Are You the Family Scapegoat?
Scapegoating is a hostile social - psychological discrediting routine by which people move blame and responsibility away from themselves and towards a target person or group. It is also a practice by which angry feelings and feelings of hostility may be projected, via inappropriate accusation, towards others. The target feels wrongly persecuted and receives misplaced vilification, blame and criticism; he is likely to suffer rejection from those who the perpetrator seeks to influence. Scapegoating has a wide range of focus: from "approved" enemies of very large groups of people down to the scapegoating of individuals by other individuals. Distortion is always a feature. Scapegoating is the practice of singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.
"Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph." Haile Selassie
Scapegoating is acting without integrity. It is slandering another person in order to take the focus off of the scapegoater. It is an insidious family pattern of putting the blame and shame on one family member which begins in childhood. This child is chosen by one parent or both parents to bear the brunt of the negative things that happen in family interactions. So that if a scene occurs, this child is made to take the blame for whatever happened even when they are completely innocent and it was another family member or members who were the real culprits. The family always makes this one child the "bad guy" and then lies about how things really happened.
Who said what, to whom, and how is usually blamed on the scapegoated child regardless of the horrendous actions of the other siblings or members of the family. The scapegoated child actions are either lied about, exaggerated, completely made up, and the mother or father makes one child bad and then looks for things (sometimes real, but most often imagined) that are wrong.
Second, the families participation in the scapegoating phenomenon serves to increase a cohesive bond between the other members. This bond is not supported by positive communication and qualities of these members. It is only maintained through family members persistent negative review of the scapegoat. So alot of back stabbing and gossiping goes on among other family members about the scapegoat.
Browse Counseling Categories
Articles by Patricia Jones, M.A.
Are you the Scapegoat in your Family?
Our modern day definition though of the "Scapegoat" means something a little different. While the biblical scapegoat was used to forgive and forget sins, the current scapegoat in today's dysfunctional families takes on all the negativity and disdain of the entire family, being blamed for everything that happens in that family BY that family.
Comments from some fellow Scapegoats...
" I have known for some time that I am the family scapegoat. I recently cut off from my family and it has been healing. But, last week I reached out to my sister and it made me feel worse again. She had a different experience in the same family and cannot recognize or validate my point of view. Sadly, the whole system is rigged. And I find no way out except to dissociate from the family. Perhaps that will change one day but until then every attempt at contact only reveals to me how alone I am and that no matter how much I grow in my understanding of our abusive upbringing even my siblings act like my parents and keep assigning the scapegoat role to me. I remain for them the problem. And I cannot be that for anyone anymore."
"I quit seeing my family because I discovered it was a set up for me to try to get their attention and validation. I would come away feeling even more alienated, resentful and hurt, and of course, they would end up with even more evidence that I was, indeed, “the problem.” Also, I see I am the strong one and the truth teller and that is why I became the scapegoat."
Copyright © 2006 - 2013 Dove Christian Counseling Center. All Rights Reserved
Unfortunately, there are some families that are so dysfunctional that one individual is actually chosen by the parent or the parents to be the family scapegoat. Meaning that that child is treated differently by the rest of the family including the other siblings.
The Bible teaches us that the "scapegoat" was set apart to atone for the sins of the people.
The scapegoat of Leviticus chapter 16 was one of two goats brought before Aaron to make atonement for the sins of Israel. In modern dictionaries the definition of scapegoat is a person who bears the sins of others, and is often viewed in a negative connotation. True, Aaron drew lots and one goat was sacrificed and the other was the scapegoat that went free while made to bear the iniquities of Israel.
However, that word “bear” is easily misunderstood. It does not imply the goat represents a type for someone found guilty, condemned, and sentenced to destruction. What happens to the scapegoat is the lesson that God forgives and forgets sin.
And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: Leviticus 16:21 (KJV)
And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:21 (KJV)
Bearing the guilt means “bear away”, or carry away, so the scapegoat is a type for the forgiveness of sins “never to be remembered”. Atonement was through the goat that was sacrificed while the scapegoat was taken to freedom deep into the wilderness and the iniquities that were carried away are gone forever. The phrase “putting them on the head” in verse 20 does not mean the goat was branded guilty. He was the one chosen to take away and dispose of the sins. When we repent sins are forgiven by God, and they are forgotten.
There are different reasons one child is singled out to be scapegoated. Perhaps the child is vulnerable. Or the child is hyperactive, noncompliant or acts out. Sometimes the scapegoated child is viewed as weak who cannot defend himself.
Sometimes a child is picked to be the scapegoat simply because the parents wanted a boy instead of a girl, or vice versa. Or the child is independent with their own personality which is different from an older siblings personality. This older sibling has been designated as the "golden child" who can do no wrong.
At times the parent heaps on the blame because he cannot stand the child who has traits and characteristics that are similar to their own! Sometimes the child has personality traits that are similar to a disliked relative.
Other children in the family can pick up the scapegoating pattern and join in taunting and hurting the scapegoated child. In extremely dysfunctional families, the parent may goad the other children to pick on the disfavored one.
All members of the family are affected. Children who are scapegoated often feel insecure and develop a victim mentality. They learn that they are at the bottom of the totem pole in the family and often automatically gravitate to that role at school or at work. This dynamic of making one child "good" and another child "bad" in the family is a vicious generational theme learned and passed down from parents to children.
It may take years for this child to realize what is happening and has been happening to them for their entire lives. They can begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together in their 30's, 40,'s, 50's, and even as late as their 60's before they begin to understand why their interactions with their families have been so horrendous.
But once they figure it out, all of the blame, all of the lies, all of the slander that they have endured at the hands of the very people who are supposed to love them the most on this earth goes away, and they realize that they are great people, usually gifted and highly accomplished, and who are DONE with interacting with a family that has used them as an atonement for their own issues.
Scapegoating one's own children is now considered ABUSE.
The target's knowledge that he is being scapegoated builds slowly and follows events. The scapegoater's target experiences exclusion, ostracism or even expulsion.
The family scapegoat is the individual who the family generally identifies and blames as being responsible for the family's problems. Other family members minimize or deny their own responsibility and/or participation in family problems and dramatically over estimate the culpability of the scapegoat. This is how the scapegoat becomes labeled as the "problem maker" and gets a reputation of "causing scenes", "getting atomically angry", and in general "ruining everyone's day."
Many families have been greatly surprised or sadly disappointed when the departure or removal of the scapegoat has not improved or even cured family problems. After a scapegoat has left, most families simply find another one.
The scapegoat phenomenon posesses two qualities. There must be a family prejudice towards the scapegoat that attributes more blame and responsibility for family issues then is warranted by the behavior of the individual. So that when disputes arise between a family member and the scapegoat, the scapegoat is always blamed even when they had done nothing wrong. And the other family member is excused and given sympathy and support.
"If we don't know what we stand for, and we don't know what we're willing to live and die for, then anyone can persuade us of anything."
Although Patricia Jones, M.A. schedule fills quickly, she is creative in working with you for an appointment. She will return your phone call within a few hours of receiving it. Or respond to your e-mail question usually the same day that you send it.