Today’s post is the monthly reflection from the April 2004 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

GoatAs the Baseball season opens this month, inevitably there will be talk around Chicago about the “curse of the billy-goat.” Will the Cubbies EVER get to the World Series again? With the painful turn of events in that 8th inning of the 6th game of the Cubs 2003 Playoffs, the curse seemed real to even the most non-superstitious. A passionate fan’s stretch for the ball certainly seemed to turn the momentum. The World Series was in their reach, but the Cubs saw that dream evaporate into a nightmare. They would have to wait. And who was to blame?

I recently attended a presentation by Al Gustafson, a friend of mine here in Chicago. His topic was “Scapegoating: Who’s to Blame?” It was a powerful presentation and extremely relevant for a society bent on finding blame — rather than finding solutions. Al did a wonderful job of pulling from historical wisdom and pointing out the very human nature we all face in becoming part of the blame game. I had been thinking a lot about the curse we face when we get on a mission to find scapegoats. It comes to light in a number of ways — in outrageous cases of litigation, in the media’s need to target high profile blame to feed our hunger for sensationalism, or in the empty momentum we build when we find a common enemy. The false pretense is that if we can find someone to blame, then we can solve the problem. It is a dangerous presumption.

Webster defines “scapegoating” as the action or process of casting blame for shortcomings or failure on an innocent or, at most, only partly responsible individual or group. This dictionary goes further to tie the “scapegoat” back to Leviticus 16:8 in the Old Testament — a goat upon whose head is symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur. In our human nature, we are vulnerable to scapegoating — looking for blame rather than solutions. When we get caught in that trap as an individual, as a department or division, or as a whole organization, we fall victim to the curse. The curse deceives us into a sense of accomplishment at the surface and blinds us to the deeper problem and creative solutions that sit dormant below the surface. It can certainly provide a delusion of success in the short-term, but plants the seeds for failure in the long- term. The habit of finding scapegoats not only destroys the scapegoat, but can eventually destroy your team.

The day after the Cubs lost that gut-wrenching 6th game to the Marlins, everyone was blaming “the fan” for the loss — everyone except the Cubs organization. The Cubbies hear enough about the “curse of the billy-goat” and the last thing they needed was to fall prey to the curse of the scapegoat. They knew enough to look in the mirror to find the problem and the solution. And this just might be their year. If not, there is always next year!!