The Art of Connecting: Win-win...the only way to play - Part 3

Philemon 8–11

Most of us have a private spot somewhere around the house where we keep letters from the past. Perhaps a letter of affirmation or a letter of apology written in days gone by from someone dear to our heart. Or, perhaps, an old love letter that has yellowed and grown tattered by the years and is stuck back in a dresser drawer. Some of us even frame letters from prominent people and display them on our office walls. I am thankful we are in possession of a copy of this two-thousand year old letter to Philemon preserved for all posterity. It is a case study in the art of connecting, managing our interpersonal relationships. After all, this is the secret to success in our home life, our work life, and in the social arena as well.

This ancient letter under consideration is extremely practical in the “how-to’s” of developing and maintaining productive relationships with others. We have already examined the importance of getting off to a good start through affirmation. A pat on the back has a disarming effect. Now, this master motivator of men builds upon his foundation by showing the importance of what many are calling today the “win-win” philosophy of relationships. His letter to Philemon continues, “I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love…formerly he (Onesimus) was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me” (Philem. 8–11). Paul appeals to his friend on the basis of an ongoing relationship in which there will be no losers. Everyone can win and prosper. Playing win-win with others in the game of life is the only way to play.

Competition

Relationships take on many different forms and sizes. Some relationships are built upon competition. This type relationship has been popularly coined a win-lose relationship. That is, some will only stay in a relationship where they always win and the other person always loses. “Bully Bob” plays the game of life on this particular turf. As long as he is always on top, always the star attraction on center stage and always in control he will continue in a relationship. But let the other party win just once and the relationship is in serious trouble. Bully Bob has to win every argument and always be right. In fact, it is not even enough that he always wins, he is not fully content unless the other side loses. Have you ever tried to relate to someone like Bully Bob who always has to win at someone else’s expense? He is always in competition.

Why won’t relationships based upon competition work in the long run? It is because everyone involved eventually ends up losing. Take, for example, a husband and a wife in a competitive win-lose relationship. He constantly orders her around the house. He coerces and controls. After a while, resentment begins to take root and inevitably reaches a boiling point. All these years he thinks he has won. But he wakes up one day only to find she has finally had enough and she leaves never to return. And, in the end, they both end up losing!

Need another example? Take Bully Bob’s relationship with his son. Since he only knows how to play win-lose he keeps his thumb on the boy. He manipulates, controls, gives orders and even uses blackmail with the use of the car. Resentment builds in the lad with every passing year of adolescence. As soon as the son is old enough to leave home he hits the door, never comes back and seldom calls. Tragically, it is not uncommon for him to spend a lifetime without any relationship with his dad. They both end up in the losers column because Bully Bob never realized that a relationship built on competition will not produce any winners in the long run.

Bully Bob meets the same tragic end in the business world. He is a salesman who never lets his purchaser get a “good deal”. He doesn’t think he has done his job unless he wins and his customer loses. He jacks up his wholesale prices and after awhile leaves his customer with such a low profit margin that he is forced out of business. Thus, when all is said and done, once again they both end up losing. A lot of men and women try to relate to others through competition. But the win-lose approach is no way to play the game. When the final whistle sounds everyone ends up a loser!

Compromise

Some relationships are built upon compromise. This type connection could be referred to as a lose-win relationship. “Loser Larry” tries to relate to others on this playing field. He is the fellow with the martyr’s complex. He possesses such damaged self-esteem and low self-worth that he feels the only way he can maintain a relationship with someone is to always put himself down and let the other person win. Have you ever known anyone like Loser Larry? He is to be pitied. He is always walking around on egg shells artificially patting the other party on the back and constantly lifting him up in the hope that, in turn, he will then be accepted. He is a compromiser.

Why won’t relationships built and based upon compromise, the lose-win philosophy, produce long term, lasting results? Again, it is because, in the end, everyone involved ends up losing. Loser Larry gives the store away until there is nothing left. And in the process, his “friends” lose all respect for him and they eventually discover that his acquaintance has only given them a false sense of self-worth. Relationships based on competition or compromise have never produced a real winner in the game of life.

