Laura Clark Barefoot, Ph.D.
Barefoot Chaplain Intervention Services
May 11, 2016
In troubled families, abuse and neglect are permitted; it’s the talking about them that is forbidden. -M. Sirota
Within the context of the Holy Bible, specifically Leviticus 16:18, a scapegoat is defined as someone who is unfairly made to take the blame for something. No one deserves to live as a scapegoat for a person, or people who won’t take responsibility for their own emotional issues.
Many of us, especially those who were reared in a narcissistic and/or alcoholic home, grew up doubting our own self-worth, having difficulty trusting others. If this rings true for you, you may have been primarily targeted as the scapegoat by your family. No matter how you look at it, scapegoating is a form of bullying which, over time, takes its toll on a victim’s identity.
Families that place undue blame, shame, repeated guilt, or fear, are not healthy. Usually, a family such as this leaves a trail of evidence bearing abuse, neglect, addiction, betrayal, mental illness, and insecurity in its path. Often lacking insight, dysfunctional families feel threatened by others who question their motives, and actively repress animosity through scapegoating those who want to understand and change negative family dynamics. They struggle to maintain “appearances”. In other words, by making the scapegoat look bad, they take the attention off of the real problem.
Those who resort to scapegoating lack personal awareness, even empathy for the victim. They target in order to serve their false image. Thus, allowing continued unhealthy behavior patterns, a myth of “normalcy,” without having to take responsibility for hosting a toxic environment. To the outsider, sometimes even the scapegoat, these types of families seem insane, or delusional.
The scapegoat isn’t chosen randomly, or by accident in any hosting family. Usually the victim is sensitive, vulnerable, or even the outspoken “whistleblower,” which was my case. We are the ones who have refused to appear content, or remain silent within the confines of the unbearable atmosphere created in the family home.
In order to escape and break free from scapegoating, one must first understand what you have come to believe about yourself; that you are bad, inadequate, guilty, or even defective. Realizing, in fact, those things couldn’t be farther from the truth. In addition, we must glean an accurate understanding in regards to having been mistreated, no longer willing to accept abuse from others under any circumstance.
To be successful in the new role, or recover from false childhood beliefs, one must move through their anger, to the pain it had once masked. Moving from anger to releasing pain ultimately teaches us increased self-control and improved negotiation skills. We learn to communicate, not react. We can learn to listen, rather than talk.
There is hope and, ultimately, healing available to the victim of scapegoating. Focusing your energy, through determination, not on the past, but, on rebuilding the new is paramount. As a child, our choices were limited, but as an adult there are choices. The best choice one can make is to decide every day to live according to the person one truly is inside, rather than the person others have said you are or long to be. Remember, you are worth it!