Scapegoating

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

“Well, it’s your fault!  If you hadn’t spent so much money on counseling, I wouldn’t have had to take out another loan.”

“I would have done a lot better if the stupid boss hadn’t changed the rules.”

“That patrolman’s radar gun is way off.”

“Your mother shouldn’t have said that.  It ruined the whole celebration.”

“That idiot at the garage must have done something wrong.  He probably sabotaged the gas pedal.”

“Those people at the computer place put all these viruses on my computer just so I would come back and pay them to fix it again.”

“He just hates me because I don’t have the right skin color.”

“My plan would have worked if the employees weren’t idiots!”

“It’s your fault!”  “It’s his fault!”  “It’s their fault!” 

“It certainly isn’t my fault!”

LD sent a suggestion my way that makes a lot of sense.  The old Hebrew practice of the scapegoat seems to fit well with the behavior of many narcissists.  We know the term today as the recipient of blame for something done by another.  It’s an aspect of projection, which we have talked about before, but there seems to be something added to it.

Not only does the narcissist project his own wrong behavior or weaknesses on others, but he believes that he is absolved as he does so.  In other words, when the victim is blamed for something the narcissist does, then the guilt and shame attaches to the victim.  And there is something more.

In the Bible (Leviticus 16), the scapegoat was an illustration of the atoning work of Christ.  Not only did Jesus die for the sins of others, He also experienced some kind of rejection or separation from God as He bore our sins.  This is a great mystery, but one taught in the Scripture as Jesus cried out asking why God had forsaken Him.

However, the narcissistic practice of scapegoating twists this idea in a particularly evil way.  When the priest in the Old Testament made a sacrifice or offered the scapegoat for the sins of the people, it was very clear that the goat would suffer the punishment the people deserved.  The goat carried no sin of its own.  But when the narcissist scapegoats someone, the narcissist denies the sin as his own.

For example, when the narcissist is caught in a lie, he/she might accuse someone else of lying.  The narcissist’s lie then becomes a mistake, perhaps even a testament to his trust of others.  Not only the guilt and shame of the lie is placed on another, but the fact of the lie is rejected.  If the narcissist steals something, he/she might say that those who owned it should not have left it out for others who would think they were giving it away.  Not only is he/she absolved of the guilt, but there was no sin in the first place.

This may reveal why the true narcissist has such a difficult time turning to Christ.  If there is no sin, there is no need for a Savior.  By scapegoating others along the way, the narcissist convinces himself that he has no sin.  At worst, he/she made a mistake.  Mistakes don’t need a Savior; they just need a little understanding.

All of this looks a lot like projection, of course.  The difference is that this is more than an attempt to distract.  This is an attempt to present the narcissist as blameless.  You have no reason to be angry or disappointed.  He/she did nothing wrong.  It was someone else’s fault.  The image of the narcissist, what he wants you to believe about him, remains superior in every way.

Scapegoating is the convergence of several of the narcissist’s most cruel behaviors: denial, projection, depersonalization, lying, and more.  Unlike Jesus, the narcissist’s scapegoats are unwilling participants in this “atonement.”  They find themselves being blamed for things they didn’t do and rejected by the ones who actually did the sin.  It is confusing and very painful.

But there is an interesting verse I have used for strength in the past.

Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight.  Proverbs 26:2

Just because the narcissist uses you as a scapegoat does not mean you have to accept his sin.  Even when he does his expert job of making you look bad, you know the truth.  Hold on to what you know.  Be free in your heart.  Don’t accept the role of the scapegoat for him/her.  It ultimately doesn’t matter what others think.  It matters what the Lord thinks (the truth) and it matters what you think.  And, don’t worry; the narcissist isn’t off the hook just because he thinks he put his sin on you.

