Sometimes the way we think about things hurts us more than the actual events themselves.
Such is the case in Exodus 1. It starts by sharing the thoughts of the new Egyptian Pharaoh, who says “The Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous, and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country” (verse 10).
Do you see the problem? The new Pharaoh is convinced that, as the leader, his job is to “control” things. Unfortunately, that rarely works.
First of all, the motivation is wrong. Control is almost always fear based, and fear based reactions most often lead in the wrong direction. The Pharaoh feared that this big group of foreigners in his land would side with his enemies, but that fear was completely unfounded.
Maybe the Israelites would have been loyal to Egypt, but, because Pharaoh assumes the worst, he reacts badly.
Out of fear, he put harsh task masters over the Israelites, and makes their lives miserable. In the end, by trying to force his will on the situation, he actually caused the very problem that he was trying to avoid.
Pharaoh turns the Israelites against him and makes them eager to leave the country. Fear-based decisions almost always make things worse.
The other reason control does not work is that control is an illusion! Even if we can manipulate people and circumstances to our liking for a little while, it will not and cannot last.
It is similar to putting a lid on a pot of boiling water. You can keep the steam in for a while, but, eventually, it is coming out, and when it does, it is likely coming out in a big way with a lot of commotion.
Pharaoh found this out the hard way. The more he tried to impose his will and control the Israelites, the stronger and more numerous they became (Exodus 1:12 and 20).
As writer Donald Miller points out, “Even God does try to control people and he is the only one who actually can. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for us.”
I think that he is right!
Instead of telling yourself that it is your job to control or fix everything, maybe you would be better off focusing on what you can control: yourself.
In reality, real and lasting change comes only when we do what we should, and when we treat people they way they should be treated.
Leading by example is the only leadership that works.