Are you struggling to forgive yourself and others? The biblical story of Joseph is one of the most powerful teachings of how the ways of the universe or God can be very different from the plans we often make in life.
Joseph was slandered, beaten, and sold into slavery by his own brothers because of jealousy. Joseph could have easily succumbed to his fate but he never lost faith that everything in life had purpose and meaning.
The trap of the blame game
Only from such a perspective could he forgive his brothers and move out of the trap of the blame game. He made the best out of his situation to such an extent that Potiphar, the man who bought him on the slave market in Egypt, soon promoted him to a higher position. Later he was put in charge of managing Potiphar’s huge estate.
Potiphar had taken a liking to Joseph and must have been impressed by his kindness, wisdom, and humility. For all intents and purposes, Joseph had made it. But Potiphar’s bored wife had taken just as much a liking to the handsome young Joseph. Realizing that he would betray his master who had done so much for him, Joseph avoided the advances of Potiphar’s wife who became so upset that she accused him of rape. Joseph was thrown into prison losing everything. He could again have succumbed to despondency.
But it so happens that he meets in prison two of the Pharaoh’s ministers who had lost favor with the ruler. One of them was eventually released from prison and restored to his old position. Only when the Pharaoh had a strange dream did the minister remember the time in prison with Joseph who had impressed him as an interpreter of dreams. Long story short, Joseph gets released from prison to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream. The essence of the dream was that the ruler had to prepare the country for seven years of drought. Amazingly Joseph’s fortune changed in an instant when the Pharaoh recognized the wisdom of the man he was dealing with. Joseph gets made viceroy of all of Egypt as the righthand man of the most powerful ruler of the world at the time.
Life comes in strange twists and turns
True to the dream interpretation the drought did come and only by wise management of the food and grain resources could countless lives be saved including those of Joseph’s brother and aging father Jacob.
Life comes often in strange twists and turns. Fortunes can be earned and lost overnight. High positions of political power and influence may be gone tomorrow. The amazing story of Joseph is that he never lost trust and faith. By forgiving his brothers and Potiphar’s wife for falsely accusing him, he made peace with himself and could go into trust and humility. From that energy grew his wisdom and incredible foresight to prevent a catastrophe.
Forgiving does not mean approval of wrongdoing
Forgiving does not mean that you are approving of wrongdoing, of abuse, and all the terrible things that humans do to each other. It is making peace with the past in the knowledge that you are the person today because of all of that which you have experienced. The famous Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl only survived the Nazi death camps by telling himself that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s one way.”
Nelson Mandela was often asked why he did not seek retribution from the white apartheid rulers who imprisoned him for 27 years. His answer: “Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon.”
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant
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