Is there a parent alive that has not been irritated by a child's persistent question, "Why?"?
And, be honest, how many parents have replied, "Because I said so."
Questions can be bothersome, but they are essential to learning.
In The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Mowgli is an abandoned child that is raised by a pack of wolves in an Indian jungle. A black panther, Bagheera, becomes a mentor to this "man cub" and teaches him the ways of the wild.
On one occasion Bagheera tells Mowgli, "A life full of questions is a life filled with discoveries."
If someone had not asked a question ...
what scientific breakthroughs would never have been made?
what insights would have been missed?
what problems would still be unsolved?
what relationships would have never developed?
what mysteries would continue to baffle us?
what truths would still be unrevealed?
I realize that there are some questions that you probably should not ask:
- Is that the natural color of your hair?
- How much do you weigh?
- How old are you, really?
- Do you think I'm stupid?
There are also many silly questions for which there is not a "right" answer:
- At a movie theater or on an airplane, which arm rest is yours?
- How far east can you go before you're heading west?
- Why do people think that swaying their arm back and forth would change the direction of a bowling ball or a baseball?
- Why is it that everyone driving faster than you is considered an idiot and everyone driving slower than you is a moron?
- If pro and con are opposites, would the opposite of progress be congress?
- When does it stop being partly cloudy and start being partly sunny?
- Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?
- Why do people never say "it's only a game" when they're winning?
I visited a friend at St. Joseph's Hospital last week. As I walked down the hallway I noticed a sign that said: "You have questions? We have answers." In the patient's room there was another sign that told everyone "It's OK to ask." I like that.
One of the most effective teachers in my life was H. David Edwards. Every time I would ask a question in class he would answer with a question. He never gave me an answer and it frustrated me. It also caused me to dig deeper and discover answers on my own. I learned more from that method than I could have if he had simply offered the "correct" response.
Lovett Weems says that leaders do not need the right answers. They need to ask the right questions. Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author and public speaker, suggests to business leaders that "The single most efficient (and lowest cost) technique for improving your operations is answering the why questions! You should embrace people (who ask them), not send them away."
Perhaps one of the most familiar quotations in modern times is the words of Robert F. Kennedy. He was probably quoting George Bernard Shaw when he said, "Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not."
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus replies to a question with a question:"What is written in the Law?" The inquirer responds with another question and Jesus tells the story which concludes with another question: "Which one of these three (priest, Levite, Samaritan) was a neighbor?" This method led the questioner to a clear understanding of the principle Jesus wanted him to learn.
I believe that honest inquiry is a pathway to truth and faith. God is not put off by our questions and is willing and able to answer them all.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," August 8, 2011. North Georgia Conference, United Methodist Church.]