Complacency

Other relationships are built upon complacency. These are commonly referred to as lose-lose relationships. “Miserable Marvin” can be found on this court. He is the guy who is more interested in seeing you lose than seeing himself win. Yes, misery loves company. He is complacent. He never puts anything into a relationship and never expects anything out of one. Miserable Marvin in basically a loser like Larry Loser. However, what makes him different is that he will only relate to you as long as you are a loser too. As soon as some good fortune comes your way he will cut you off at the pass. “Miserable” is not his middle name, it is his first name. Sadly, he has lost in life and his low level of self-confidence only enables him to find a comfort level with other losers. Thus, he spends his life playing lose-lose.

Why won’t relationships based on complacency work in the long run? You guessed it! Everyone eventually ends up losing. Life loses its spirit of conquest and challenge. Complacency sets in and “iron no longer sharpens iron”. Relationships built upon complacency never produce any real winners in the game of life.

Capitulation

There are other relationships which are built upon capitulation. “Flake-out Fred” plays on this field. He is a quitter. If things don’t go his way he takes his ball and goes home. He quits. He capitulates. He gets started but then he stops. Have you seen him around? He has been involved in a hundred different relationships and every new one is “the one” he has been waiting for so long. He plunges into it with uncontrolled enthusiasm…for a few days or weeks…and then he quits and immediately starts looking for the next one. He is a flake. It is easier for him to just walk away and quit than to hang in there and make it work. Flake-out Fred usually preys relationally on the Loser Linda’s of life, those who like to play lose-win. Relationships based upon capitulation never produce lasting results. Once again, the reason is obvious — everyone ends up losing.

Cancellation

A fifth way people seek to play the relationship game is on the field of cancellation. Here we find “Absent Alan”. He simply forfeits! He never shows up and the relationship never gets off the ground. Actually, there is no relationship because Absent Alan forfeits the game. Do you know him? He is the guy who is totally passive. For whatever reason, he never makes the slightest effort to begin a relationship. Obviously, it is then impossible to sustain one since it has never been started in the first place. Absent Alan never wins because he never puts on the uniform and takes the field. And sadly, he keeps others from winning in the process. Cancellation gets us nowhere in the game of life.

Cooperation

Is there a better way than basing relationships on competition (win-lose), compromise (lose-win), complacency (lose-lose), capitulation (quitting) or cancellation (forfeiting)? Indeed there is! Life’s most positive and productive relationships are built upon cooperation. This is what we call a win-win relationship. “Wise William” knows how to play this game. Paul was the captain of this team and the game plan is woven throughout the fabric of the letter to Philemon. Win-win relationships are mutually beneficial. Wise William knows that when the other party wins in a relationship he ends up winning too. Paul said it…to Philemon, about Onesimus… “He has become useful both to you and to me.”

Have you ever been acquainted with anyone like Wise William? He is the man who wins himself by seeing others win. As a husband, Wise William is not in competition with his wife. He seeks the best for her because he is smart enough to realize when she wins and is happy, he ends up a winner too. As a dad, he always wants the best for his son. He knows that if junior has a positive self-image and wins in the game of life, he will share in that victory as though it were his own and he will be a winner as a dad. Over at the office, Wise William is the businessman who wants his customers to win so he can stay in business himself. The most productive friendships in life are win-win relationships based upon cooperation.

Cooperation works! It is the only game plan for the game of life. It is the only type of interpersonal relationship that ends up with everyone who plays on the winning team. There are no losers. In every other type relationship everyone ends up an eventual loser. Not so in the game of win-win. Cooperation is the key to victory and success. For, at the end of the game of interpersonal relationships, if we do not both win, we lose. Win-win is the only realistic approach to mutually beneficial friendships. This is true whether you are a housewife at the kitchen table, an executive at the conference table or a diplomat at the peace table. Let Wise William put you on his team and you will be well on your way to the winner’s stand.

Now, how do we play the game? Paul reveals four critical steps to playing win-win in his letter to Philemon. Step one: Be sensitive. Step two: Be submissive. Step three: Be supportive. Step four: Be sensible. We will see more about this four step approach in some detail in a moment. But first, a question — How does all of this work?

Relations based upon competition (win-lose) do not get very far before they eventually disintegrate. Zaccheus tried to play this game. Most of us remember his story from childhood. He was a rip-off and played win-lose with everyone in Jericho. But one day he saw the light and began to play win-win. It gave him a new lease on life. He began to develop more productive relationships than anyone in town. He restored what he had cheated from others and ended up being the most popular guy at the party.

