If We Ask
Until this morning, Mrs. B and I had been strangers. Now we were walking the food line together, choosing which items would be useful to her family.
We get to spend ten or fifteen minutes with each person at House of the Harvest on Saturday mornings to gather groceries.
But in those important minutes, we can find out a lot about each other.
If we ask.
I was asking Mrs. B questions about her kids, her grandkids, and she would answer.
But she also did something else. She would turn the questions back around, and ask me.
“And how many kids do you have? And did you grow up here, too?”
Back and forth. It felt delightful, this two-way conversation.
It was like a spontaneous version of “The Question Game” in the movie, It’s Kind of a Funny Story.
In the movie, teenagers Craig and Noelle play a game of ending every comment with a question. There’s no obligation to answer, but the next person still has to ask another next question.
Why don’t we ask more questions, too?
Whether we’re meeting someone for the first time, or having a conversation with someone we already know, what prevents us from continuing conversations with questions?
“Einstein was deliberate in choosing which questions to tackle: In one of his more well-traveled quotes—which he may or may not have actually said—he reckoned that if he had an hour to solve a problem and his life depended on it, he’d spend the first fifty-five minutes making sure he was answering the right question.”
– Warren Berger
4 Reasons We Don’t Ask, But Should
1. We Don’t Know
- Why We Don’t Ask – Because we’re scared of looking stupid.
Typically when I meet a new person in the food line, I say, “Hey, I’m Lisa. And you are?”
But if I think I should already know their name and their story, I freeze up. I want to skip the introductions and move on to more general topics. I don’t want them to think, “You said this same stuff to me last week! Why don’t you remember?”
- Why We Should Ask Anyway – Because we don’t know the answer.
Even if asking reveals our ignorance? Yes.
We’re not here to protect our reputations; we’re here to enhance our relationships.
I once introduced myself to the same new lady at church three weeks in a row. On the fourth week (yes, 4 times!) it was brought to my attention. I was highly embarrassed. (Lesson: Pay closer attention.)
But better to be embarrassed and friendly than preserve our reputation and appear snobby. (That’s what I tell myself anyway.) Let go of what others think of us and think of them instead.
2. We Don’t Want to Know
- Why We Don’t Ask – Because we really don’t want to know.
Ouch. Honestly, sometimes we just don’t care. We’re tired. We don’t have the energy to get to know somebody better. Or we lack the motivation or understanding that it matters.
- Why We Should Ask Anyway – Because God makes each person unique.
Each person has something special about them. Each person has something to teach us or to make us laugh or to help us think.
Each person can show us a new side of God that we have never seen.
3. We Think We Already Know
- Why We Don’t Ask – Because we think we already know the answers.
Why should I ask you about your beach trip if I’ve already heard from somebody else that is was fantastic? I know the answer.
- Why We Should Ask Anyway – Because asking is showing love. And we don’t know everything anyway.
Conversing with each other is more than exchanging facts. It’s showing interest and building history and getting closer.
There is more to learn about a person than what we think we know. Dig deeper.
There’s always another surprise.
4. We Don’t Want to Offend
- Why We Don’t Ask – Because we don’t want to offend or seem nosy.
At House of the Harvest, once we load the groceries in their car, we’re encouraged to pray with our new (or old) friend. But what if they’re not a Christian? Or what if they don’t believe in prayer? Or what if they think that’s too personal?
- Why We Should Ask Anyway – Because asking to pray for someone may be the best gift we offer.
“Before you leave, can I pray a blessing over you?” Rarely does anyone answer no. (Granted, I live in the south.)
But most people we meet are grateful for the concern, even if they’re not the praying type themselves. This is the time we often hear the things closest to their heart. This is the time we are drawn closer as friends and neighbors and family.
This is the time God pours his blessings on all of us.
Benefits of Asking
When we ask, we get more than answers.
- We gain insights.
- We improve relationships.
- We give and receive love.
And we get God.
This is our Father’s heart. Like any good parent, he wants his kids to talk to each other. It opens us up to each other and it opens us up to him.
We’re loving God when we love each other.
I hope to see Mrs. B again at House of the Harvest. And learn more about each other. There is so much more to know. And questions can get us there.
“Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.”
– e. e. cummings
* * *
What are other reasons we don’t ask questions? Have you asked a good question today? Who in your life asks you questions? Who do you ask? Please share in the comments.
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
by Warren Berger
“In many cases, our Google queries are so unimaginative and predictable that Google can guess what we’re asking before we’re three words into typing it. . . . We’re all hungry for better answers. But first, we need to learn how to ask the right questions.”