Don’t Give Them Your First Answer

When You Know the Answer

I immediately knew the answer. But if I spoke it aloud, I’d be breaking the rules.

As he handed me the listening stick, the gentleman to my right had asked me this question:

“What’s your next step?”

He had no specific context in mind. So I wanted to tell him my first thought, which was what I had scheduled for the next 3 months about a specific situation. I’m a planner. I love to think ahead, make a list, map out my calendar.

I enjoy knowing well in advance what my next step is.

But the instruction given to us in this Small Group Deep Listening experience was to NOT give our first answer.

We were told to pause, to think a little deeper before answering.

In the second answer, our instructor suggested we might find a more thoughtful, accurate response.

Wait for It . . .

That’s hard to do. Once we have an answer, we typically want to stop thinking. We’re done.

Why hold back if we have a ready-made answer on the tip of our tongue?

Because maybe our first response isn’t always the best one.

I wonder if Jesus had something like this in mind on the day he told his listeners on a mountain to stop being so anxious about what’s for lunch (Matthew 6:31).

He said anybody can waste time worrying about only that (Matthew 6:32).

Maybe Jesus was inviting them to listen deeper, too.

What did they really need? Aside from physical nourishment (which is important, by the way), what was underneath their anxiety about food? Had they been days without food? Did they have food insecurity? Or maybe they were just gluttonous for the next meal (my hand is raised)?

What’s the Real Need?

I often think I know what I need. But often I’m wrong.

I want to ask myself more often, What do I need right now?

Then pause.

And dig a little deeper. What do I really need right now?

Maybe I still won’t know. But maybe I will. And in the clearer awareness, my priorities might change. My strategy to get my need met may change. My ability to meet someone else’s need might change, too.

Awareness increases connection, to ourselves, to others, and to God.

The Second Answer May Be Better

Feeling the listening stick in my hand, I held back my first answer to What’s your next step?

I closed my eyes and thought a little more. My second answer was indeed quite different than the first one had been.

In the pause, my answer became the pause itself. I told my group that my next step is no step. I am meant to stay on this step a little longer. To not move yet. To rest a little longer. To linger in the present.

When it’s time for the next step, I’ll be made aware of it. But for now, my deepest need is to pause from planning next steps.

I’m glad I listened for the second answer.

It feels like the better answer to me.

Our memory verse this week for our Matthew 6 challenge is Matthew 6:32:

“For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

Share your thoughts in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Give Them Your First Answer

  1. Martha J Orlando

    God always wants us to dig deeper, especially when it comes to contemplating our perceived needs. Too often, I’m tempted to go with that first answer that pops into my mind. Lord, let me slow down and not jump to conclusions.
    Blessings, Lisa!

  2. Joanne Viola

    “Maybe our first response isn’t always the best one.” I tend to hold back from giving my first response or thought. Not sure why. But I often find when I wait and think a little deeper, it turns out better.

  3. Paula

    I’m so happy you talked about this and went into detail. It’s funny but I have been seeing this ever so slightly in myself lately. The pausing for a deeper answer.
    visiting today from Joanne’s

  4. David

    Nice technique. I have learnt to bite my tongue as my first answer was generally about my own amusement. Good mnemonic too.

    Is it a *listening* technique? Does it change how you interpret the question?

  5. Kathleen C

    Lisa, thank you for helping me realize I usually go with my first answer. Going forward, I will remember your illustration and will pause and take whatever time is needed to follow His lead. I think often my first thought is my own solution, not His, and I miss the blessing of waiting for and following Him.

  6. Jean Wise

    so often it is finding if we are asking the right question too. I jump to conclusions too and want to answer too quickly. Good reminder!

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