Relations based upon compromise (lose-win) do not get very far either. the woman of Sychar played that game. She possessed such low self-esteem and such a damaged self-image she thought the only way she could get any attention was to continue in the loser’s bracket while allowing the men of the town to win by using her. But one day she met Jesus of Nazareth at a well and learned how to play win-win. She went back to the very people with whom she had played her games of compromise and introduced them to this One who had changed her life. He spent a couple of days in their village and when He left everyone of them became a winner because of it.

Relations based upon complacency (lose-lose) are equally doomed. The man known only as the “Dying Thief” spent his life playing on this field. Talk about a loser…he wrote the book on it. He lost at life and waited until it was almost too late to do anything about it. But, on a Roman cross of execution outside the city walls of Jerusalem he connected with his Maker and learned how to play a new game. He won! In fact, they both ended up on the winning team.

Relations based upon capitulation are, likewise, headed for defeat. These are the quitters who start and then stop. Elijah of old played on this team. He got off to a great start. He won the big prize on Mount Carmel. The next day he got into an interpersonal relationship spat with a Queen named Jezebel (doesn’t that name bless you?) and he dropped out. He capitulated. He quit. He isolated himself from everyone he knew, sat under a tree alone and started to contemplate suicide. When he got to the end of himself it happened…he met the Lord, learned how to play win-win in life and went from there to the greatest mountain top experiences of his entire career.

Jonah didn’t play any of these relationship games. Cancellation was the name of his game. God wanted to use him to build some relationships in the city of Nineveh. But he didn’t show up. He forfeited. He took off in the opposite direction. However, one day in the belly of a fish he learned how to play win-win and he went to Nineveh and enjoyed incredible results.

The point I am making is that it doesn’t matter how you have played the game thus far, you can get on the winning team today. It is never too late for a new beginning! Jesus of Nazareth is not some musty smelling character from bygone days who is but a figment of the imagination and totally irrelevant to our lives in a twenty-first century world. He is alive and can do for us today what He did for so many back when. Each time He would meet a man or a woman He would place them in a win-win relationship. He walked around lifting people up from their boredom, causing them to feel good about themselves and to begin to positively and productively relate to those around them. Paul got on the team and in his personal letter to Philemon he passes him the ball. He enlightens us to the four steps to win-win relationships. Let’s look at them and learn from them.

Step 1: Be sensitive (Philemon 8)

Sensitivity is essential to all worthwhile relationships. In his letter Paul reminds his friend, “I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do” (Philem. 8). But he is sensitive to the fact that people can not be bullied through coercion or compulsion. The best way is to win them through consideration and cooperation. Learn from Paul. Be sensitive. He is saying, “I could play win-lose with you. I could be bold and give you an order. But I refuse to do it. I want everyone in this relationship to emerge a winner.”

In place of being sensitive in our interpersonal relationships many of us approach the situation with a “drill sergeant” approach. We like to give our orders and watch others squirm and jump. Some actually take pride in this approach and think they are winning along the way. I think Paul actually wrestled with this. The easy thing to do would have been to go ahead and “order” Philemon to receive Onesimus which was, indeed, the right thing to do. But he resisted this approach. There was no command and no coercion. He “appealed on the basis of love” (Philem. 9) with a high level of sensitivity. Had Philemon been ordered and had no say of his own in the matter, what kind of relationship do you think would have developed? It would have been built upon compulsion and coercion, guilt and grudge and would have ultimately resulted in a damaging effect on all the relationships involved.

When sensitivity becomes a lost word in our relational vocabulary we have eyes for only our side of the issue. We seldom try to walk in anyone else’s shoes nor are we sensitive to their needs. Paul is being extremely sensitive to Philemon here. He desires a long-term, continual relationship with his trusted friend. Consequently, he is sensitive enough to realize that although he could get his way with an order, he, like Philemon and Onesimus, would only end up an eventual loser in the end.

Paul does remind Philemon that he could order him to “do what you ought to do” (Philem. 8). This is the end Paul has in mind. That is, for Philemon to simply do what he ought to do about his broken relationship with Onesimus. The question is, “How could this be accomplished?” The answer? Step one: Be sensitive. Paul is not requesting that Onesimus, the runaway rip-off, be exonerated for his past mistakes and previous wrongs without remorse or restitution on his part. He is encouraging Philemon to respond out of a commitment to the win-win principle and simply “do what he ought to do”.

