Past a first impression
This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
- Genesis 37:2
We’re kicking off our fall with a series from the life of Joseph: Meant for Good. And today’s passage gives us a glimpse into Joseph’s family situation and character as his story begins.
Joseph’s father was the trickster who wrestled with God, Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. Joseph had a huge and complicated family: his mother died giving birth to his brother, he had 11 half-brothers by 3 other women, and his father played favorites … with both wives and children.
Joseph’s immaturity shows up throughout the beginning of his story, revealed as he crashes against the rocky relationships that ring his family tree.
In today’s passage, he’s a teenage tattletale. As the story progresses this week, we’ll see him flaunting his father’s symbols of favoritism and taunting his family with his God-given dreams. He doesn’t make a positive first impression.
First impressions are lasting impressions. In Laszlo Bock’s Work Rules! he discusses research that indicates that job interviewers make up their minds about candidates in the first 20 seconds of the interview. But people can surprise us. There may be more to them than we see at first. And they can mature, grow, and change.
We can’t rid ourselves of our automatic habit of capturing first impressions as we meet new people, but we can cultivate habits of attention that allow us to look beyond those initial judgements. When we do that, we connect more deeply with the heart of God, who doesn’t not judge by outward appearances or a worldly point of view, but get to know what’s in people’s hearts … who they really are.
When have you ever looked past a first impression to make a deeper connection with someone? What disciplines or practices help you do this?