Scapegoating and Forgiveness

Rene Girard developed a very popular theory for societal behavior, generally referred to as Mimetic Theory. It goes like this. People learn through imitation. We learn to imitate behaviors (obvious), but we also learn to imitate desire. I learn to want what you want. Think about keeping up with the Jones’: My neighbor wants a Porsche, all of a sudden I want a Porsche. That is mimetic desire- it is wanting what other people want- not just doing what other people do. Because we all learn to desire what everyone else wants, humans are inevitably in competition with one another. This causes conflict and chaos. The only way we’ve found to deal with the conflict and chaos is to find someone to blame and to remove this person from the society (or group). This is called the Scapegoat Mechanism.

So, in an addicted family system, it’s easy to blame the substance use disordered person for all of the family’s problems and to banish this person from the family. On a societal level, it’s easy to blame immigrants for economic problems if we aren’t doing well financially, and banish them from the country.

You get the idea. It's a way of thinking about complex problems as if they were simple so that we don't need to find a complex solution. Simple solutions are always preferable. The problem is, they are only solutions if they actually solve the problem they are meant to solve.

When it comes to forgiveness and resentment, we may look for simple solutions when complex solutions are the only ones that will address the heart of the matter.

More on this tomorrow.