It's not fun.
Being the target of someone's mis-directed anger. And emails. And phone calls.
But here's what life has taught me.
Sometimes, when people are angry and mean, you aren't the cause.
You aren't the reason.
Oh, they say you are, but you aren't.
They say you are the one that annoys them. Who has made their life miserable. Who has been unfair to them. But fact is, you just happened to be between the person and the real situation they're angry at. A situation that renders them powerless even as it wounds them and enrages them. A situation that they have no ability to change.
And in the process, you happen to be an easy target to go after. Because those who are scapegoats are often the ones who are compassionate and long suffering and use nothing but diplomacy and grace in response. And mean people hone in on them with uncanny predictability.
They take it out on you, because you're small beans. And going after the "small beans" issue is often easier than tackling the larger issue at hand.
For them anyways.
It seems difficult to understand, especially to us soft-hearted ones, until we bring down to our level. How often have we turned around and mis-directed our hurt and anger onto the "safe people" in our lives? The ones who won't fight back. The ones smaller than us?
Bothered and rumpled in spirit, our children are often the first to take what we aren't brave enough to give back to the ones making our lives miserable.
It's a filter down effect. They mean people take it out on us. We take it out on our kids.
Viewed that way, it makes a bit more sense as to how and why these people can do it to us. We get it a bit better and in the getting it, we can understand it's really not about us. It's about them and their misery.
So what's our response to be?
It needs to be two-fold.
1. Healthy boundaries sometimes need to be put into place.
Soft-hearted and compassionate doesn't mean one has to live the scapegoat role permanently. It's often the default way for many to live and those who look for the scapegoats will often find one easily enough to mis-direct their real issues onto.
But there comes a time when the scapegoat decides to live a different role, has to draw the line, and finally says, "No more. I am going to walk away now. I will pray for you and I will love you through prayer, but I will no longer place myself in your presence where you can continue to mis-direct your heart issues at me through mean words."
Sometimes we can't walk away though. Because it's a ministry situation. Or a work situation. Or a family situation. And the person is going to email us and call us and track us down or always be there.
So here it is.
2. Don't take these people personally.
(And of course, the insertion has to come, that this can only be done after we have determined with God that we truly are not the issue at hand. Sometimes we are the issue. In which case, we need to own that. But if we aren't. . .
Don't take them personally!)
How in the world not?
Because those who are typically the scapegoats are also typically the ones who are tender to a fault. They are the ones where one cruel remark can twist and wring their heart in two jagged pieces and the pain can last for weeks, months, and even years. Where anger can devastate in entirety and meanness whittle down to childlike trembling and tears.
How does one not take that personally?
Hide Behind the shield!
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
~ Psalm 3:3
Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
~ Proverbs 30:5
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.
~ Psalm 5:12
You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.
~ Psalm 119:14
Hide behind God.
Let Him take the brunt.
This make take the work of some mental imagery but truly, picture it. He is in front of you, taking the strength, you are behind Him. Like the child peering behind her Daddy as he confronts the bully.
He is our shield, His Word is our truth.
Too often the words of man become the internal truth. "Failure . . . loser . . . bad person . . . can't do anything right. . . " But those are words that fall on a fragile human heart, not the shield of God's glory and truth. When they glance off His protection they lose their power, they lose their damage. Because we see the person through the veil of God's glory and love for us. And somehow, they aren't as mean. They're sad and they're to be pitied.
Pitied, for behind the shield of His protection we also find a greater depth of His love.
He fights jealously for those He loves. The fight is sometimes displayed for those around but most often the fight is realized within our own heart as we find ourselves drawn all the more fiercely to His, as His love pours out in response to our hurt.
In their attack we find ourselves hidden with Him, nestled in the refuge of His love. There is no greater place to be.
It's shoving you further behind His shield and deeper into the shelter of Him. And that is the best place we can be.