Confronting Blind Spots (Insights From Philemon)

The Johari Window is a model by which to gauge how well we know ourselves, and how well others know us. Basically, it breaks down our exterior and interior life into 4 quadrants: Open (the Arena); Hidden (the Façade); Unknown (Here There Be Dragons); an the Blind Spot (Bull in the China Shop).

The Open Quadrant contains areas where who we are is seen and known clearly by ourselves and by others.  This is the ”Are you not entertained?” portion of life. We know who we are and others know who we are, because we show it. There are no secrets here. In the arena, there is nowhere to hide, and we are seen in all our glory or frailty. If our lives are such that we weren’t ashamed if we are an open book, that’s generally a good thing.

However, there is a danger:  We can put too much into the arena. Kids have no filter and it’s cute, but when if an adult would ask you to come into the bathroom and see what their poop looked like, you would think something had gone wrong somewhere. Maturity requires learning how to live the kind of life that can be lived openly and without shame while exercising judgment when it comes to sharing openly and without offense.

The Hidden Quadrant contains areas of who we are that we know and others do not.  Sometimes, that's appropriate. I don't share everything about my marriage with other people. There are some things about my walk with God that are intensely personal . That’s not necessarily bad - some stuff should be private - but if we aren't careful we can become reclusive or hypocritical. We need to find a trustworthy person or an accountability group so that we do not become hypocrites (with a false façade) or a coward (afraid to show someone who we are).

The Unknown Quadrant contains areas of who we are  that are not seen by us or others. Nobody knows how our interior or exterior life will look because we’ve never done something that would trigger a particle kind of response.  There are some unknowns that are just out of our control. Sometimes we, just have to cross some bridges when we get there: Will I be a good parent?  What will my wife and I do when the kids move out? What’s going to happen after high school/college? How will I handle deep grief? What will I do if my faith is shaken?

However, there are some unknowns in life that we can get to know: Could I teach Sunday School to kids? What’s it like to sing karaoke?. If I was honest with my spouse would he or she reject me? Would my home life be better if I didn’t work so much? What would happen if tithed? Some of these unknowns are more important that others – I doubt my final words will be, “I wish I had sung karaoke.” But others are important for getting me out of my comfort zone and building a resume of life experiences. Sometimes, we need to build bridges so we can get there.

The Blind Quadrant contains areas of who we are that are seen by other and not by us. In football, "the blind side" is a reference for how a quarterback can’t see what’s happening behind him when he’s poised to throw. When he gets hit, he gets leveled, because he did not expect to see that coming. There are areas of who we are that, when someone else points them out to us, we can feel blindsided:  

  • “Do you know what you sound like when you talk with your kids?”  
  • “Bill was really hurt by your sarcasm.”  
  • “You know that problem in your marriage that you always blame on your spouse? It’s you.”

Philemon has a blind spot - he doesn’t know that he has sin that needs addressing. Paul needs to speak truth, and that truth needs to be presented very, very carefully. In Paul's letter to Philemon, we  see at least three characteristics of how truth-tellers can speak effectively to those with blind spots.

1) Truth-tellers Affirm (v.4-7)

"I am constantly thanking God for you in my prayers because I keep hearing about your love and faith toward our Lord Jesus and all those set apart for His purposes….Thank You, Father, for Philemon. I pray that as he goes and tells his story of faith, he would tell everyone so that they will know for certain all the good that comes to those who put their trust in the Anointed One….You are out there encouraging and refreshing the hearts of fellow saints with such love, this brings great joy and comfort to me."

Philemon was apparently a wealthy and kind man. He hosted a church in his home. He had earned a reputation for love. Philemon “refreshed the hearts of the saints,” a military metaphor for the rest an army takes while marching toward a war. That’s a solid resume. It’s worth affirming. Don’t forget what God has already done in people. Let them know what you admire before you tell them what you don’t. Paul used this with non-Christians (the philosophers in Athens) and with Christians (like Philemon). He never compromised his message, but that didn’t mean he was an ungracious messenger.

2) Truth Tellers Invite Change (v.8-21)

Paul has to address a sinful attitude in Philemon, but he doesn't want to simply coerce Philemon into outward obedience.  He want Philemon's change of life and heart to be freely chosen. Why? Because that was the approach of Jesus:

  • Jesus didn’t tell the rich young ruler, “Sell your stuff! Do it! Now!” (Matthew 19)
  • Jesus didn’t say, “I will come to you and make you rest!” (Matthew 11)
  •  Jesus didn’t say, “Peter, love me!” (John 21)
  • Jesus didn’t say, “Behold, I batter down the door!” (Revelation 3:20)

Paul didn't say, “Just do it because I say so and God says so!” He wanted Philemon to choose to see, to choose to come into the open. So he wrote this:

"Although I am bold enough in the Anointed, our Liberating King, to insist you do the right thing, instead I choose to appeal to you on account of love… I make this request on behalf of my child, Onesimus, whom I brought to faith during my time in prison. Before, he was useless to you; but now he is useful to both you and me. Listen, I am sending my heart back to you as I send him to stand before you…But I didn’t want to make this decision without asking for your permission. This way, any goodwill on your part wouldn’t be seen as forced, but as your true and free desire.”

Truth-tellers invite change. Their goal is not just to control actions – their goal is to see Christ transform the heart and soul. 

3) Truth Tellers Stay Engaged (v.22)

“One more thing: you should get a room ready for me as I hope to be released to you soon in answer to your prayers.” 

Godly truth-tellers find away to communicate clearly, “I am not your enemy.” In this case, Paul says, “Oh, and I am looking forward to hanging out with you soon.”  Philemon was the same friend Paul had before. It's not as if he suddenly became an ogre.  When Paul said he was looking forward to spending time with and being refreshed by Philemon, I suspect it sent a clear message of ongoing friendship. Sometimes the message and the messenger are deeply intertwined. We need to communicate we care through not just our words, but our time and our presence also.


So how do we apply this? Here are some questions to ask so you can speak Truth when you are in a situation in which confrontation needs to occur (particularly when you are about to blindside someone):

  •  What is the blind spot in my friend? (Is this just my opinion, or have I and others noticed a pattern?)
  • Is it my business to point it out? (Have I earned the right or do I have the authority to speak into this person's life?)
  •  What can I say to affirm and invite even as I challenge? (How can be a gracious messenger?)
  •  How will I show I am not their enemy? (Not just with my words, but my presence, my posture, my attitude, etc)
  • How can I stay engaged? (What is my follow-up plan to show that I love and care about them even as I offer a challenge?)