28 Comments

Filed under Narcissism

28 responses to “Scapegoating

  1. Rebecca Harkins

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post these articles on NPD every Friday. I found your blog a number of months ago when my husband of 12 years was diagnosed with NPD. It has been a very difficult road filled with lies, confusion, broken trust and so much more. Understanding this diagnosis gave me so much clarity into the problems we’d been having for our entire marriage. It gave me the courage and the strength to follow God’s direction and stand up for myself. And you know what? Things are a FINALLY starting to get a little better. He’s accepted his diagnosis, is going to therapy regularly and truly shows a heart that WANTS to change. It’s not perfect, by far, but things are improving for me and my family. Your articles have given me encouragement when I’ve been in the darkest of places and I wanted to thank you for that. Please keep sharing the light and the truth!!

    I am curious to know how you have so much experience and knowledge on NPD. Do you have personal experience with a loved one with the disorder?

  2. Sunflower

    Another angle to this is, when, let’s say, you’ve been to a good church meeting or read a good book and there is a tad of conviction, the N agrees, talks at length about it, and then it’s gone. I would wait for him to practice what he was preaching, but no, the preaching was enough. Now everyone knew how spiritual he was, and that was good enough. For example, someone gave him the book, “Do yourself a favor, love your wife” He read it, bought 20 copies to hand out at church, telling everyone what a great book it was and all the men should read and heed, and never did anything in it. He looked at the page of 100 things NOT to do as a husband, and said, “Well, I don’t smoke, drink, or swear!”, with his innocent I’m-such-a-good-boy look, and that was it. I was supposed to praise him for that.

    • Leslie

      Lol I’ve seen this myself with my narc, we attended church and there was a man speaking on how to treat your wife at the end he looked at me and asked ” what did I learn” lol so much for the prayers that God would enlighten him that day he got nothing from that

  3. Kim Paisley Brooks

    This is the toughest aspect of Narcissism, in my opinion, and I appreciate this post, as well as Sunflower’s comment. Thank you for articulating the spiritual/invisible side of scapegoating. The worst pain I experience is from what is described here. It can be described as the what caused Jesus to cry out in pain, feeling forsaken. Can this be associated with the fear he felt in the garden of olives? Because this is so enmeshed within, I have a hard time breaking it down into tangible pieces. Please keep going deeper into this issue – I need to read more and understand, I think, because the resistance to healing is so strong…so attached to my conditioned belief of worthiness

  4. Kim Paisley Brooks

    That is, unworthiness…I mean, it’s “just” a goat, right?

  5. Rox

    My N has a really fascinating way of scapegoating. He’s told me that the closer we are, the worse he’s going to treat me. So, in other words, he’s blaming his abusive behavior on the fact that we’ve been friends for two decades. And I’m supposed to feel that his aberrant attacks signify our incredibly tight bond? I don’t think so. Does he realize how deranged that sounds?

  6. E

    My mother often spat (or wrote) that I had robbed her of joy. This accusation usually accompanied an event in my life such as my wedding or, more recently, my first pregnancy. I was not seeing to her feelings enough, not agreeing with her enough, not mirroring her every mood. Therefore I was blamed when she failed to be happy and mirror my joy. My happiness was seen as spiteful and had to be quashed. Has anyone else been blamed for the narcissist’s lack of joy? It is a burden I decided to reject, thankfully. But it upsets me never the less how conveniently it always fell to me to take responsibility for my mother’s feelings. My father was especially keen on allowing this game to continue, I assume because it got him off the hook!

    • My N spouse often accuses me of not appreciating all the blessings in my life (usually when I am holding him accountable to something) and around my birthday he had a big flare up of symptoms/traits (which I expected because it is difficult for him to tolerate someone else getting all that attention). In anticipation of this, I had determined ways I could be happy/enjoy my birthday no matter how he was behaving. This was upsetting to him because I was “too happy”.

