Countless hours in my counseling office involve hearing couples out as they engage in the importance of winning. Initially, each is convinced he or she is “right” and invest their energies in proving their case. Like two attorneys before a judge, they present their cases and await a verdict. At some point, I pose the question: are they competing opponents or a team, equally yoked and motivated to win together? Winning together as a couple presents the “new” dynamic of the win-win. If they can let go of being right, if they can see the other’s point of view, if they can compromise and give a little so that the needs of their partner are met, they both win.
Many times, individuals come into my office, frozen with indecision. If they have been depressed and or anxious for a while, they gaze at two paths, immobilized by fear of what appear to be inevitably dark outcomes. After they feel heard and understood, the question is presented: what if the situations really offer a win-win potential? What good can come from the decision options? Sometimes this shift in perspective unfreezes people and they are able to move forward with hope.
The Apostle Paul, in the first chapter of Philippians, presents another kind of win-win scenario, in the extreme! He looks at the possibilities before him, life and death, and sees their win-win potential:
For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is s more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:21-24)
Once again, the Spirit-transformed heart of Paul pours forth wisdom rooted in agape love. On the one hand, his love for Christ draws him in the direction of yearning to die and go to be with him. On the other hand, he sees the need of those in the church at Philippi and is motivated to see them through to maturity. While he clearly prefers to be with Jesus face to face, his love for Jesus and for the Philippians motivates him equally to stay in the world in order to minister to them. Die and be with Jesus, or live and engage in fruitful labor—a fairly ultimate win-win scenario.
By contrast we focus on winning our arguments with one another and beating one another out in business or even ministry. We see winning as a selfish motivator: I want to win. When we grow to see through our Father’s eyes, when we serve with the hands of the Son, when we share the yearnings of the Holy Spirit, we will be motivated to finish strong, yes, but not alone. We will bring others with us to cross the finish line together. When we do, we will win together. And that’s a win-win outcome!