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Sunday, April 10, 2011

No Slaves!

Those of us of the Jewish persuasion will be celebrating Passover next weekend.  It celebrates the Jews' freedom from slavery in Egypt, and departure from Egypt to Israel.

What does that mean for us?  Perhaps we may have felt "enslaved" by something in our own lives.  Maybe we've allowed somebody, without right or authority, to erase our individuality, and invalidate who we are as men.  Maybe we've abdicated whatever authority we once had to allow someone else to be our "taskmasters," and to use us for their sole benefit.

Moses started out using respectful diplomacy to free the slaves.  When that didn't work, he had to resort to the old stick/snake routine -- also ignored by Pharaoh.  Even when G-D had his back, and employed Ten Plauges to systematically destroy a mighty empire's agriculture and economy, and then massacred the entire next generation of primogeniture, this ruler was even more stubborn that his most recent successor.  It was only when Pharoah realized that most of his labor force was escaping that he acted, and it resulted in a massacre of his best soldiers. 

Many of us can't rely on the Supreme Being to take that kind of action against our taskmasters -- He's far more subtle now.  But that's probably because He expects us to take action for ourselves.  Back in those days, He was not universally accepted as the one true G-D, and had to compete with the likes of Isis and Osiris to get the Egyptians' attention.  That's why He resorted to drastic measures to make His will known.  Now that everybody knows who He is, in one form or another, He does not center major disasters against one individual ruler -- better to just let NATO do that!

Here's what we can do though:

(1)  Set BOUNDARIES.  The Egyptian taskmasters didn't have boundaries when exhorting the slaves to tote that barge, lift that bale, and shine that shoe -- when Pharoah said, build that pyramid, he meant it!  In real life, however, unless someone is paying your salary, it's actually OK to say "no."  It's OK to say, "I can't do that right now."  Or "I'm sorry, but I really don't have time."  Come to think of it, even if someone is paying your salary, if you can respectfully explain to your superior that there will be more difficulties in completing a task than may have been originally thought, please do so.  It's far better to let them know what obstacles there may be than allow them to infer that there are none.

(2)  Set LIMITS.  It's OK to be flexible, and somewhat selfless.  Some may find it admirable.  But that doesn't mean you give away the farm!  You still have to keep your dignity and self-respect.  Being generous and respectful is fine, but being a sychophantic, subhuman, co-dependent, soul-less, loser who can't think or speak unless someone else says you can is NOT!!!!! 

(3)  Don't be AFRAID when there's no reason to be.  Maybe you're the type of guy who doesn't like conflict, and will make concessions simply to avoid it.  Let's face fact, one big reason why you're doing this is fear of the taskmaster's reaction.  Maybe they'll yell at you?  Maybe they'll bully you more?  Maybe they'll take something away from you that you need?

Step back and ask yourself -- how did this person get this much POWER over me to begin with?  And what can I do to get it BACK?  It's a lot harder to get the power back once they have it, but it can be done.  Just stop kowtowing to them, and they'll get the idea that they can't rule you anymore.  Many of these people won't give up the fight right away, because they think that bullying others is normal behavior, but they're not stupid.  If they don't have your life or your career in their hands, you're not stuck with taking this nonsense from them.  If they're going to withhold money or a gift from you if you don't suck up to them, then let them keep it.  Why should your self-respect be bought and sold? 

In other words, if the consequences are far less severe than these taskmasters make them seem, there's nothing to fear.  When you start getting afraid, however, you immobilize yourself.  You give them a green light to walk all over you, because you're not giving them a reason to stop.  There should be a real and valid reason to have that kind of fear of someone -- quite often, these fears are completely unfounded.  Recognize this, and lose the fear!

Just take a few steps like the above, and you'll be celebrating your own freedom from slavery.  Next Year In Jerusalem!