Genesis 31: 36 – 55 – AN EXIT INTERVIEW WITH STYLE
He could have said so much more. I wanted him to say something like “You’re a backstabbing, condescending, conniving, manipulative bully! You’re a pushy, controlling, judgmental, nit-picking, fault-finding, blame-shifting, double-crossing, hypocritical, egotistical, self-centred, self-righteous, irrational, unreasonable … employer!” but Jacob is not into name-calling.
- AVOID NAME CALLING
Name-calling is the last resort of insecure people trying to acquire a psychological advantage. Jacob, however, is assertive without being offensive. Quite an art.
Normally an exit interview tries to get to the bottom of why you are leaving your job, your concerns, your suggestions, how you feel, your frustrations about how you were managed, your expectations, and addresses examples of discrimination or harassment. But how do you confront a bully like Laban at an exit interview if name-calling isn’t an option? I am amazed at Jacob’s control.
- BE HONEST AND ASSERTIVE
Although Jacob becomes very angry, he keeps it under control and he challenges Laban. He wants all those with Laban to see this bully for who he is. “What’s my crime?” he demands. “What have I done wrong to make you chase after me as though I were a criminal?” (Genesis 31:36 NLT). Jacob lays it on the line. Laban has accused him of kidnapping his daughters and stealing his household gods with absolutely no proof. He has attacked his integrity and Jacob refuses to be walked over.
No-one can make you feel inferior without your approval. An Exit Interview is an opportunity to be assertive. Assertive people express their thoughts and feelings and questions. They keep their anger under control and express honestly how they feel. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT, NIV and MSG) says “In your anger, do not sin … don’t sin by letting anger control you … don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry … Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”
- HAVE WITNESSES
“You have rummaged through everything I own. Now show me what you found that belongs to you! Set it out here in front of us, BEFORE OUR RELATIVES, FOR ALL TO SEE. Let them judge between us!” (Genesis 31:37 NLT)
That’s the beauty of an Exit Interview. Before witnesses you can express objectively what has influenced your decision to leave. When we remain silent, we forego the chance for the organisation to evaluate their position and bear witness to what has happened.
- STICK TO THE FACTS
He states his case and says in effect. “I’ve been a virtual slave for you for 20 years. You demanded obedience in return for advancement and success but you only kept your promises if it was to your advantage, changing my wages 10 times.” Laban’s self-serving manipulative tactics are out in the open. No more white lies, sneaky moves for Jacob. Finally he is learning the power of honesty. As he relates the facts he lays a foundation for the possibility of change in Laban’s business dealings.
The facts become like a declaration to the devil and in effect Jacob is saying, “You have interfered in my life for long enough! The long meaningless hours of meticulous labour without any recognition are over! You can no longer dictate your unrealistic terms! You can no longer decide my future because your tyranny is now a part of my past! I have sacrificed enough! My ambitions to fulfil God’s purposes for my life will no longer be squashed! I am no longer a part of your empire building efforts!” (Genesis 31:39-41).
- CUT YOUR TIES
Making a particular choice means rejecting other possible choices. The truth for Jacob was that a choice towards God meant a choice to escape from Laban.
“In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why He appeared to you last night and rebuked you!” (Genesis 31:42 NLT). He blurts it all out. I have a new boss! Good on you Jacob! He cuts his ties with Laban and declares his allegiance to God. Cutting Laban out of his life is not so much showing disrespect to Laban but it is an expression of respect for God. He’s made a good choice.
Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) says “… For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?””
Being honest and assertive, having witnesses, sticking to the facts, and cutting your ties helps greatly. But wrapping up the interview is perhaps the most delicate conversation of all.
- SEEK TO MAKE AN AGREEMENT
Jacob and his family are leaving and Laban knows that God will not allow him to harm them. He replies to Jacob with a true and false test, “These women are my daughters, (True) these children are my grandchildren (True), and these flocks are my flocks (False!) — in fact, everything you see is mine (False!). But what can I do now about my daughters and their children? (True!)”.
The arrogance of his nature defines him. He has felt superior to Jacob all these years and now he barely saves face as he stumbles over his words with a frantic attempt to maintain his power.
Laban still doesn’t admit that Jacob has a right to anything. He believes his own lies and refuses to admit that he is wrong. He remains territorial, seeking to protect what he still considers to be his. If God had not spoken to him, he would probably have harmed them and taken Jacob’s flocks from him. He admits he can do nothing. His hands are tied (Genesis 31:43). He says “So come, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and it will be a witness to our commitment” (Genesis 31:44 NLT).
Be careful Jacob; before you shake hands with this charlatan, make sure you know what you are doing. Before you sit down and share the covenant meal, make sure it won’t be your last one. Before you set up a monument and collect boundary markers, make sure your livestock are on your side. In fact start counting your livestock to see if they are still there! There’s a sacrifice in making any kind of agreement with someone like Laban.
You can’t make a deal with the devil, but in this case, since God has already bound Laban’s ability to bring harm to Jacob, the covenant is a declaration of grace to Laban. Psalms 34:14 (NLT) says “Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”
Laban wants to protect himself. He doesn’t want Jacob returning to Haran with an army to levy revenge. “See this pile of stones,” Laban continues, “and see this monument I have set between us. They stand between us as witnesses of our vows. I will never pass this pile of stones to harm you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me” (Genesis 31:51-52).
- REFUSE TO TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY
Laban can’t help himself. Laban adds a clause to the Exit Agreement that insinuates that Jacob is the reason that such a covenant must be made, not him. He says
“If you mistreat my daughters or if you marry other wives, God will see it even if no one else does. He is a witness to this covenant between us … I call on the God of our ancestors—the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of my grandfather Nahor—to serve as a judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath before the fearsome God of his father, Isaac, to respect the boundary line” (Genesis 31:50-53 NLT).
Subtly, Laban implies that Jacob cannot be trusted to keep the peace between them and that he cannot be trusted to treat his wives well; that he could abandon them for other wives. As if Jacob needed boundaries on the way he treated his wives! It was Laban who sold them like slaves to Jacob without any dowry! Jacob initially only wanted to marry Rachel!
But it’s not worth getting defensive over these subtle slurs on Jacob’s character. In the end they are inconsequential details which will have no effect on the future. Don Miguel Ruis says “There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you refuse to take things personally.”
Laban doesn’t have his household gods anymore so this forces him to call on the God of Abraham. Hedging his bets, Laban says, “May the Lord keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this covenant when we are out of each other’s sight” (Genesis 31:49 NLT).
Laban implies that Jacob needs to be watched. The “Mizpah Benediction” is Laban at his hypocritical best and not a form of blessing so much as a standoff designed to protect him. But he is right; God is the lookout from the watchtower, guarding the dividing line, the boundary, with a border protection policy that guarantees Jacob’s destiny.
In generosity and faith Jacob offers a sacrifice and they have a covenant feast. Talk about preparing a table in the presence of his enemies (Genesis 31:54).
The next morning, Laban gets up early and he kisses his grandchildren and his daughters and blesses them. Then he leaves and returns home (Genesis 31:55) and Laban finally becomes a figure in Jacob’s past.
This Exit Interview goes well; no name calling or defensive pettiness on Jacob’s part, just assertive, honest disclosure for all to see.
Jesus invites us to make a covenant with Him after the Exit Interview from Satan’s kingdom. He offers forgiveness and peace with God by believing in Him. Our destiny is found in the promises of God in the Gospel of Peace.
Hebrews 9:12-22 (NLT) says “… Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why He is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed … Then He said, “This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you” … For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT) says “Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, … ratified an eternal covenant with His blood — may He equip you with all you need for doing His will …”