Lessons from the Scapegoat

Have you ever seen a scapegoat? There are a lot of them around, but you may not know when you meet one. As we think of them today, they are not usually animals but people—children or grownups—though a scapegoat could occasionally be some kind of animal, a dog or a cat, perhaps, if we accuse it of being responsible for a bad thing someone else has done. The word "scapegoat" is now generally applied to someone who takes or is given the blame for another person who has in some way been at fault.

If you have ever been put in a position of being condemned for something wrong you didn't do, you have been made a scapegoat for the person who really did it. If someone else—or perhaps one of your pets—is blamed for a bad thing you did, he is acting as a scapegoat for you and may be punished in your place.

"But," you may say, "that's not fair." And, of course, it isn't. We have to pay our own debts and be punished for our own sins until we give them up. We can't let others suffer for the wrong things we have done. We are responsible for our own behavior.

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September 12, 1977

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