One of the biggest complaints of people living in societies where discrimination is institutionalized and has become the law of the land is how impossible it is to rise above. They rightfully talk about the lack of access to jobs, opportunities, healthcare, and upward social mobility. People of “color” are unlikely to be appointed to occupy a certain position. In some countries, if you are from a minority ethnic group, you can never occupy certain positions.
It is not easy to overcome institutionalized discrimination, but Joseph’s life demonstrates that it is possible. Instead of focusing on what is being done against you and all the roadblocks that you have to overcome, focus on discovering your gift and perfecting it. As idealistic as this may sound, this is the only hope that we have to defeat such hatred, ignorance, and bigotry. You cannot win this war by complaining and letting the action of others push you into anger and self-pity.
Joseph had every opportunity to complain about the Egyptian society, the discrimination, and the oppression of slaves that was entrenched in that society.
He could have bemoaned the lack of opportunities and upward social mobility, but he chose to focus on what he could bring to the table. He focused on what he had, not what he didn’t have.
This approach is counterintuitive, but therein lies the true power for holistic transformation.
When we focus on doing what we can and get better at it, eventually, doors will open. It takes time and a lot of work to get good at what you have been ordained to do.
Part of the issue we have today is that most people believe the wrong things about them and as a result, blame other people for their predicament. When individuals begin to walk in the truth by rejecting the lies that have been fed to them, about who they are and what they can or cannot do, nothing— not even institutionalized discrimination—will be able to stop them.
If you doubt what I just said, ask Nelson Mandela who, after 27 years in prison, oversaw the dismantling of an oppressive apartheid regime that believed dark-skinned South Africans could not participate in government, even though they were the majority of the population.
There is one other thing that enabled Joseph to overcome institutionalized discrimination in Egypt. It is written:
By faith, Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. Hebrews 11:22 (NKJV)
Joseph was a person of faith, and this enabled him to see the future. This unique perspective of seeing the bigger picture meant that Joseph was able to see through the present limitations that were surrounding him.
Without faith, love, and hope, we are all doomed because these are the qualities that can change hearts and keep us going, even when the hearts have not yet been changed.
While it is important and necessary to dismantle institutionalized discrimination, you do not have to wait for this to happen for you to walk in your calling.
Joseph understood that being in Egypt was not the final destination and that God had a bigger and better plan.
Do you see the bigger picture? There are many things about your life that you had no control over, and it is going to take faith in God for you to understand how to navigate your way forward.
For example, you did not choose your parents, when and where to be born. You were not consulted about the color of your skin or the social class in which you were born. Therefore, do not let anybody tell you that any of these things that you did not choose can stop you.
The things that can stop you are the choices you make and what you believe about yourself and your abilities.
Have faith that God will perfect His plan for your life by making use of you as you are. You do not need to change your ethnicity or skin color to fulfill your destiny. This is ground zero if you want to rise above institutionalized discrimination.
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