Mean does not even cover what Joseph’s brothers did to him.
Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.Genesis 37:28 (KJV)
Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, and the favorite of their father’s. He was quite arrogant and his brothers plotted to get rid of him. First they thought of killing him, then changed their minds and threw him into a pit without water (Genesis 37:24). Next, they sat down to eat bread (Genesis 27:5) and how callous was that! Finally, they sold him for the price of a slave.
Meanness & Resentment
This story seemed crazy (you can read more here on its archaeological evidence). Why would siblings do such terrible things? It is like sitting around the dining table and discussing:
Hey, should we kill him?
Nah, let’s not get our hands dirty.
Just leave him to die.
Or better still, sell him for some money, at least better than nothing.
When I think about my experience with mean people, the first person I thought of was the classmate sitting beside me in grade two. 🤣 She constantly shoved my stuff onto the floor and took my stationery whenever she wanted. Then she would threatened not to be my friend if I didn’t go along with her. I was this soft-spoken, timid girl and though I felt everything she did was against what friends did, I didn’t confront her.
I was too scared then – to be without a friend.
It wasn’t until I joined a team sport in school that I mustered some courage to rebut her – at the end of grade three. So that’s two full years of torture. Why I remembered her most was not her mean actions, but my reactions. And reading about Joseph’s brothers also got me thinking about why people are mean.
Beneath the Meanness
- Why the meanness?
We might not have given much thought to why people are mean. Most times we are so disturbed or tormented that we just wanted relief. For Joseph’s brothers, their meanness could be a response to their father’s favoritism of Joseph (who being the second youngest, should traditionally not enjoy so much favor) and their pride (as Joseph dreamt that he would rule over them).
And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.Genesis 37:4 (KJV)
And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.Genesis 37:8 (KJV)
So maybe the next time when someone is mean to us, or we are less kind to others, we can write it in our journal and explore the motivations behind the meanness. It is better to write our thoughts down than to have the same negative thoughts churning in our head.
Responding to meanness
Making sense of the underlying reasons for the meanness could help us respond better to it. For Joseph, his response was not to make light of his brothers’ actions, but to see it from God’s perspective – that God had used him to bless others.
And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.Genesis 45:5 (NIV)
Just like I remembered the classmate from grade two because of my reactions, I suspect it would be our reactions that define such encounters in our life:
- Did we retaliate with more meanness?
- Did we walk away from the situation, and the person who we used to love?
- Did we try to be the better person and resolve the underlying conflicts?
- Did we pray about the situation or instead, made hours of watsapp calls to complain about this person?
Making Sense of Meanness
Genesis 37 Journaling Prompt
Are you working with people who are mean to you?
Have you been mean to anyone lately?
God, you know the situation that I am facing. Oh, I could talk for hours on this person. But teach me to pray. Pray about this situation, and for this person.
Books on Dealing with Difficult People
I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
I haven’t read books on dealing with difficult people because I’m fortunate enough not to have dealt with any! 😊