The scapegoat (the unfair target of all blame)

The scapegoat (the unfair target of all blame)

In this article, we explain what the term the scapegoat means. We talk about how redirecting your aggressiveness towards others is unfair, and how to learn to take responsibility for one’s mistakes and stop blaming others for all the bad in our lives.

Who is the scapegoat?

Have you ever heard of the scapegoat? Surely you have heard it more than once since it is a very common social process in the world in which we live. Even, it is probable that you have ever been that expiatory boy. To begin, let’s go to the origin of this interesting expression. 

This term has its origin in a religious rite that was done in ancient times. First, a goat was randomly chosen, and then all the sins of the people were transferred onto him. Sins that needed to be atoned for, purified, or repaired.

This was a magical ritual that intended to unload all the evil on the same animal. It was loaded with symbolism. Well, it is the human being’s need to atone for the guilt that led him to find a culprit and punish him.

The scapegoat (the unfair target of all blame)

The scapegoat: the being on whom we transfer all the blame

The sins of the people were symbolically transferred to this innocent creature. Evil was condensed in the same being. It is something like a Pandora’s box, where to put all the evil in the world in one place. This gives us symbolic tranquillity that calms the feeling of guilt that we have for all the damage done.

These acts could be very violent, ending the life of the animal. Aggression and anger were embodied in this act. In some way, it is as if evil needed a discharge of violence to be satiated, calmed down, atoned for.

Today we use this term when we choose a person as the target of our anger. Anger has nothing to do with that person. Anger that has its origin in oneself. It displaced anger. We shift our aggressiveness from one origin to a different one. This displacement can be seen very often in peer groups.

Redirecting your aggressiveness on the scapegoat is unfair 

Groups in which when there is the slightest uncertainty, or still unresolved issue, or ignorance about the proceeding of a situation, they choose a person as the target of all frustration. You will see it in work environments, or some groups of friends, or in school classes. You will even see it in yourself after the storm has passed.

One ends up bearing the blame for others, without deserving it. One is set (and often also exposed) as the target of all evils outside of him. Persecuting this scapegoat frees the person from a distressing oppressive feeling of anger with himself. It provides you with an ineffable gratification that appears as a consequence of the discharge of aggressiveness on someone other than yourself.

It is easy, no? Placing our misery on another.

The scapegoat (the unfair target of all blame)

Take charge of your anger, you will take a step towards emotional maturity

On many occasions, the scapegoat will assume its role and will not question it. “I am the one to bear the blame for others. It is logical, it must be me.” We can see this in many families, where it is the same family member who carries all the anxiety and aggressiveness of others.

A kind of masochistic submission that often has a meaning beyond what we can observe from the surface. Therefore it is important to consider whether we are doing this. We have to ask ourselves if our frustration and our accumulated aggressiveness are displacing it on another person. About an innocent person who has nothing to do with the origin of our evil.

Taking care of anger, uncertainty, and personal anger is a step of maturity in our growth. “I don’t blame you, but I take my blame, and instead of projecting it on you, I will take care of it to atone for it.” Without a doubt, an act of courage and maturity that somehow is essential to learn.

The scapegoat (the unfair target of all blame)

To grow – recognize your own mistakes 

Criticism is not welcome to anyone, even if it is constructive. It hurts us, makes us angry and it upsets us to hear from others what we do not do well. We find it hard to recognize mistakes, but it is a very healthy and necessary exercise for our personal growth.

Despite how difficult it is to take our failures, if we manage to do so we will be closer to having a peaceful and happy existence. Acknowledging our mistakes and taking responsibility for them will improve both our internal state and our relationships.

Why is it so difficult for us to recognize mistakes?

Self-esteem – All human beings need to have a positive image of ourselves. We must consider that we have positive qualities and values, to find ourselves at peace with what we are.

We refuse, many times, to look at our shortcomings in an attempt to preserve our self-esteem. However, this mechanism arises from a wrong basic approach: making mistakes is bad. From this perspective, it is logical and understandable that looking squarely at our failures generates rejection. However, the reality is quite different: making mistakes is human. Doing so does not make us mean or unworthy people.

Our self-esteem should not be based on a fictitious image of us as perfect beings. Self-love means knowing and accepting ourselves with all our qualities, both positive and negative, and continuing to work on ourselves.

That is why people with damaged self-esteem are those who find it more difficult to recognize their failures. Even though on occasions, they can externalize an almost narcissistic image, they are not accepted. Whoever is truly at peace with himself does not need to adopt any type of strategy to deny his faults.

