At Morning Prayer at St. Benedict’s yesterday morning, the reading was the passage in Genesis 39 in which the wife of Joseph’s master in Egypt attempt to seduce Joseph.
After repeated efforts to get Joseph to “lie with” her, she accosts him one day and grabs hold of his cloak. Leaving his cloak with her, Joseph runs away. At this, she cries out to the servants accusing Joseph of trying to seduce her, with the result the Joseph is thrown in prison.
Although in this passage we are not told whether Joseph made any protestations of his innocence – all we hear is that as a result of the wife’s accusation he is put in prison – as I listened what came crossed my mind was that any effort to defend himself would have been futile. Joseph was the slave, the lesser. The wife was in the superior position. Nothing Joseph said would have made the slightest difference.
As that thought crossed my mind, I could feel the injusice, but more, the feeling of frustration that Joseph must have felt. As I relfected on it later, I realized that Joseph’s is the frustration anyone in a marginalized, minority, or otherwise subortindate position feels when confronted with someone whose superior position (whatever the source of the superiority) allows them to run roughshod over them. More broadly, it is the frustration anyone feels when, for whatever reason, they are not being heard.
Most of us don’t run around making false accusations against others. But I suspect there are some people we listen to less carefully or less open-mindedly than we do to others. Some people we dismiss because of something about them that makes them other than us. If we can feel something of Joseph’s feeling of injustice and frustration in this incident, perhaps we can be more sensitive to those who, for one reason or another, struggle to be heard – by us and by others.