    • UnForsaken

      Experienced this ! You know what you’re talking about. An event in life–good or bad, not absolutely agreeing or just saying nothing and having your feelings dragged out by a criticism of your facial expression, this is all so familiar! He feeds of other’s good cheer and never bothers with his pwn. It’s when we’re not up to a lot , we Notice. And it is about responsibility! They want to be seen as responsible but aren’t , so they tell us We aren’t .I couldn’t be blind to this even as a child, and it Has been a huge burden to shrug off. The blame for draining them of friends, money, happiness, credit, …..becoming a shallange has to be squashed, just like you say. Got to keep our chins up; keep our self-respect !

  7. DLD

    My primary narcissist-at-work blamed me for not stopping him from standing over my desk and yelling at me. When he asked me: “Why didn’t you stop me from yelling at you?,” it confirmed for me that I am dealing with pure evil. (((smh)))

    • Whisper

      E – I have also been blamed for taking the joy out of my N husband’s life. When I question him about his behavior and ask him to be accountable to me or his Christian friends he becomes extremely defensive, angry and moody. He blames me for taking the joy out of his life. He says that I am accusing him and there is no condemnation in the Lord. He even has a sign above his computer with Romans 8:1 There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus… We’ve had numerous “discussions” about his computer use & what he’s reading & looking at while he sits in front of the screen for hours on end.

      I refuse to take credit for robbing his joy and I am learning to stand up for myself and set boundaries. His so called “joy” seems to return when I leave him alone & just let him do what he wants. It’s funny how that works with the N.

      • E

        Whisper,
        I’m glad you also rejected that lie about taking joy away. It seems the Ns pick something that will cause unnecessary introspection to distract us from the main argument. In your case, the computer. In my case, I was telling her to calm down as she raged about my fiance and she snarled “you have robbed me of my joy for this wedding!” It makes us stop in our tracks and think, “Are they talking about events outside this conversation? Or maybe I am a joy-vacuum?! Maybe to other people too?!” Meanwhile they have completely shifted the focus of the conversation onto how “awful” we are in general. And yes, their joy returns once we have given up or are in tears.

      • UnForsaken

        “How aweful we are in general” lasted almost two hours the one time I lost my temper trying to express his injustice. I think he touched on just about every subject out there! It’s just so illogical I couldn’t believe it , even when totally over-come by the sheer mass of “fact” thrown at us. ( I say “us” because my siblings and I are never taken individually except for my “more useful” sister. ) Scapegoating has nver been more clear to me…. but it was a reassurance that my instincts had been right. He’s so covert that he had only hinted though his actions before, and he finally said Everything I had ever suspected ! There are times when I douted my own judgement , but not anymore! Also won’t be lossing the temper anymore! Smile ? 🙂

  8. Singing Eagle

    Thank you so much for your article and insight. I never considered all the symptoms as being the scapegoat. All I know is every wrong doing was constantly twisted to be my fault. After finally realizing that it didn’t matter how much I could prove where the fault lied or try to reason with him, I realized I was talking to “brick wall” as they say. Ultimately I had to learn to stand on my own knowing the Lord knew the truth and refuse to let his accusations condemn or torment me.

    • UnForsaken

      A true saying, Singing Eagle!

    • Leslie

      Well said singing eagle I can so relate it has taken me 3 years to learn that truth! It’s like talking to a brick wall and when you entangle with that mess it backfires into more pain part of that healing is letting go but because we have a healthy love for them we end up bearing the pain they should’ve carried.

  9. TL

    Isn’t it interesting how N’s make you responsible for their happiness, and yet nothing makes them happy-for long.

  10. Kelly T.

    I was formerly married to a malignant narcissist for 22 years. Being on the other side of that, I am so thankful to know and understand NPD. I am remarried to a godly healthy man. Something I read today elsewhere really struck me…Trying to understand behavior on the surface that contradicts all the words will make you absolutely crazy over time…that is what an NPD does to people in his/her world.

