I’ve written too much over the past 10 or 15 days to summarize. Get caught up before reading today. The bottom line is, it’s my belief that we can only rise above the Scapegoat Mechanism (the idea that communities keep or find moments of peace through periodically rallying around the rejection of one of the community’s members- though this can happen in small groups or even a relationship of just two people as well) when we stop seeing ourselves simply as victims of everyone else’s bad behavior. This requires a profound conversion to a new way of seeing. We cannot get here on our own. God must go to work on us from within before we can truly get outside this cycle of violence.
So, my conversion story. I shared in previous days that I now know how willing I was to scapegoat other people so that I could find and re-find my sense of belonging in a group. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. How did I awaken? Well, in the only way one can.
I had what you might call a mini-scandal. I made a series of poor decisions that had some pretty drastic negative consequences for myself and others. Since this is going on the internet, I’ll avoid the details here just out of respect for all involved, but I can share details in person if you’re interested (living transparently and all that). During the process of making these poor decisions, my group mostly encouraged me to take the path I was on. They didn’t try to persuade me that I was on a bad path or try to talk me out of what I was doing. They helped convince me that what I was doing was right. Deep down, I knew we were all wrong…but…denial kicked in.
Eventually this scandal blew up in my face. The seminary I was attending at the time was about the size of my high school. So, when something bad happens, everyone knows about it. I got looks of scorn and judgment everywhere I went. I could just see people looking at me and wondering, “How could you do that?”
Despite my group’s encouragement and support in my bad behaving, they largely rejected me at that point. It looked bad for them to associate with me, I’m quite sure. And so they didn’t. When we did speak, they re-narrated the events. Everyone wanted to say, “I told you so,” when, in fact, nobody told me so. At this point, not only did I have a scandal on my hands, but I no longer had my friends. I went from having a community for the first time in my life to having no community. I wasn’t just lacking community, I also had the judgment and scorn of much of the school.
I was isolated. And I was a victim…at least that’s how I saw myself.