How many of our own interpersonal problems would be solved if each of us would simply do what we ought to do? Paul has encouraged Onesimus, the offending party in the broken relationship, to do what he ought to do. That is, to face up to his wrong and go back to Philemon in genuine remorse asking for forgiveness. Now, Paul is encouraging Philemon, the offended party, to do what he ought to do. That is, receive the repentant Onesimus, in Paul’s words, “No longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother in the Lord” (Philem. 16).

Let’s get up close and personal for just a moment. Is this too much to ask? That we “do what we ought to do”? Are you doing what you ought to do to build positive relationships in your home? At the office? In your social circles? The first step in developing win-win relationships is to be sensitive. Walk in the other person’s shoes for awhile.

Many of us have lived a lifetime with few long-term and lasting interpersonal relationships because of our desire to command or control others. The lack of sensitivity is rampant in all types of relationships today. Anyone in a relationship with someone who only plays win-lose should wake up. If you are becoming involved with someone who wants to command you and control you, you are headed for trouble no matter how good looking he or she may be nor how much money they may have in their account. Be on the lookout for someone who is sensitive. This is the first step in building mutually productive win-win relationships.

Step 2: Be submissive (Philemon 8–9)

A submissive attitude is indispensable to all worthwhile relationships. Paul continues this paragraph on the importance of win-win relationships by saying, “I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love” (Philem. 8–9). We become winners in the game of interpersonal relationships by being submissive. Love always seeks the other person’s highest good. Paul could have called in some chips. He could have exerted his apostolic authority or appealed on the basis of his elder statesmanship and directed Philemon to obey him in the receiving of Onesimus. But Paul was wise in that he knew that lasting relationships are never built upon competition, the win-lose approach. Therefore, he was not only sensitive, but submissive in his appeal.

Hear him say to his friend, “I appeal to you on the basis of love.” Writing in Greek he uses a rather strong word which we translate into our English word, “appeal”. This particular word appears 108 times in the Greek New Testament and is translated in different ways. It is translated “plead” or “strongly urge” or “encourage”. Paul is not barking out orders like a drill sergeant at boot camp. He is asking, appealing, pleading, strongly urging, encouraging his friend, Philemon. He is submissive in his approach.

In our own efforts to win friends and influence people the manner in which we make our particular appeal is of utmost importance. How do you go about winning others to your persuasion? Some of us waste valuable time attempting to appeal to others strictly on the basis of reason. Others make their appeals on the basis of merit, who they are or where they are from. Still others do so on the basis of such things as tenure. Paul teaches us to appeal to others on the basis of “love”. Our English language is so restrictive. The Greeks have several words that can be translated into our English “love”. Paul chose the one that represents the highest level of love. It is best defined as “no matter what someone may do to you by insult or injury, you seek for them only their highest good.” This love is submissive and seeks the other’s best. It is the win-win type.

This is the type love which epitomized Jesus of Nazareth. He could play win-lose with us. He could order us to obey Him. He could pull our strings like a puppeteer to force us to get in step and love Him. But what does He do? He appeals to us on the basis of love. In fact, when the Bible sets out to define Him it simply says, “God is love.” When demonstrated in a win-win fashion, this type of love breaks down barriers and cements relationships. There can be no long-term constructive interpersonal relationships without their being based on an appeal of love.

Think about it. What motivates and appeals to you the most…an order from your superior or an appeal from your superior? For example, take the father who says to his son, “I am telling you right now to get your grades up and that is an order. You have no choice!” What kind of motivating effect do you think that has on the young man? How much better it would be if, in love, the father makes an appeal that results in a win-win situation. And what about husband and wife relationships. The man who orders his wife around loses big-time in the end. Those who appeal to their spouse on the basis of love with a submissive spirit always win at the finish line. And, what about the office? The best of bosses do not order their workers to do this or that. Instead, they appeal with words like, “Let’s see what we can do together to solve the situation in a way that everybody is mutually benefited.”

Love has its own way of finding out what is right and doing it. In fact, it is not a passive word. It is always equated with action. Love is something we do! When we submit to love we “do what we ought to do” much quicker and more completely than when we are forced against our volition to “do what we ought to do.” Cognizant of this, Paul is both sensitive and submissive in appealing to Philemon “on the basis of love”. This is a worthy model for us. We can excel ourselves and motivate others in the process by being sensitive and submissive, not by continuing to insist on our way with a win-lose mentality. There would be so much more harmony in the home and order around the office if men and women would stop trying to control each other and begin appealing to one another on the basis of love. The win-win philosophy produces positive relationships when we are sensitive and submissive.

