Dictionary.com defines scapegoat as: A person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place. Are you a scapegoat? Perhaps you have been a “scapegoater” before? Maybe you have even witnessed this behavior before?
My story is a combination of all of these. Growing up I was youngest of five girls. Yes… that’s right, FIVE! Due to being the smallest and the youngest I naturally fell into the role of scapegoat, but in a more innocent way. My sisters and I would get caught behaving poorly by our parents and almost unconsciously, the response by all would be “it’s her fault”. The finger would quickly be pointed in my direction. Thinking back, I don’t even think I really minded. Heck, my punishment was usually less harsh than what they would have received, and I had more understandable excuses. “I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed too” or “My Barbies made me do it”, etc., etc. At such a young age, there was a good chance I would be believed.
As I grew older our family dynamics changed, people changed, living situations changed, and hearts changed. My life situations had it that I ended up being the scapegoater at many times in my life. My irresponsible behaviors caused discomfort to my family, and I was not taking any responsibility. Although I was quick to blame my parents, my friends, my dog. Luckily I grew out of that phase. I grew up to become a sensitive and outspoken young lady who naturally always seemed to be the “truth teller”. Our family could play dysfunctional quite well, and I constantly felt the need to bring our issues to the surface so they could be dealt with. I hated the idea of “brushing things under the rug”, putting on a facade; acting like things were peachy fu$%ing keen when they weren’t. What’s the point? I could never understand the need to hide. I was and still am not one to stay silent. Later in life I learned that one key trait of a being a scapegoat is that they refuse to look content or stay silent in the unbearable atmosphere created within a family. Yes… yes that is me.
I started to notice I was getting blamed less and less for trivial things, and growing strong enough to acknowledge when I was rightfully to blame, or not, for the things that mattered. Early on in my life I was lucky enough to be informed of what scapegoating was; therefore I could recognize this behavior in my own life. I realized that a lot of the characteristic traits I naturally had, were common traits for a scapegoat. I was born to be in this role, I was created for it. I had suffered with some common illnesses as I aged and therefore ended up becoming quite vulnerable and more sensitive to emotions and truth. Thankfully, I was exposed to many different programs and treatments that taught me much about healthy thinking and behaving. I acknowledge that I have brought on problems into my life by some of my own poor choices, and I’m confident enough to admit that. I can humbly claim responsibility for those things, seek forgiveness (whatever that looks like to me), and move forward without shame and guilt for my actions. So, for most of my teenage years and into my early adulthood I felt I was safe from the grips of scapegoating, until, like most of us do, I entered into a new family.
Now before I get into my personal story, I want to talk a bit more about this topic, scapegoating. How can we recognize if we have fallen prey to this role? Or if we are portraying this behavior (“the scapegoater”). I can share this information because I have experienced both roles myself. For all intensive purposes, a person or group of people who is/are behaving as a scapegoater, can be referred to as a narcissist. These people….
-lack personal awareness
-have very low empathy
-wear masks or portray a false image
-carry unhealthy behaviors
-maintain a myth of normalcy
-have a fear of looking inward
They behave in ways like…
-moving blame and responsibility away from them and towards a target group or person
-they act like they are being hurt, all the while, they are hurting others.
-do not acknowledge their hurts towards others
-have angry and hostile feelings they project on others via inappropriate accusations
-have a desire to maintain control
-will likely continue to blame the scapegoat more and more as the scapegoat attempts to hold them accountable
Now that we have covered that and we understand the roles a bit more, let’s apply it to a real life situation; mine.
I have become a new part of a family who from what I have known, has always portrayed and maintained the myth of normalcy. They are a strong Christian family, went to church every Sunday and prayed everyday between. They raised their children well with love and care. The kids were always well provided for, and were able to learn and grow in creative ways; while being sheltered from the dark, dangerous world. A typical cookie cutter upbringing if you will. Quite the opposite from my upbringing.
Within months of settling into this new family, my sensitive, outspoken, truth-telling ways began to surface. My blunt honesty and humble awareness of self, my openness about my flaws and brokenness, and my constantly pursing for healing to the deep places of my heart were apparent. As a result, my husband began to open up his own heart and take a look inside. A desire to speak his truths, get in touch with his emotions and let them out, grew in his heart; he began the process of loving himself. Pursuing such healing meant that he would make the choice to speak up for himself, call his friends and family out of some of the hurts they have caused him (knowingly and unknowingly), and honestly share his truths. The truth about why he feels depressed at times; the truth about how he feels bullied at times; the truth about why he cannot share the deep places of his heart with the ones who are supposed to know him the most.
