Every society has a tradition of a scapegoat, a person or a group of people to blame and punish for the sins of that particular culture.
People need to blame someone for the problems and suffering in their personal lives and in the life of their community as a whole, so they pick on someone to punish. It could be a witch, a ‘heretic”, an ethnic group, illegal residents, those on welfare..anyone who is weak and vulnerable, anyone who society can ostracize, marginalize and pick on. The Old Testament’s practice of picking a scapegoat is a brilliant illustration.
In the Old Testament, the Azazel goat, translated as scapegoat, was one of two goats chosen for a ceremony on The Day of Atonement. The first goat was sacrifice but a priest would lay hands on the second goat and symbolically transfer all the sin and guilt of the community on to this animal. The scapegoat was then driven into the desert, to die, thus cleansing the community of its sin.
The practice of scapegoating people drives many to mental illness.
Case in point, Every single person, in a recovery group of 10, are intelligent, articulate, many university educated or self educated people but they are also sensitive, usually intuitive. Often for arbitrary reasons, as tiny children, they felt responsible for problems in their families, be it a death, family discord and dysfunction or divorce. Like all little kids they tried to fix problems yet ended up crushed by adult emotions and burdens that were not theirs. Now decades later, they are waking up to the fact that they have punished themselves for crimes they did not commit. Society is only to eager to marginalize, blame, shame and condemn them for not functioning as active, contributing members of society.
Yet, in the end, it is up to each person to say,
‘ Enough; my suffering is not helping anyone, least of all me. I refuse to play scapegoat anymore. I refuse to try to save the world or heal those around me. Only God can do that. I give up control by letting God have his job back.’
The results are immediate..burdens lighten and depression lifts. Of course these patterns are so ingrained that the process must be repeated hundreds of times before a person’s core identity changes but it is a glorious journey into freedom and a privilege to walk with others as we experience new life together.
The Joy of Mothering
More from health