Step 3: Be supportive (Philemon 10–11)

Mutual support is essential in building lasting friendships. Paul continues playing on the field of win-win relationships by saying, “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains” (Philem. 10). Win-win friendships bring a bonding, a sense of mutual support. By defending our friends we bond ourselves with them. Taking up for one another is a part of the cement of relationships. It is the win-win technique in action. In short, we should be supportive of one another.

Paul’s very characterization of Onesimus shows his unqualified support for him. He calls him, “My own son.” He carefully chooses a Greek word here that is a term of endearment. It means a small child. Thus, Paul is indicating to Philemon that Onesimus, who is on his way home, is still very young in the faith and needs support and love.

Paul is now coming to the point of his letter and he is already nearly half through with it. This is his first mention of Onesimus. Can you picture the wealthy aristocrat, Philemon, as he reads this letter for the first time? He is reading along and liking what he reads. There is a pat on the back in every sentence. He is smiling and feeling pretty good about himself. This is good news. And then a name appears in the middle of the paragraph and leaps off the letter toward him. Onesimus! “That scoundrel!” Well, how would you feel if someone in whom you had placed your trust embezzled your money, left town and was never heard from again? Onesimus! But wait a minute. Paul says, “My son, Onesimus.”What is this? He reads on, “He became my son while I was in chains.” Philemon must have said to himself, “I cannot believe it. It cannot be!”

Do you see what is happening? A broken relationship is about to be mended and the catalyst, Paul, is not only being sensitive and submissive, but supportive as well. And, of both parties involved. He has shown his support for Philemon in his preceding paragraph by saying, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Now, he shows his support for Onesimus by adding, “I appeal to you for my son, Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me” (Philem. 10–11). Paul had shared with Onesimus in prison and was with him when he found a new life and new beginning, when he was “born again.” He was like a spiritual father to Onesimus and therefore, he would stand for him like he would his own son.

Cooperation, win-win, is the only way to play the game of friendship. True friends are not only sensitive and submissive to one another, they are, without question, mutually supportive. Think about your own relationships for a moment. Are you sensitive? Or, do you most generally think only of yourself and what is in the relationship for you? Be honest. Are you submissive? Or, do you generally have to have your own way to be happy? Do you give as much or more than you take in the relationship? Are you supportive? Do your friends and family know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are quick to rise to their defense. Or, do you sometimes let them down? Start playing win-win with others. It is not to late to get in the game. Step one-start being sensitive of other people’s needs and feelings. Step two-start being submissive and stop insisting on your own way all the time. Step three-start being supportive by letting others know you are a faithful friend who can be trusted. There is one final step.

Step 4: Be sensible (Philemon 11–16)

Being sensible, using plain old common sense is vital to positive, productive, interpersonal relationships. Paul concludes his paragraph on the win-win principle by reminding Philemon that, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me” (Philem. 11). What is the best way to play win-win? Just be sensible. If the other party wins in your relationship you win also. One of the reasons so many fail in so many friendships is simply because they are not sensible about them. Some think the only profitable way to play in the game of life is with win-lose relationships. No, Paul is showing us a much better way. He appeals to Philemon to be sensible and realize that although in the past Onesimus didn’t contribute much to the relationship his friendship is now mutually beneficial to them both.

Paul refers to Onesimus’ previous experience as “useless.” Now, there is an understatement. Remember, this was the guy who had ripped him off and then ran off. The Greek word Paul used to describe him as useless is the same word from which we derive our English word, “archaic”. It portrays something or someone who has lost his usefulness and is therefore, unserviceable. Then, on the heels of this honest confession, Paul wrote down two words — but now! Oh, I love those two words… “But now”. He does not try to justify Onesimus’ previous actions. Quite the contrary, he readily admits the guy was useless. But he doesn’t leave it there. He goes on. “But now, he is useful to both of us. It is a win-win situation for all involved!” Now he is useful. When anyone gets connected with his source and comes into a vital personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Onesimus did it does not produce a nebulous, inefficient, ineffective, useless person. It produces people who are “useful” to those around them.

Be sensible. It is time for a word of warning. Some mistake a win-win relationship for what is, in actuality, a win-lose relationship. Take the parent-child relationship, for example. Often when a loving parent executes discipline upon a child the child thinks in the short term and on the basis of a win-lose relationship. But the parent is not attempting to pull rank in a win-lose fashion. He is building a win-win relationship with the child and is looking long term. Loving parents have their child’s end in mind (no pun intended!) and desire them to come out winners. In the end, they want to see their child go through life with respect for authority and become a better and more productive person because of it. What the child may see as a win-lose proposition is in actuality, a win-win. But we must be sensible to see it.