A combination of my husband opening up, my illness and my being far too blunt at times (if you want more details on the story refer to this post “My Dirty White Girl Laundry“), caused our relationship to distance; with both the parents, and the siblings. Why you ask? Because nobody likes to admit that they may have done something wrong, and so we all throw up our defenses, an argument starts, and someone walks away because they are feeling unheard. The cycle continues. As this cycle went on and on I began to feel that I was being blamed for this distance. My thought process was…”My in laws believe that their son has distanced because his wife has told him too, or is forcing her thoughts/feelings onto him. My brother-in-law believes that his brother is starting to speak his mind because his wife is tainting his view. Every thing that has gone awry as of late with this family, is my fault”. That is a hard pill to swallow, true or not.
In order to process through this deep welling emotion I had to deeply inquire as to a few things. Why is it that people try to put the blame on one particular person instead of opening up their hearts, looking inside, and focusing on each individuals own healing in order to strengthen family units as a whole? It just seems like common sense; but not to families who have spent their entire life keeping up appearances.
When we are hurting, and insecure, we will most definitely put on a mask and show the world that we are strong and confident, regardless of who we have to take down on the way. Most times we don’t even realize that we are hurting anyone along the way. I am guilty of this myself. Every person on the face of the planet wants to present (or has at one point) like we have it all together. I believe that is natural. So by moving blame, or making someone else look bad, it takes the focus off us. Makes sense. Families who lack insight, or find it threatening, will actively repress it through scapegoating the one who wants to understand the negative behavior (hello! That’s me, I always want to understand why). The bottom line is that people just don’t want to believe that they could be wrong. Ever. Some are so defiant to look inside, that their world becomes smaller and smaller and they close themselves off to everyone and everything except the small percentage of people who think on the exact same level as them. This is a notorious coping mechanism for dysfunctional families. They will single out the “truth teller” and peg all that’s wrong on them. This is where my role comes in, the scapegoat.
At first I struggled with this role, and its corresponding emotions, because to be honest: it hurts to think that everyone thinks everything is your fault. Especially when you know truly and honestly that you are busting your ass to be the best version of you that you can be; for yourself, and your family as a whole. It’s also beyond frustrating to have to ask your husband to communicate your feelings to his parents because you can’t; just to find out that he cant communicate them either. Feelings just aren’t being heard. Through deep thought, processing, and prayer with my good, good Father, I stumbled across a few tidbits of information….
Gail Meyers, who writes beautifully about her experiences and knowledge of being both a scapegoat, and a scapegoater; ie: narcissist, writes, “the very existence of a scapegoat role in a family signals there is someone who is chronically avoiding responsibility for their actions. You may think the ‘Golden Child’ has the cherished role, but in the long run, the scapegoat is the one most likely to escape, heal and lead a healthier life”.
And so my thoughts are such…
Am I willing to “take one for the team” for the sake of love and understanding? For the sake of this family and the relationships in it? Yes! Absolutely yes! I’m willing to take the hit. My love for this family is bigger, and stronger, and more willing than anything the enemy can throw at me, or us. Regardless of what other family members my think or feel at the moment, my being open, truth-telling; almost forcing them to pay attention to the real problem and to look inside themselves, is in the long run, helping us all to heal. Of all the things I’ve learned, I know that healing comes in all forms. Sometimes it doesn’t look like help, or healing, until years down the road when we look back and all the puzzle pieces come together.
If I never came into this role, and this family for that matter, my husband may not have ever truly been happy. I would die for any one of these new members of my life to be truly happy. So this gig, I will most definitely take on! I know from my own story, and from so many others’ stories that have been graciously shared with me; healing can only truly begin when we turn inwards and focus on what we can change in ourselves. How can we be the best version of ourselves? Once we achieve that, or even get close to a place of awareness, we can start loving others the way they were meant to be loved. If the deep places of our hearts are messy and f$&ked up, that is most definitely how we will treat others.
I know that my husband has never been happier and more free. He is in touch with his emotions, he is brave and confident to open up to others and share his experiences and hope. He is free from the secrets and lies he was hiding inside for so many years, and most of all, is has gained access into the deep places of his heart; he can even let others into that deep place as well. He is happy, and he is healthy, and his heart is full. He is fully able to be the amazing man of God he was created to be, clear of the clutter of life and its many expectations. He is a beautiful light to those around him, he is a beacon of hope. He is love. That’s the whole point isn’t it? To be able to fully love ourselves, and others; to love the fullest extent that God has created us too.
For my new family, they are broken and they are hurting, just like the rest of us. Welcome. They may think that by expressing that, and admitting that everything isn’t perfect, that makes them less than. But that is not true. If you believe that, that is the enemy speaking to you and he has no place in your heart. Your heart is for God. Admitting to our brokenness and our flaws makes us human, it puts us on the same page as the other 99.9% of the world. It removes us from that place of isolation where everyone and everything has to think and be the same as us. It opens us up to community, which is what our Father wants for all of us. It opens us up to love.
And so, in conclusion, if the end goal, the winning prize, is love. I am willing to carry that cross as far as I have too.
Please comment below or message me and share your stories of hope with me, I’d love to hear 🙂
Chat soon xo