No, not really.
Honor is something that should dwell among us. A step further: it should dwell on our lips in what we say or what we keep ourselves from saying. Let honor fare better with us that among thieves. This coming from a man who has made so many mistakes in this area. Oh well…God help us.
Let’s cross examine Joseph (the dreamer’s) story. First, we learn that Joseph has dreams of ruling. Jacob loves Joseph more than his other children which sparks jealousy and hate. Joseph’s brothers sell him to the Ishmaelites (ironically my name is Ishmael) and the Ishmaelite’s sell him in Egypt.
We know Joseph rises in rank and is in charge of Potiphar’s house. Next, he is framed by Potiphar’s wife, he is put in prison, and years later, after interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, he is made Viceroy of Egypt. It will be 7 years later when a famine (agricultural depression) hits and his brothers come to Egypt to buy food (1).
Woa wooa wooa…! What’s your point?
Okay! Why didn’t Joseph send an email back to Canaan to tell his father Jacob he was alive? I’m sure they had either Camel or Donkey telecommunication services. That’s how word traveled. Okay, maybe when Joseph was being transported by the Ishmaelites he was only a transaction with no rights. No big deal.
What about when Joseph was head of Potiphar’s house? He most definitely could have sent an e-mail (eagle/bird mail) to his dad. Why didn’t he? Even so, when he became Viceroy of Egypt, he could have gone back or sent a messenger: why didn’t he?
We find the answer in an episode of Judah and Timnah (2).
Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, was supposed to be remarried to Judah’s youngest son, Shelah, to bear a son for his older brother Er who died before having one. This is called Levirate marriage. Er, Judah’s first son died before having children by Tamar. Responsibility passed to Onan who defected and lost his life. S
o, the responsibility was to pass onto Shelah who was still young. But Judah, afraid his last son would die, sent Tamar away. Later, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and unsuspecting Judah, chatted her up, consented to her specific fees (a seal with its cord and walking stick), and the two had sexual relations. Three months or so later, Judah was told Tamar, his daughter-in-law, was pregnant.
Thinking her to be a hoe, an order was sent for Tamar to be burnt. As she was being dragged away, she sent these words to Judah, “I am pregnant by the man who owns these things. Look at them and see whose they are – this seal with its cord and this stick (Genesis 38:25). Judah noticing that it was his, felt remorse, acknowledged his wrongs and repented. Did you see the answer?
Though we all know the baby daddy, Tamar didn’t mention a name, his name, Judah’s name!
That is honorable, even for a woman who was being unjustly dealt with. Joseph could have sent his dad an e-mail informing him that he, Joseph, was alive, NOT DEAD as his brothers had claimed. However, this information would have meant the following. Jacob would gain Joseph but lose his other 11 sons.
Jacob would investigate the matter and finding out Joseph’s brothers plight would have dealt harshly or expelled his children. That means further family discord and damage. Even though Joseph wanted to, in his case, he held his words back for the sake of his family. A man or woman of honor and integrity is a rare gem.
When it comes to people and conversations between “you and me,” people are private creatures. They don’t want their dirty laundry spilled out. Not everyone needs to know what you have to say. Not everyone needs to know who did this or that.
Like Tamar, it is honorable to say what you need to say but in a way that preserves the DIGNITY of the other individual, even if that person was at fault. Dignity is a big deal to God and to us all. That’s why we all hate to be gossiped about.
Its like stealing the life and breath from the sweat of a person’s life and brawls. In his Proverbs, King Solomon said, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered (Proverbs 11:13).”
In Joseph’s case, he was purposefully quite. Just because I did something wrong or wayward does not mean you have to tell others, even if I did it to you. Especially if yo anticipate repentance, transformation, and a greater good.
Sure, we talk. We have to tell people what happened. But, the idea is to do it in a way that does not destroy their dignity thus earning their respect and boosting their transformation.
When you speak or don’t speak in a way that shows respect for people and preserves their dignity (no matter how unprivileged and undeserving they are), you will be counted among the trusted and you will be continually blessed. When you infuse business dealings and relationship with this aspect of dignity, your personal and business stock value will skyrocket.
Its just like Jesus – the author of life – said,
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Let honor remain on your lips. And if you mess it up, apologize for it and then – let honor and the preservation of each person’s dignity remain on your lips (3).”
Talk about ideas, not people ~ The Rebbe
One love, One spirit
Endnote: (1) Genesis 37-40, (2) Genesis 38, (3) Mt 18:15-17, Cover picture from here