Last weekend my husband and I took our granddaughter to see Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a lighthearted retelling of a serious Biblical story. Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son. Joseph’s bragging and sense of entitlement made his 11 brothers hate him. They sold him into slavery and claimed a wild animal devoured him.
I asked our granddaughter, Ellie, “Do you think the brothers are bad?”
“Yes,” she said. “But Joseph shouldn’t have bragged.” Then she added, “It’s the father’s fault.”
In our adult family mediations, we see plenty of sibling resentment:
“You forged Dad’s name on the title!”
“We know Mom had a will and you destroyed it.”
“You spent Mom’s money on yourself.”
“You turned Mom against me.”
Sometimes these accusations are true, often not. But almost always a parent’s favoritism is the root. Oddly, disfavored children seldom blame their parents. They want to believe their parents loved them. They can’t bear to wonder, Did I deserve this? So they blame the ‘favored’ one.
So the question is: When there’s a favorite, who’s to blame?
- Jacob loved Joseph best because his mother was Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. After years of infertility during which she and Jacob yearned for a child, she bore Joseph. She died giving birth to their second son, Benjamin. While Joseph’s birth was celebrated, Benjamin’s was grieved. Jacob apparently took his other sons for granted. This was not Joseph’s fault.
- Two of Jacob’s older sons had murdered members of a local tribe in revenge for one man’s raping of their sister. All the older brothers shared the spoils, including wives and children taken captive. The remaining locals wanted blood, and Jacob and family had to flee (Gen. 45). Sometimes a child’s difficult behavior or unwise personal choices lies behind their parent’s disfavor.
- We often see parents, for their own convenience, who give a younger child living nearby a power of attorney. The child may not seek it and may even consider it a burden.
- Joseph was the next to youngest son. Older children are often viewed as able to take care of themselves while younger ones are babied, and bullied. Birth order was not Joseph’s fault.
- At age 17, Joseph was too naïve to know how to neutralize his other brothers’ jealousy.
Our Ellie had it right: The brothers should have been accountable for their actions. Joseph should not have flaunted his favored status. Jacob should have realized his actions were hurting all his children.
The good news: Each player in the cycle – all alone – has the power to change it. It begins with awareness and apology. When one sees the dynamic and changes his/her own behavior, the cycle can end.
Beyond Dispute Associates
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.