Scripture references it. Long before any talk of Narcissism, Narcissistic abuse, “the scapegoat,” or “the black sheep” within the abuse context, there was the practice of employing a goat as the means to dealing with life issues, and more harshly, life sins.
Yes, Leviticus lays it all out there. And, as I checked out Scripture, I noticed how relevant this ancient practice translates relevantly for the scapegoats of abuse and unhealthy dysfunction. Can you see yourself here, Dear Scapegoat?
First, There is the Necessity of “Roles…”
Scapegoats, a/k/a, The Black Sheep, Troublemakers, Truth Tellers, The Problem Child, The Rebel.
Have you ever been called one of these names? Has a parent or a family member ever described you in one of these terms? A safe bet of an answer is probably, yes. That has been the role assigned to you. And if there is abuse, addiction, behavioral dysfunction, and trauma? You better believe you were assigned this role of blame and shame.
Never mind that most, if not all, of the issues going on have nothing to do with you. Intergenerational abuse and addiction, for example, have often been firmly in place, entrenched into a family system, so much so, that, it’s now unconscious. No one may be aware and deliberate about the labelling that is being subscribed to us. It’s more insidious than that.
Nevertheless, is there is a raging addict or an abuser within the family? Instead of tackling the reality surrounding that person, it’s easier, safer, and preferable, many times to blame “elsewhere,” meaning, at us.
Dear Scapegoat, you were chosen for this impossible role. You had no say in the matter. It’s not your fault.
Next, The Goat’s “Lot in Life…”
Scapegoats are often safer targets and explanations of problems. It’s the preferred method to identifying, changing, discussing, and treating the harmful behaviors running rampant in a disordered family system.
Nope, don’t stop drinking booze and using drugs. Nope, don’t get the entire family into thorough trauma therapy. Nope, don’t financially cut off the person bankrupting other family members. Nope, don’t press charges and file a restraining order against the person beating someone with their fists.
Nope don’t do any of that. Make, instead, someone else the sole cause, avoiding any talk of the cumulative effects of an unhealthy dynamic, infecting the entire family.
Reducing a person down to a role, especially if the motive is to blame, shame, and indict that person as the source of all that is, or will ever be, wrong with the family’s life and circumstances, causes more pain. It does nothing to heal the real problem.
Dear Scapegoat, you are NOT the problem. You are evidence that the family around you is sick, and that they are more interested in making you more unwell, than possessing healing for themselves.
“Washing One’s Hands Of” Equals “All Better Now?”
“And he who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.”
“No good deed goes unpunished.”
Scapegoats can be the living embodiment of that statement. Think about it. Did you speak up, out, or against your family? Did you see something going on, that you thought was egregiously wrong? Did you call it out? Did you get punished for doing so? Are you still punished, in some way, to this day?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, it’s probably confirmation of your scapegoat status.
The collective family unit, remember, when it’s disordered, often is NOT interested in dealing with the real problem when it comes to dysfunction, addiction, or abuse. Deflect, deflect, deflect! The family wants the easy remedy of blaming another (you), and then, casting out that person (you) from their sight.
Problem solved! They got “rid” of it, by getting rid of you.
You probably didn’t see ANY of that coming, as, after years, or even decades, you thought you were helping by addressing the issue that needed attention. You thought the family would want to stop hurting. You thought that they loved you, would be able and willing to listen to your cry for help. You found out the hard way: “no” was their answer.
You also found out the hard way: you were expendable, and they felt they were legitimately entitled to rid you from the family camp. Once that was done, now the family was restored and at peace.
See? You really WERE the problem all along!
Dear Scapegoat, are you experiencing the damage from any of these harmful lies?
It’s by design.
Your recognition of noticing disease when family insisted on health, your recognition of misery when family insisted on happiness, your recognition of danger, when family insisted on safety, all was too close for comfort in their eyes. Now, you, the Scapegoat, were seen as THREAT!
Yes, in capital letters: THREAT!!!
And that threat, known as you, had to be dealt with.
Maybe they saw it as much-deserved punishment; maybe they saw it as “damage control.” Regardless, the resulting action was the same. You had to go so they could be okay and stay the same. You were the approved-of sacrifice. That was your only value to your family.
Harsh, I know.
It is personal, while, somehow, at the same time, it is also “nothing personal.” “Family” doesn’t think that much about you or toward you.