  11. Kelly T.

    I forgot to mention that I am the daughter of a Narcissist. I honor my mother since I cannot divorce her. I am pretty sure I married a narcissist the first time because, well, that was really familiar to me. It isn’t comfortable anymore. I have set boundaries. Being in a healthy marriage also is very protective for me…my husband is not fooled by her manipulations.

    • E

      Kelly,
      Did you find that some romantic relationships were a struggle over who got control of you? Man vs. Mother? In my case, it was always boyfriend Vs. mother. He would demand I defy my mother, and my mother would demand I break up with him. It was exhausting. When I finally met and married my supportive husband, my mother was very confused by this new healthy dynamic. All the usual methods fell flat. She had quite a playbook of methods. She tried to discover his angle, assuming that if she was not controlling me, surely he was.

      My mother plays scapegoat musical chairs. Everyone in my family was trained to come up with some excuse and appease her. I usually did enough to get by unscathed, but the last straw was her lying about my behavior in order to justify her “response.” I refused to play the game or even respond to her accusations. When the music stopped and I had no chair, I wasn’t even in the room. And yet, she has told everyone I am disrespectful and hurt her on purpose; she will always love me but I have fallen so far from “the tree” (whatever that means?!)

      Yes, actually being the scapegoat is not fun. There are a lot of things I have supposedly done I don’t even know about and some that I know she did to me! So I can totally see how projection is involved with scapegoating…”But mom, YOU got up and walked away when I entered the room, not the other way around…!”

      It’s a nightmare sometimes.

    • UnForsaken

      Dear KellyT., you have what I yearn for….not jealous, just really happy for you and sorry it took so much pain to sever from the “comfortable”. It seems that most of the non-N people I know are also manipulative even when well-intentioned. How did you go about meeting healthy, protective people , and then you’re great guy?
      E , what your mom did sounds so much like what has been going on behind my back for some time .He really believes what he’s saying, so it’s always believed. I esp. feel your last paragragh . The power of insinuation can never be under-estimated . there Are so many things I don’t know, but the other things are worn on teh faces of all the nice people around me, the horror, distain, shock when they have never even tried to talk to me! But they are too gullible to be friend . (Just as I used to be.)
      Thanks, for so aptly describing the musical chairs …I never know which one I’m in! I’m still in the thick of trying to over-come public and personal shame that is not my own , and I need words like your’s!

  12. L D

    Thanks so much for your take on this, David! I was thinking even more about this and remembering the scripture from Proverbs that warns us not to cast our pearls before swine lest they trample on them and then turn and attack us. This scripture, too, reminds me of narcissism and scapegoating. Not only do we give them something pure and costly and they trample on it (no, that is not enough for them) then they also have to turn and attack us! This reminds me of scapegoating in the way that not only do they cast their sins upon us and disown the sin as you say but they then seem to feel the need to now attack us for the sin as if it were OUR sin all along! (Funny how they can see it as bad and a sin when it is outside of them!) This verbal attack, to me, is the final slaughtering of the goat. It’s as though on a subconscious level they need to project their sins onto us, disown them, and now KILL OFF that sin in front of them. And that is the most painful part, I think. As you say, we are not Jesus, and we were not meant to be, and we did not volunteer to be the scapegoat for their sins. Hmmm…I wonder if the poor goats wondered what they did wrong to deserve this and started to believe the sins were really theirs’ and believe they deserved to die? Sorry, I don’t mean that to be witty and cruel…I’m just wondering if goats/animals think/feel as we do…that mental torture in our own heads where we try to make sense of it all was probably the worst part of it for me. Maybe, if animals don’t really have that capacity for reason then they were blessed in that case. It was trying to make sense of the nonsense that was the evil and most torturous part of it. I’ve experienced physical and emotional/mental abuse…I must say the latter was the worst…at least for me. Thank you, again, for your ministry, David! -Lynn