The same sense applies on the football field. When on the practice field the coach is hard-driving and demanding, some of his players might think he is only interested in a win-lose proposition. And they are the losers in the deal. But, all the while, the coach is looking long-term to the championship game several months away and he is a win-win man. He is not pulling rank on his players. He is hard-driving and demanding because he has a dream of winning the championship and seeing his players turn out to be winners themselves. And, if they will be sensible they will see it.

And, what about around the office. Often workers confuse the office manager’s intensity as a win-lose affair when all the while he or she may be reaching out in a win-win way. Good managers are sometimes perceived to be hard-driving when their underlying motive is to motivate the worker to produce more. In so doing the company stays in business and the worker keeps his job. It turns out to be win-win if people have eyes to see it and are sensible about the situation. Being sensible, using good old common sense, is a must in developing positive, productive, interpersonal relationships.

Now, how does this all work? We must be sensible. The art of connecting is very practical. We must have the common sense to see that in win-lose relationships both parties end up losing. There are no winners in the end. However, when we begin to put the win-win principle into play there are no losers in the end. Everyone ends up on the winning team.

How does it work? Look in the home. Here is a husband and a wife in a win-lose relationship. He orders her around. He controls her. He barks out his commands. There eventually comes a day when her resentment reaches a boiling point. He thinks he has been winning all these years by being the “king of his castle”. But she finally finds the courage to walk out the door and she leaves, never to return. And, the end result? They both lose. There are no winners in the game of win-lose.

How different it is for those husbands and wives who play win-win together. Here is a husband who is sensitive to his wife’s needs. He realizes the need of being mutually submissive to one another. He appeals to her on the basis of love. The Bible is on target when it says that love “covers a multitude of sins”. He is also supportive of her and she never has to wonder if he will come to her defense at any issue which might arise. And, he is sensible. Now, how do you think that wife is going to respond to her husband? She has no problem submitting to love because it has her best interest at heart. He wins. She wins. They live happily ever after.

The same approach will work wonders in parent-child relationships. For example, take the father who knows nothing more than playing in a win-lose relationship with his son. He has to win every argument. He has to be right all the time. Thus, he barks out orders to his son, often in the presence of his peers. He controls his life. He makes all his decisions. He keeps his thumb on him and uses a form of parental blackmail to get his way with the lad. Over the years the resentment continues to build and there comes the day when the son leaves home for college. And he leaves home alright…never to come back and seldom to even call during the ensuing years. Both the dad and the boy lose in the relationship when all the while the father was sure he was winning. How much better and more beautiful when a father and his son are in a win-win relationship. It takes place when the father is smart enough to be sensitive, submissive, supportive and sensible enough to discipline his son in love and keep the lines of communication open and clear along the way. They both can end up on the winning team and enjoy a lifetime of positive and productive fellowship.

If these principles are good for marriage, they are also good for management. Think about it. Here is a salesman and a purchaser in a win-lose relationship. The seller tries to always get an unfair edge and he controls the buyer. He jacks up his price. After awhile, the profit margin shrinks, the company goes out of business and the salesman loses the account in the process. What he thought was a win-lose relationship turned out like they always do — a no-win for anyone situation. On the other hand, here is another salesman who plays the win-win game with his account. He is smart enough to look long-term and understand that if the other party stays in business they have to make a profit. Consequently, the wise salesman is sensitive to what is happening with his accounts. He has a genuine interest in how they are doing and not just in how he is doing personally. He is submissive and still believes that “the customer is always right.” He is supportive. And, he is sensible enough to see that he will prosper in direct relationship to his account. He wins when they stay in business, make a profit and win themselves. It is a win-win deal.

In his letter to Philemon, and to us, Paul is calling upon us to be sensible. He is challenging us to have enough sense in our relationships to see that playing win-lose and thinking we are always winning in the process will, in the end, find us on the loser’s heap.

Paul reminds Philemon that Onesimus is now useful “both to you and to me.” There you have it! A win-win relationship that is mutually beneficial. Think about who the winners are in this game. Does Paul win? Yes! He has the joy of being a channel of blessing to get two men he has personally led to faith at different times and in different places back together in a mended relationship. Had he resorted to giving orders instead of appealing in love it would never have happened. Now he savors the love and support of both of them. Yes, he wins!

