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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale


Our culture is on fire. Forgiveness is water.

Estrangement and Heartache

I come from a big family. I always loved my big family. You can hide in a big family or you can pile in the van and go skiing. It all works. But I've seen some families groan and creak and even break, judgement passed, sentence given, and sometimes it just happens, in silence. Who knows why? Or what? Or how? Shit happens, as they say.

It took a long time to get perspective on this. I’m not a young man. I’ve had lots of disagreements with folks over the years, some in my family, most not. This thing I'm writing about, scapegoating that happens in business too, or church, or the local library. It always hurts and it's always confusing, so I wanted to understand it.

What is a scapegoat?

Scapegoating another person is a form of displacement in a relationship.

Displacement is a defense mechanism where negative feelings like anger or guilt are redirected towards someone else, often a more vulnerable person or group. This is common in scapegoating, where outsiders or minorities are often blamed and persecuted. This allows the person doing the scapegoating to feel better, replacing their negative feelings with a false sense of justification and superiority.

In a family, this is a hard core choice. I’m not sure the scapegoating family ever understands the choice they made. I'm not sure partners turning against one another, gossiping, trashing reputations, I'm sure not church folk sending somebody to Coventry, I'm not sure half the time anybody understands the damage that's going on, but I am sure of one thing--nobody know show to get out of it.

The toughest part of this is it tends to bleed across generations. Unassailable walls are built. Within several short years, an entire family can be destroyed. And there’s no putting the pieces back together.

Is it worth it to destroy a family this way?

Is it worth it to lose a business? A career?

Wouldn’t it be better to forgive?

To preserve?

To strengthen?

Five Steps to Overcoming Scapegoating in Life

If you decide to seek healing and love, here are five possible ways out of scapegoat hell.

1. Open Communication: Establish a culture of open and honest communication within the scapegoating matrix. Encourage all sides to express their feelings and concerns directly and respectfully, rather than directing them towards a scapegoat.

2. Counseling: Seek professional help through therapy. A therapist can help identify the dynamics that lead to scapegoating and guide foks in developing healthier ways of interacting and resolving conflicts.

3. Education and Awareness: Educate people about the concept of scapegoating and its harmful effects. Awareness can help prevent the unconscious redirection of negative emotions onto a single person.

4. Develop Empathy: Encourage understanding and empathize with each other's experiences and perspectives. This can reduce the tendency to blame or single out one person as the cause of problems.

5. Shared Responsibility: Foster a sense of shared responsibility. Encourage everyone to take accountability for their actions and the overall well-being of each other, rather than attributing problems to one individual.

Understanding Scapegoating Impact

We all have a lot of responsibility to these situations. They don't just magically appear. There's history. There's an emotional ground under our feet. We need to acknowledge all of our shared respinsibilty.

But there can be other things at play. Some people will stoke the fire. They take the opportunity to hurt. Some innocent people, even children, become scapegoated in a sort of horrid halo effect, and undoing things like that can become impossible.

It's tough thing to admit, but it's the truth. We all can go too far in life.

The Cycle of Scapegoating

I came across this from Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, who touched on the societal aspect: "Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule."

So does that mean the world goes gonzo and that's the way it is? Is there some kind of cultural scapegoating at play? A scapegoating destiny? Certainly, the current temperature of American politics is fueled with a half-cocked scapegoat extravanganza.

I read an anonymous saying that captured the essence of scapegoating: "Blaming others is excusing yourself."

Now we're close. Want votes? Blame the Mexicans.

It's startling to realize how much blaming was goes on in today’s culture.

If Nietzsche is correct, how mentally ill is our society? Cable news is a 24/7 blame game. Social media is blame-o-rama.

Culturally, blaming is our normal discourse. It’s always been that way, but perhaps now more than ever this soul-sucking trait of humanity is guiding our choices. Take no responsibility. Blame. That’s certainly our politics. And it’s become our lifestyle.

Is it all guilt? Are we unhappy with the way the world is going? Do we feel bad we’re leaving our children a total mess? Is our lack of ethics making us culturally suicidal?

Breaking the Cycle of Scapegoating

My brushes with scapegoating have been both painful and enlightening. It's a reflection of a larger societal issue, where blaming others and avoiding personal responsibility has become the norm.

This destructive behavior reflects a troubling trend in our broader culture. I've learned that healing starts with self-awareness and taking responsibility for our actions. Blaming is an easy way out, but it solves nothing and only perpetuates the cycle of hurt.

I've realized the critical importance of breaking this cycle, starting with myself. It's a tough journey, but it's essential for personal growth and for fostering a healthier, more empathetic community. And it's become a five-alarm fire in society. We need to get ahold of ourselves, people.

By each of us acknowledging our role in these dynamics and working towards change, we can hope to mend broken bonds and create a more understanding and supportive environment for all. Maybe there's future after all. I think I know where it begins.

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