Reading: Ask for a lesser commitment you know they will succeed at
STEP THREE: Commitment - Do it!
Philemon 1:22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
5.Ask for a lesser commitment you know they will succeed at.
I live on a lake in the state of Michigan and the ice just melted off it about a month ago. That means the first swim of the new year is just around the corner. I love water, but I don't like the initial getting in. By mid-summer, I just jump in with one plunge. But in the spring, I inch in.
That is what Paul is doing here with Philemon. He is inching into the water. Paul wants something from Philemon. And for the first21 verses Paul only hints at what he wants.
Hint One: Paul would love it if Philemon would allow Onesimus to stay and serve Paul in his hour of need while under house arrest.
Hint Two: Paul would be pleased if Philemon would forgive Onesimus for running away.
Hint Three: Paul would be happy if Philemon would treat Onesimus, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.
Finally, in verse 22, Paul makes a straightforward ask - that Philemon would allow Paul to stay at his house if and when Paul ever got to Colossi.
That's it? The big ask is for free lodging?
Asking is hard for most people. It's hard for a few reasons.
One, asking puts the asker in the "I am needy” chair. We like to be self-reliant.
Two, if the request is granted, then there is a debt owed. We have already talked about how most people hate to be in debt.
Three, asking puts the person being asked in a possibly uncomfortable bind. If the person being asked does not want to say yes to the request, they may squirm and try to come up with excuses to say no. All of this is very uncomfortable.
Four, the asker has no idea if the one being asked will say yes or no. That uncertainty is enough to make many people not bother asking.
Five, the ask may be turned down, and who likes the sense of rejection.
And finally, six, if the ask is turned down, how does that affect the relationship? Should both parties involved pretend this never happened? Do they get mad and say something? Does the asker quietly vow never to help this person out if ever there is an opportunity? Do they forgive and forget?
So there is a lot at stake when you ask somebody for something.
Now, as you are thinking about this, what might make the ask easier to do? By now I hope you can guess it.
The ask is infinitely easier the better the relationship. If I ask my brother if I can camp out at his house for a day or two, I can do so with no anxiety whatsoever. I have a positive, long history with him. I know what the answer will be.
But what if I ask to borrow $50,000 from him? Well, I'm not sure about this one. I don't know if he has the money or what such a commitment would do to his plans or what his wife would think. So is there a better place to start than asking for $50,000 from him?
How about a lesser commitment?
It might go something like this. "Hey, I need to borrow $50,000 (for some particular reason), and I am not sure what you could do, but could you, at least, do $1,000?”
See I know he can do $1,000 and would do so without thinking about it. So I am starting with an ask I know he can do. But I have hinted at what I want, haven't I?
He will think about it. He will see what he can do. I will have successfully motivated him to give me all the consideration that he can. He will want to do his best for me.
Now, if in the end he only gives me $1,000, I will be satisfied. Is this all I was hoping for from him? No. But it is enough to keep a positive relationship building. But maybe he can help with more. He will try to do all he can for me.
Why does this work? Let's think about this. The one asking has been dealing with a problem for an extended period. He or she has thought of and discarded many possible solutions.Finally, a real solution is thought of which involves an ask. The asker thinks about how he might ask. He prays about how he might ask. He rehearses the ask. And finally, he delivers the ask.
The one being asked has not been struggling with this problem, and perhaps knows nothing about it. The asker shows up on thedoorstep of the one being asked and just blurts out the problem. The one being asked has not been thinking about the asker's problem. He or she has not had time to think about this problem.
People need time to understand a problem that has just presented itself. They need time to decide on whether or not they want to adopt the newly presented problem as their problem (in effect, when you ask something of someone you are giving them your problem). They will want to think about all the possible solutions. And they will need to come to the same conclusion that the asker did regarding the solution.
So the strategy that Paul employs with Philemon is to make a small ask that buys the time that the one being asked will need to consider in order to make a larger commitment.
Okay, doesn't this sound like manipulation? Maybe. But manipulation is a word we attach to underhanded behavior that tricks or forces people to do what they wouldn't otherwise do.
Paul is not trying to trick Philemon. He is trying to be respectful of the process that is needed for someone to do something they have not had time to think about.
Philemon 1:22And one thing
more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in
answer to your prayers.
Not only does Paul expect the best regarding the whole "Onesimus” question, but he also is not shy about asking for a particular favor. On what basis could Paul be so bold?
Notice he assumes Philemon is praying for him, and Paul lets Philemon know that he, Paul, understands this. Do you expect the people in your life to pray for you?
How might you remind them of this expectation?
Paul asks specifically here for something that he knows Philemon can easily do. How does asking for a little thing help in the asking of a big thing?
Can you think of a time you did this?
Can you think of an ask that you are reluctant to make? Why are you unwilling to make this ask?
If you were able to think of an ask that you are reluctant to make, can you think of a lesser ask that would take away your reluctance?