Does Philemon win? Yes! He gets Onesimus back and this time he is profitable and useful to him. And, he gets him back with repentance and restitution to boot.

Does Onesimus win? Yes! He gets to come home. And what is more he returns, in Paul’s words, “No longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother” (Philem. 16). There are no losers when the game of win-win is played. Do you see it? Win-win relationships are the secret to life. They are obtained and maintained when we are sensitive, submissive, supportive and sensible in our dealings with each other.

Let’s rewind again for a moment and go back to the basic premise of our book. We will never be properly related to others until we are properly related to ourselves and we will never be properly related to ourselves until we are properly related to God. Some have the idea that to put on the uniform of the Christian life is to play on the field of a lose-lose proposition. Ted Turner, television magnate and baseball owner, made headlines with his comment that “Christianity is for losers.” He is not the only one who shares this belief. People who go through life playing win-lose with others think Christianity is about religion. A dead, lifeless and archaic religion at that. And in many places and in many ways it is sadly true. “Religion” has basically been a win-lose game. It has coerced, controlled, oppressed, obsessed and virtually enslaved people through the centuries. It has been at the root of many world conflicts and continues today to be the cause of much confusion in places such as the Middle East.

Paul is not about “religion” in his letter to Philemon. He is about “relationships” and there is a world of difference. Many people misunderstand Jesus of Nazareth for the same reason. He was not about religion. In fact, He openly rebuked its excesses and perversions. He was, and still is today, about relationships. There are only three relationships in life. There is the outward expression, the relationship with others. There is the inward expression, the relationship with self which produces self-esteem and self-worth. And, there is the upward expression, the relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And the only way to play the game is win-win.

How does this eternal connection with Jesus Christ work experientially? He plays win-win in His personal relationships with us. Like Paul, He is, first of all, sensitive. He doesn’t order us nor compel us nor coerce us nor command us to relate positively to Him. He appeals on the basis of love. Secondly, He is submissive. His love for us submitted Himself to a vicarious execution in order to demonstrate His love and make a way out of no way for us. He is also supportive. Like Paul, He will stand by our side and call us His own son. He will never leave us nor forsake us and if we will come into relationship with Him. He will one day stand in support of us before His Father’s throne of judgment. Finally, He is sensible. We should be too. It just makes sense to put our faith and trust in Him. For, until we do we will never know how valuable we are and we will never develop the highest level of self-worth and self-love. And, it is only when we are properly connected with ourselves through finding our identity and self-worth through Christ above that we can live with others in positive and productive interpersonal relationships. Win-win. It is…the only way to play!

Practical pointers:

Remember, it is better to do one chapter of a book than to read a hundred of them. We did not learn to ride a bicycle by reading the manual only. We learned by trial and error. We climbed on and fell off a few times before we learned to ride. We did not learn to play the piano by listening to the teacher play for a half hour each week. We only began to learn when we started pounding out the notes ourselves and missing several along the way. The same holds true in our interpersonal relationships. We have to be vulnerable and take a risk to make them happen. The following are some practical pointers to put into practice with someone this week on the field of the win-win principle.

  1. Be sensitive…Try and put yourself in the other person’s place today. Seek to deal with their struggles, to think like they are thinking. Be sensitive to their particular needs. Do not bully them to your side by coercion, compulsion or command. Win them through consideration and cooperation.
  2. Be submissive…We are not suggesting becoming a doormat here. But it never hurts to lose a few little skirmishes here and there in order to win the war down the road. Resign yourself to the fact that you do not have to win every little argument and point of contention. You might be surprised how this truth could set you free. Be submissive. Begin appealing to others on the basis of love which seeks their highest good. If they win, you win too. And, big time!
  3. Be supportive…Let others know where you stand and leave no doubt in their minds that when the chips are down they can count on you and your support. When the win-win philosophy is applied in our relationships it brings a bonding and a sense of mutual support we never knew existed. Find someone who is down this week and come to their aid with a word of support and encouragement. They will never forget it.
  4. Be sensible…Use some good old common sense in your relationship. Get smart. If the other person is a winner in your relationship, then you win too. Forget forever the erroneous idea that you always have to win and the other party always has to lose for you to be on top of the relationship. Wake up! Be sensible. Win-win is the only way to play the game.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

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