How A Young Bible Character Overcame Sexual Harassment
Generally, males complaining of sexual harassment in the workplace are not taken seriously.
In 2010, a male worker reported to four managers that a female married co-worker continually made advances toward him. His reports went unheeded. The company’s excuse was that most men welcome such attention from females.
However, there are some good men who do not engage in the folly of "most men." They have made the decision to live with integrity, respecting themselves and respecting others. Such men can learn from Joseph, the Hebrew young man, how to handle sexual harassment from women in general, and specifically from women in authority over them.
Joseph entered Potiphar's house in his late teens, and was soon entrusted with the position of chief of staff. He had a strikingly handsome face on a well-built muscular body. He also had a godly disposition and was successful in every project he undertook.
But where Potiphar saw a leader, his wife saw a lover. Day by day, her lust gained control until she began to pressure Joseph. In her defense, she was patient. It took about ten years before she made her move.
Joseph made five very wise decisions, which although they did not prevent an arrest, made him escape the guilty verdict.
(1) Practice Self-Control
There were two reasons which might have made it seem reasonable for Joseph to yield to temptation.
- He did not make the advance; the woman did.
- She was in a position of authority, and could recommend him to her husband for a promotion if he pleased her; or she could influence her husband against the young man if he resisted.
Neither of these reasonable arguments caused Joseph to lose his self-control. He knew from the start that her suggestion was inappropriate, and he refused. He slipped out of his shirt when Potiphar’s wife grabbed him. He escaped without his clothing, but with his integrity in tact.
(2) Count the Cost
Participating in inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace can lead to self-destruction in a man's career and personal life.
- Is it worth destroying a working relationship with the woman (co-worker or owner), and with the entire company when the news spread?
- How long might he be expected to keep the affair going in exchange for a promise that she will protect him, if and when it is discovered?
- How will it affect his conscience, knowing that he is indulging in physical intimacy with the wife of some other man?
- Does he think about how it affects his sense of worth, trust and responsibility?
One day, when Potiphar's wife and Joseph were alone, she actually grabbed him. Whether or not he surrendered to the temptation, his life would change forever, but wouldn’t it be better for him if his integrity remained in tact?
(3) Remember the Dream
Joseph had several dreams predicting that he would become a leader. His brothers hated him for his dreams and they tried to kill him, hoping to get rid of his ambition. As an afterthought they sold him into slavery instead, and that is how he happened to be in Potiphar’s house. Through it all, he kept alive his dream of being a leader.
Young people usually have dreams about their future. Focusing on their dreams will help them resist invitations to activities which might hinder their purpose. They will ask themselves questions like the following:
- What are the chances that this sexual tryst could ruin my dream for good?
- How many stories have I heard of students who were distracted from their dream by participation in these kind of encounters?
- Which is more beneficial? This distraction or pursuit of my dream?
For the wise, those thoughts can supply the energy to break loose and escape.
(4) Know When To Run
It is not a shame to run away from danger. Joseph ran away leaving his shirt in the hand of his boss’s wife. It was his way of letting her know that the power of her social position did not have power over him. Later, he would pay for embarrassing her, but at the moment he made his point forcefully.
When a young man’s ego gets in the way, he might do stupid things like staying around to prove that he is invincible; but when a mad bull is chasing a man, that is not the time for him to prove his strength.
Potiphar’s wife began to scream and when the crowd gathered, she accused Joseph of forcing himself on her. Unfortunately, repercussions like this occur. Most often, the judgment favors the more popular person since both accuse each other.
So Joseph lost his job and the trust and respect of his boss; but years later, he would gain the applause he deserved for running away from sexual harassment by a seductive woman in the workplace.
(5) Focus on the Future
Which of these bits of advice is most likely to help the young man resist temptation?
Joseph, unfortunately, was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. He remained lovable and trustworthy. Soon, the chief jailer was impressed like Potiphar was with Joseph, and allowed him to supervise all the other prisoners.
He interpreted dreams for the king’s baker and the king’s butler who were also imprisoned for offending their royal boss. His breakthrough came when he interpreted the king’s dream. In the king's employment, he climbed up the success ladder as he had done in Potiphar’s house.
Eventually, Joseph regained his position of command—not in Potiphar’s house, but in the entire land of Egypt. How do you like that, Mrs. Potiphar?
Could his story have any happier ending if he had given in to her suggestion? Let that be an encouragement for all the Josephs who dare to do the right thing.
The story of Joseph in Potiphar’s house is found in the Bible (Genesis Chapters 37 and 39 through chapter 50).
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© 2012 Dora Weithers