?” If the scapegoat heard the news about the increased work load and had no feelings about it before Joe came along, then the problem belongs to Joe, not to him or her. The scapegoat needs to put down the sword and let Joe work it out. After all, if Joe is so upset by it, let him go talk to the boss about it. If Joe is not enough upset by the change to take it to the boss, perhaps the scapegoat should not act on it either.
Words to watch for when you are replicating this behavior may be: unfair, unjust, right, should, can’t, ought. Some ideas which may indicate this line of thinking might be: “It’s not fair”, “That isn’t right”, “They shouldn’t treat people that way”, “They ought to do it the right way”, “They can’t get away with that”.
* Obviously in the case of a radical power imbalance and/or true defenselessness, say in the case of an abused child, the only humane thing to do is act. Use wisdom as to where and when to wield that sword!
5. Quit Being an Idealist and Embrace Tolerance
To overcome this, do a reality check. Do you expect things of other people you do not manage yourself? Do you set the bar so high no one could ever live up to it? Do you expect perfection instead of humanity? To live and play well with others you have to allow other humans their flaws and their foibles. Instead of idealism, embrace tolerance.
6. Eschew Black and White Thinking
To overcome this, try to identify when you are reducing complex issues to black and white thinking. Try developing a more balanced view of things. Is it possible something could have pros and cons? Good and bad qualities? Is it possible that always telling the truth might not be a good idea? Can you think of instances when it would not be? Look for words in your thinking which indicate a black and white approach: always, never, perfect, impossible.
7. Drop The “Rule Enforcer” Role
How to change it? Ask yourself if you really want to die on this hill. Is this really where you want to spend your energy? Is it really affecting you? Realize that you can pick your battles.
Words to watch for: should, must, right, correct, wrong, proper, acceptable, suitable, can’t. Ideas which might indicate self-righteousness and the “rule enforcer role” are: “They should do it this way”, “It must be done this way”, “That isn’t right!”, “That is just wrong”, “That isn’t the way to do it properly”, “That isn’t acceptable”, “They can’t get away with that.” Realize that this is obnoxious behavior. Don’t go there.
Adapted with gratitude from the excellent http://www.mentalhealthblogs.com/making-yourself-a-target-replicating-the-scapegoat-role-in-your-life-how-to-stop-doing-it/
For a more comprehensive guide on How Not To Be a Scapegoat, check out our new report HELP! I’m a Black Sheep. This is our FREE gift to you, and one of the many perks of membership!