Hunting Scapegoats


If you’ve ever failed at anything, and it’s likely that you have, then you’ve probably felt the temptation to blame your failure on external factors beyond your control. Sometimes you might blame it on bad luck and circumstance, and other times, you might find the perfect person to act as your ‘scapegoat’. People don’t blame others because they’re evil or inherently malicious, they do it because, mostly, it’s easy.

“The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Essentially, blaming is just transferring responsibility. It can be from one person to another, or it can be from the person himself to someone or even something else. It’s cowardly, and oftentimes, it’s unjust. Blame can be good under some circumstances. If you know that someone is guilty of something and ought to be punished, there’s nothing wrong with blaming them, and holding them accountable for their actions.

Interestingly, we always believe that when we blame someone else. A woman blaming her husband for not being supportive or attentive would really believe that he is guilty, that he is the cause of the problem. There’s rarely ever a case when someone chooses to blame without genuinely believing that they were right to blame, that the person they are blaming truly deserves it, and that’s just the problem.

It happens frequently because blaming is easy, it can be an internal exercise, and doesn’t really have too many tangible, direct consequences. It’s safe. People rarely get blamed for blaming other people. If you tell too many lies, people will trust you less, you will lose credibility and respect. There are direct consequences to dishonesty; there’s a good incentive for people not to lie, or at least lie less. Most things are that way. if you nag, cry, act angrily, act rude, fail to be punctual, fail to be respectful, people can easily call you out of it. There’s a transparency to these actions that will allow you to review your behavior.

The danger with blame, however, is it doesn’t have that transparency. You can quite easily blame someone but never choose to be vocal about it. You can just keep to yourself, and no one will ever know. You probably won’t get called out on it, and thus are much less likely to change it. There are people who live their entire lives blaming one person for their misery and failure, and never really openly admitting it until it’s too late, and doesn’t matter anymore.

I think there are two cures to blame, and only two cures. The first option is going to the person you are holding accountable, and being open with them, informing them that you blame them, and then explaining to them why you do. In an optimistic scenario, that person’s response might be positive, a resolution might be found, and both of you are better off. In a pessimistic scenario, there is no compromise, no resolve, no solution. The person thinks you’re insane for even thinking of blaming them, and you hold your ground until there is no more communication.

This first option is better than the alternative of being silent, but it’s not the ideal option. It will come down to luck, the disposition of the person you are confronting, their character and personality, whether or not you ultimately find some kind of resolution.

The second option is more demanding, but more robust, and probably better in the long run. It requires you to be self critical, to be honest with yourself, and even more, to take on a higher sense of responsibility. It requires you to stop thinking about saving face, or avoiding embarrassment. It involves discipline and practice, but it’ll make you a more content and self assured person. It will enrich you with self-confidence. Your actions would change, you’d become more proactive. There is no guarantee that other people will behave the same way but that shouldn’t matter.

I have been guilty of taking the easy way out, of blaming external factors to make me feel better about myself, and the realization that I shouldn’t do that came from my inner need to constantly want to improve myself, to listen to advice from people much wiser, and more experienced than myself.

The ability to reject blaming others necessarily implies blaming yourself, and carrying the burden of responsibility. There is nothing wrong with that. Carrying this burden can often mean that we become more aware, and enthusiastic to change and grow. While blaming others would certainly stunt personal growth, taking responsibility can only mean the opposite.


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