That’s what the scapegoat is for, after all. Not lovingly or thoughtfully considered.
Congrats on being chosen.
“Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”
Such a comforting word, isn’t it? Makes you think of hot cocoa and fluffy blankets.
Scapegoats are sent to the wilderness of some sort. Perhaps, it is an actual wilderness: wild animals, a cold ground, no roof over your head, being literally homeless.
Perhaps, the wilderness is more subtle than that. The frosty reaction of family who treated you as persona non grata. The tension. The sibling rivalry. The “friendly ribbing.” Exile can take any number of forms. But a consistent theme appears to be you, the scapegoat, are “out,” while we, the family, are “in,” and inclusive of one another.
Therefore, you, as the scapegoat, have probably learned the harsh reality that you will never fit in to the family structure. You can be there for holidays, gatherings, one-on-one events, but you won’t be accepted. And you certainly will never be viewed as valid by the abusive individuals within that family system.
Nope. Forget it. It has been decided.
Painful. And it many times prompts the scapegoat to leave. Geographical exile can be the final step, after, perhaps, years of trying to make things work. Years of pleading, negotiating, trying to please and perform, and speaking up about the wrongdoing often end with the final realization: “It will never change, at least where I am concerned. I have to go.”
Dear Scapegoat, please don’t blame yourself for this exile. You had no choice. You tried. It was rigged against you. If your family was healthy, loving, and functional, you wouldn’t entertain leaving. No one really feels they need to escape healthy, loving situations. They take refuge in them instead.
There was no such refuge for you. You are not to blame for your exile.
Kill the Hope, Not the Scapegoat.
“Toxic Hope” is at the center of much of your pain. The hope keeps you hanging on, staying with a harmful situation. The hope keeps you waiting, trying, blaming yourself, and staying trapped. You keep hoping for change, don’t you? You keep hoping it will “get better.”
Dear Scapegoat, you need to be the one to make the shift in thinking. No one else in your disordered situation is not stepping up. You need to shift from thinking that the “killing of the scapegoat/problem” (you) that was decided upon by others, will give way, instead, to the killing of the destructive, toxic hope that purports you just “hang in there until.”
Until what, though?
The unhealthy situation at work claims a life? Your life?
The thing that, indeed, can kill this toxic hope could be the life-threatening wakeup call. (Spoiler alert: mine was my cancer diagnosis years ago).
Look at the undeniable proof, as it is, right now. Don’t wait for things to get worse. Don’t excuse it away. Don’t minimize it. Don’t wait for something that will not happen. The “promise” at the end of the waiting rainbow is a lie. And it can kill.
With as much passion and commitment as the harmful individuals had in designating you as scapegoat and threatening your existence, you, Dear Scapegoat, now need to apply that same amount of force to embracing the comfort-less radical acceptance.
Concerning the bleakness of your experience, role, function in this scapegoat dynamic, it is hopeless.
It will not change.
You, Dear Scapegoat, need to be your own change agent. You need to change your life.
The Scapegoat in Us Stopped Being an Animal and Starts Being a Valuable Being…
Beginning to recognize your worth, you are now poised to fully be the incredible person you have been all along. You are not a defective animal.
Dear Scapegoat, you have learned, are learning, and will learn in the future that, in the name of self-preservation, you need to separate from the unhealthy dynamic. “Changing your life” translates into such things as relocation, getting therapy, cutting off contact completely with harmful relationships, working on building your own self-esteem, assessing, talking about, and reframing how the unfair role you were forced into has affected you.
So, yes, “change your life.”
It means learning how to be a healthy person. (And, yes, we all need help with that).
You, dear Scapegoat, have extra challenges here; there’s no sugarcoating it.
But while you have these extra challenges, I want you to know, remember, and remind yourself OFTEN just how incredible you are! You survived harrowing, life-threatening and life-altering circumstances. You withstood enormous pressure, oppression, and punishment. You saw and called out things that no one else dared to or could see. Harmful, sick, abusive, dangerous things.
And how many of these things did you witness and speak up about when you were a mere child, or powerless in any other way?
YOU did that, dear Scapegoat.
Therefore, please take it from a fellow scapegoat, themselves, you have the right and the permission to heal, thrive, and rest.
I pray you do you just that for the rest of your life. You deserve it!
Copyright © 2022 by Sheryle Cruse