Perfectionism –  The role of perfectionism is also very significant in this matter. Individuals with more rigid personalities are more reluctant to accept their mistakes. Also, they are harder to judge the failures of others. 

This is because, generally, they observe reality from a dichotomous position: everything is black or white, there is no greyscale. Making mistakes is undesirable for them, and since they aspire to perfection they cannot assume that this will happen.

In this case, it is necessary to make the points of view more flexible and understand that aspiring to perfection is exhausting and unrealistic. People are not completely good or bad, we all stand at intermediate points in the continuum. Also, since life comes without an instruction manual, we all make mistakes and have a right to do so.

The scapegoat (the unfair target of all blame)

Recognizing mistakes helps us grow

When someone highlights something negative about us, it arouses intense and unpleasant feelings. But it must be realized that, if this happens, it means that there are parts of ourselves that we refuse to observe. When criticism affects us it is because it is touching a point of us that needs to heal.

It is time to take charge and gather the courage to get to know each other and look at each other in-depth. Once you discover yourself and accept yourself, no other opinion can hurt you. For this you must have two things clear:

Making mistakes is human: All people fail sometimes and this is normal. It is necessary to accept this reality and stop judging and judging ourselves harshly.

Acknowledging mistakes is brave: Assuming our faults requires the courage to look squarely at our darkest shadows. Doing so is an exercise in humility and a genuine desire to improve ourselves.

We should not blame ourselves for failing in certain aspects of our life, but we must take responsibility. Personal development inevitably goes through a process of introspection in which we discover which areas require work on our part. Acknowledging our mistakes makes us more humane and humble and allows us to improve.

Let us try to give ourselves and others the freedom to make mistakes and learn from our own mistakes. Let’s be more flexible, tolerant, and understanding. No one needs to be perfect to be appreciated by the people around him. Making mistakes and assuming mistakes is the only way to emotional maturity.

You might also like our blog on Media Richness Theory for improving your knowledge about the society and it’s people.

FAQ about the scapegoat

What does being a scapegoat mean?

Today we use the term of scapegoat when we choose a person as the target of our anger. We shift our aggressiveness from one origin to a different one. This displacement can be seen very often in peer groups.

Where does the expression scapegoat come from?

This term has its origin in a religious rite that was done in ancient times. First, a goat was randomly chosen, and then all the sins of the people were transferred onto him. Sins that needed to be atoned for, purified, or repaired.

What happens to the scapegoat?

The scapegoat will be abused, ignored, mistreated and will eventually surrender to the fact that they are guilty of everything around them. 

What is an example of a scapegoat?

An example of a scapegoat is a member of the family, who is always made responsible for everything bad or uncommon that happens in the family. The person who always gets blamed is the scapegoat.  

How do you recover from a scapegoat?

If you are a scapegoat, you have to learn boundaries. Accept responsibility only for what you think YOU did wrong, not for the whole group/family/friends. Refrain from arguing, but learn how you can defend yourself compassionately and respectfully. 

What is the role of a scapegoat in society?

The role of a scapegoat in society is to intercept conflict and prejudice between individuals and groups. Persecuting this scapegoat frees the person from a distressing oppressive feeling of anger with himself. It provides you with an ineffable gratification that appears as a consequence of the discharge of aggressiveness on someone other than yourself.

Conclusions

In this article, we explained what the term the scapegoat means. We talked about how redirecting your aggressiveness towards others is unfair, and how to learn to take responsibility for one’s mistakes and stop blaming others for all the bad in our lives.

Groups in which when there is the slightest uncertainty, or still unresolved issue, or ignorance about the proceeding of a situation, they choose a person as the target of all frustration – the scapegoat. We shift our aggressiveness from one origin to a different one. This displacement can be seen very often in peer groups.

It is important to consider whether we are doing this. We have to ask ourselves if our frustration and our accumulated aggressiveness are displacing it on another person. About an innocent person who has nothing to do with the origin of our aggressiveness.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

References

Hammer, E. (2007). Scapegoat theory. In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), 

Encyclopedia of social psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 779-779). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications

Psychology.iresearchnet.com – Scapegoat Theory

Sociologygroup.com -A Short Note on Scapegoat Theory

psychologytoday.com – The Psychology of Scapegoating

The scapegoat (the unfair target of all blame)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.