When my oldest daughter was two or three years old, she went through a phase of questioning everything.
“You aren’t supposed to cut the carpet with the scissors.”
“Please stop pulling on the dog’s ears?
“You shouldn’t put cereal up your nose.”
These, and a host of other questions were asked, time and time again. Our two younger children did the same thing. And now, my oldest is fourteen, and we are in another stage of questioning.
There were and are times I get frustrated with the questioning but I have to remind myself, my kids aren’t challenging me as a parent just because they want to drive me crazy—they’re trying to understand their world so they can navigate it with more knowledge, make better decisions, and grow from other’s insights.
A few months ago, I was at a conference where a man was talking about the financial state of the world. About halfway through his talk, he went off-script. But his rabbit trail was the most important thing he addressed.
As he paced the stage, he said, “I don’t want to get political today, but do you know what’s wrong with America?” His dynamic style of speaking meant all eyes were on him. A room filled with a thousand people from various political parties, faith backgrounds, and lifestyles sat attentively in their seats, waiting for his answer.
“We have become all about extremes, and nobody listens anymore. No one is asking the right question.”
He paused as he scanned the room. When his eyes locked with mine, he continued, “So you’re probably wondering, ‘What is the right question?’”
He held his left hand up and closed it so only his index finger pointed up. “One word. Why?”
“We have stopped asking ‘Why?’ or when we do, we don’t have the guts to wrestle with the answers.”
I was all ears as he dove into the importance of asking why and how seeking to truly understand the answers is a necessary shift our cultural must make if we are going to move past the divisions we have allowed to take hold.
We must ask other's, “Why?”
Why do they believe what they do, why do they hold to a certain faith, why do they align with certain political parties or figures, why do they fight so hard for certain values.
But we can’t just ask the questions—we have to shut up and listen to the answers.
And we must be willing to answer the same questions. We must be willing to sit with someone who sees the world differently and seek to learn from them as we try to share with them our perspective.
Just like toddlers seem never to stop asking why, we should do the same thing because it will expand our understanding of the world so that we can navigate it with more knowledge, make better decisions, and grow from other’s insights.
But so many are afraid of the other side, so many are so vehemently opposed to ideas they disagree with that they have lost sight of why they believe what they believe.
Worse yet, we often take positions where sacrifice the values we claim to hold dear in an effort to silence those who stand opposed to our ideologies.
No, asking why won’t solve the world’s problems, but listening to the answers will start the conversation.