Genesis 43-44. When we have been wronged and betrayed and relationships broken, it is hard to deal with the resulting anger and bitterness. Joseph, great grandson of Abraham, was hated as a child by his half brothers and then sold into slavery in Egypt as a youth by them. Blended families like this are common in our world today and the resulting struggles are not easily forgotten or forgiven. Then Joseph is misrepresented by the wife of his owner, a powerful man in Egypt, and sent to prison. In prison his gift for interpreting dreams helps others who forget him. Jealousy, betrayal, lies and invisibility are hard realities to deal with.
Joseph rises to power in Egypt and then the day comes when he has to face his past. His half brothers arrive in Egypt looking to buy food. Joseph has gone from nomad youth to being assimilated into Egypt and in a position of power over food distribution. Joseph recognizes the half brothers but they do not recognize him. Genesis goes into quite a bit of detail on how Joseph works through his anger.
First, Joseph concocts a plan to buy himself time to process the situation. He could get even and had them thrown in jail but instead Joseph has his “discerning cup” hidden in their grain bags so that they appear like thieves. He demands they bring the 12th brother, Joseph’s blood brother, Benjamin, back on the next trip and holds one half brother in prison. Not doing a knee-jerk response gives Joseph time to process this turn of events. Getting distance can be done mentally by counting to ten and practicing controlled breathing. I prefer driving to “my quiet spot” by the lake and having a long talk with God until I calm down and am in a better frame of mind. Alcohol and drugs are ways to numb the mind in the face of intense emotions but they do not give space for reasoning and only numb momentarily. Hurting myself by overeating, resolves nothing. How do you give yourself space and time to think through a disturbing event?
The second thing that happens is on the second return trip, Joseph, torn by his emotions goes into his private room and weeps. Underneath the anger and hurt is love! I learned in a parenting class as a young mother that an angry child is covering sadness and a sad child is covering anger. Joseph releases his anger through crying. Joseph cried but others scream while some pound a pillow. I prefer swimming or hitting a tennis ball against a wall as hard as I can. Anything to release the bottled up energy and thoughts of violence that anger brews. What is under the anger?
Anger is a human emotion. It energizes us in emergencies and it leads to rectification of social injustice. Jesus got angry. Anger stewed and horded, though, seems to ferment and expand until a small incident becomes a major offense. Joseph had legitimate excuses to be angry. But how to use that energy is the challenge.
Is there some situation confronting you today that you need to figure out how to get perspective on? Creating mental distance to process and grieving the insult combined with prayer is always wise and a better choice than lashing out at self or the other. Blessings as you wrestle with wrongs!