  13. UnForsaken

    Dave, I’m so glad you wrote this artical! A form of scapegoating I acknowledged as a child, although it took much longer for me to see other things. It always seemed my “useful” sis got blaimed for everything, including uncomfortable social stuff that belonged to the big talking N., if we wre late it was all the kid’s fault(sometimes true), but even worse, if something really did come from her, it was the “girls'” fault. The de-personalization made us the same person . Even today when one of us expresses an oppinion, it is assumed to be “what the girls want” ! When I think about it , this really bows me away . Individuality was crushed as much as possible in my family but not as much with my brother who was simply written off . I’m still trying to figure out how one exchange was an attack on my sis epressed to my, I did the no-no and flared up, then he got what he must have wanted and boiled over at my sis for what I said ! It was such an odd scapegoating of his attitude on us , bouncing back and forth at an alarming pace. i don’t usually have the energy to lose my temper or the inclination, but I don’t want to cause any extra stress for my sister or anyone . Could You offer any special advise about what to do in one of these situations? Reasoning has been tried and discarded . Thank you!

  14. rw

    Thanks for writing so well on this topic. I had a friend, whom I really cared about, scapegoat me, and well…the poison spread. I trust the Lord to convict her and her family and friends, but I do experience the fall out periodically still. I know now though what happened, and your post just brought me some more clarity. I really needed that today.
    I just pray…since that is all any of the “clan” ever will allow. Crazily, the narcissists believe that is all any “good God fearing Christian” is allowed to do to them..pray for them, but then as you stated, they will freely verbalize the wrongs and how to fix them…of those who are their victims. I hadn’t looked at things from the angle of “narcissist”…because I hate psychological terminology…so I just use the label…extremely…rude, and selfserving. But hey, narcissist covered it, esp. in this post. I look forward to reading more. I saw your post on Recovering Grace’s website and it lead me here.

  15. L D

    Hi again David,   Thanks for today’s post on Rejection as yesterday my ex just revealed he is dating a new woman who “adores” him and apparently I never did? Wow. Anyhow, I also came across this pdf written by Kaleah LaRoche who has the website http://www.narcissismfree.com/.   I have only read the first 5 pages but they were all about how a narcissist uses his victims as scapegoats! So, we are not the only ones who has seen this connection. I thought you might enjoy reading her take on it so I have attached the pdf.   Thanks again for your ministry! Lynn

  16. Leslie

    And that is my peace of mind he is not absolved of his sin because he has dumped his wrongdoing on me his x wife. I take comfort in the fact that God knows the truth regardless of his lying. I was so appaled when his comment on his abuse to our family and the ruined 18 yr marriage was ” I’m sorry it didn’t work out between us” lol if that isn’t a narcissistic comment. God is good and for many years the torment he put me through my cries to God “you saw that when will it be my day” now in hindsight my day is when he is judged or convicted of his sin against me and my children.

  17. HDG

    I’m struggling very hard with being blamed for our break-up while he is held blameless. I miss his friends & family.They take every word he says as absolute truth. I’ve been accused of airing dirty laundry on internet. Not true-PRIVATE msgs. just said his actions made it impossible to stay.I still loved him but needed to protect myself and my heart.Last time we split(I took him back) I heard from his friends/family how devastated he was, I’d hurt him so badly.People outside his “circle” -casual aquaintances,co-workers warned me of past abusive behavior .He claimed they were jealous liars possessed of unforgiving spirits”.God wants us together.” His charm and love(?) for me always drew me back. Who was I to argue with God? I feared my N’s anger whenever I called anything to his attention.”Do not question my integrity!” My friends/family saw negative changes in me, withdrew from my life. The most recent break-up was because of ultimatums -what I am to be, who to talk to,what to wear,think,how his interpretation of scripture is the ONLY correct one. All this being said-I pray he will recognize his brokenness(I pray for myself too/I am not sinless) . IT STILL HURTS SOOO MUCH that people I GENUINELY love and care about judge me and do not know the TRUTH. I know God knows but it hurts to be shunned…..

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