Thought for the Week

Scapegoats were the animals the ancient Hebrews laid their hands on in order to cast away their sins. It was a symbolic act, meaning, “I’m ashamed of the evil in myself and I publicly disown it.” The key to healing was humility: “The goat is innocent, but I am not.”

Modern scapegoatists, however, live in denial of their sins, insisting that the “goat” is to blame. They punish others for what they cannot bear to acknowledge in themselves. The Nazis blamed the Jews. White supremacists blame Blacks. Nationalistic xenophobes blame foreigners. Strict fundamentalists blame atheists; new atheists blame believers. Abusers blame their victims. There are only two things everyone seems to agree on: 1) Someone is to blame, 2) and it’s not me

What can we do to stop scapegoatism?

We can stop blaming our own “goats.” We can be transparent about our sins, economic, moral and otherwise. We can admit to bullies and other agitated souls that we are no more naturally virtuous than they are. We can live lives of repentance and renewal, and by so doing give others implicit permission to do the same. We can demonstrate that it’s not only OK to admit our failings, but that it’s the first step to moving forward…


About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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36 Responses to Scapegoatism

  1. Another current scapegoat technique is painting oneself as the victim in all cases of conflict. See it a lot in our business. “I stopped by several times and you were not there!” or “you never told me that it would cost storage fees when I left my car there for a year” “I accuse you of prejudice because you disagree with me” etc.. Norm

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An older post, “The New Death Penalty,” caught my eye when I got to the end of this piece, and whether its being linked with this was deliberate, it seems relevant. To quote you on the incident on Martin Luther King Day three years ago, “And now there’s a frenzy of blame, but no consensus regarding where to direct it, only that someone must die.” Also relevant is your statement that character assassination is the new death penalty. True then, true now.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Remember that there are some things that remain sins…and don’t change. None of these suggest that one should hate people for being different eg (LBGTQ). You don’t get to use people or mistreat elderly or mistreat anyone. Everything has it’s limits even patience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post. Thanks Mitch.. Churches are often the worst places for blaming others…and if we’re not careful we blame others for blaming others. I need to remember and to show it’s OK to take responsibility for my words and actions (even when I think I can justify them!) and admit when I’ve got it wrong.
    And ‘Scapegoat’ by Charlie Campbell is one of the books that’s helped me most in the last few years.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jeff says:

    Excellent words! Thanks for that!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally agree, Mitch. Well put.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m sure you already know this, Mitch, but the scapegoat was an important centerpiece in the work of René Girard. A significant atonement theology was built on Girard’s work, in part by Ted Peters, in which Christ is the “final scapegoat”–Jesus is crucified as the scapegoat of the oppressive political and religious systems. In his resurrection, the message to humanity is, essentially, “that’s enough of that; no more innocent victims; let’s move on and be fully human.”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. So that is where the phrase comes from, I had no idea and it’s a powerful image. I agree 💯 with the requirement to take responsibility for our actions, the escapism seems to be on the rise from politicians down to neighbours in dispute.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. successbmine says:

    You’ve made some excellent points, Mitch. Generally speaking, people do not want to take the blame for their own sins and mistakes. Humility is the thing that is missing in this equation. People want others to think they never do anything wrong, they are a perfect specimen. But they don’t mind making others look less than to cover their own issues. Definitely does not portray the love of Jesus.
    Every time I read about the scapegoat being sent out into the wilderness carrying the sins of all of the Israelites, I wonder what would have happened if that poor goat somehow found its way back to their camp.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. murisopsis says:

    Admitting sin is a difficult thing for many people. I’ve had a tough time when younger in accepting criticism. It took several years working for a bully to realize that I could only survive as the “suffering servant”. Finally I accepted my culpability and also stopped being the scapegoat. Tough times but my faith grew stronger and I developed patience and held onto hope that God was in charge of justice. In the end the truth won!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Chaya Sheela says:

    An excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love this it is so true, we do blame others and things before we even admit we are wrong or even at fault. The Scapegoat theory… Thank The Lord there is Hope which can be found!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. K.L. Hale says:

    Beautifully written! Truth! Thank you, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. LaShelle says:

    This is such a strong and thoughtful post. I notice that in my own life it can be difficult to admit when I’m writing but I’ve been actively working on my humility. My husband is much better at it than I am and our son is a mix of the two of us. LOL! My husband is good at reminding me to think the situation over and then decide if I made a mistake and that really helps. In the moment sometimes I’m convinced that I’m in the right when actually… I’m being guided by my feelings instead of my head. 😬 thanks for sharing my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. TamrahJo says:

    I will freely admit my sins though it does nothing more than cast blood droplets into the pool of sharks, but I’ll be dippity-dooed if I will on the sins of others – best I can tell? Jesus already did that for them, so they proclaim, often – but somehow, often, those ‘supposed lessons learned’ do not seem to translate into daily life – and for me? I thought that was the whole point of it – to follow the ‘example lived’ – thus, well – I’m not an atheist nor, do I any longer fit in with many of the true believers that surround me – so – well – maybe there is nothing to do but be my own scapegoat and say, “Sorry – this goat already taken/and already taxed with it’s own burdens – move on – find a different one….nothing you want, is here – “

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Yes, repentance and renewal. Let’s all stop the blame game!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Todd R says:

    The more horrible we realize the scapegoat idea is, the more thankful we can be that Christ became one voluntarily. Nice post Mitch

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ann Coleman says:

    So true!!! We’re always looking for someone else to blame for our own missteps and faults…. And I think we do this both individually and as groups, which goes a long way toward explaining our current national divide.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’ve been thinking a lot on this topic lately. Great post, Mitch!

    Somehow, your posts stopped showing up in my WordPress Reader. When I realized that I hadn’t seen any new posts written by you in awhile, I became alarmed. I did a search of your name, found your blog, and WHEW — I am so relieved that you are alive and well and still writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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