Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why Do You Ask?

Why do people ask questions to which they already know the answers? When you think about it, it happens all the time. Maybe sometimes they really don't know the answers, but often, they do... Here are some examples:

Tami might ask me....
  • When are you going to take out the garbage? Answer: He needs to do it now.
  • Are you really going to eat that? Answer: Not on your life.
  • Do you know where you're going? Answer: He's lost.
Honestly I do this a lot also. I often ask my kids questions about things that I already know the answer to. I do this to try to get them to think for themselves. I also want to check the depth of their thinking. Have they thought about things from multiple viewpoints? If so, how many points of view? Are they simply skimming the surface, or are they peeling back multiple layers of the onion?

Sometimes I want to see how much they know, but sometimes I want to see how truthful they are. God even does this. In Genesis, chapter 3, God is walking in the garden of Eden and calls out to Adam and says, "Where are you?".... now, don't you think God already knew the answer to that question? After all, he created Adam and Even and they are the only two folks traipsing around in the vegetation. Maybe God is seeing if Adam will be truthful - given that he and Eve have just violated God's only restriction in the garden. Sure enough, Adam comes somewhat clean with his response:

Adam says, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

Ahh... yet two more questions to which God already knows the answers....

Most times, if not always, it's best to just be truthful. At least this is the most important trait in my book.... if you don't know the answer to some one's question, it's best to state that you don't know. But also, think about why they are asking. Think about what you might learn from their question. Think about the "motive" behind the inquiry.

When Tami asks, "When are you going to take out the garbage?", she's really stating that the garbage if full and she's reminding me that it's my predetermined responsibility to do my job. This may not even be the first time that I've shirked my role in performing my task... or it could be that she's just tired of me watching the NBA Playoffs on TV and she wants me to do "anything" constructive....

So the next time someone asks you a question, think about answering their question with a question of your own.... something like: "Why do you ask?"...

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