Most of us haven’t been taught or encouraged to “ask.” We must learn how.
I have so many questions about life, but they kind of float around in a fog. I have a hard time putting them into words or even knowing what to ask without feeling overwhelmed. How do I give voice to my secret fears and doubts and questions? -J
As a counselor and a coach, asking questions is the most important part of my job.
You might assume it’s answering them. Many people think counseling and coaching is about going to see an expert to get “answers.” But it’s not like that.
Because another person cannot crawl inside our skin and know the right answer for you and I. Despite what almost everyone will tell us, “right answers” are often subjective. What’s right for me, may or may not be right for you.
My job is not to give a finite answer, but to share my personal and professional experience and hopefully offer new ways of thinking.
We often have a hurtle when it comes to asking questions.
We are afraid.
Or at least I was once upon a time. But then I came across this quote from Max Lucado,
The devil’s greatest trick is not to rob us of answers; it is to steal our questions.
That statement changed my life because deep down it felt like the truth everyone had forgotten to tell me.
Suddenly I realized God not only tolerates my questions- God wants and loves and encourages my questions. It’s my questions that build a relationship between my spirit and God’s. Not polite or pious questions, but real ones.
As a matter of fact I’ve found that asking real questions is the most productive way to pray. Questions and gratitude are pretty much the secret sauce to a fertile prayer life.
So I’m not afraid anymore. It’s just the opposite. I ask about everything.
Asking questions can be super scary for two big reasons-
1. What if I don’t get an answer?
If we ask questions of life and other people and ourselves and God, we worry we may not get an answer and end up frustrated or disappointed or confused.
I’ll answer this point with a question (of course).
What if you and I do ask a question and don’t find the answer? Are we any worse off before we asked? No. As a matter of fact, we grew in some way by asking. We rearranged and stretched our brains just by getting clear.
Questions will, sooner or later, lead to answers. Which will then lead to more questions because you and I are a curious, self-aware people interested in expansion.
Ok. Fine. No answer right away is okay. But what if it’s worse?
2. What if I DO get an answer and it’s not the one I want?
Because sometimes that happens.
Just this week, I had an opportunity to join mastermind group with three people I respect and admire. They have helped me expand in untold ways. I’m inspired to take action every time I’m around them. More time with awesome people must be a good thing. No brainer, right?
I almost said yes on the spot. But I had to ask myself (and God) some questions about time and priorities for the summer. The short of it is- I ended up passing on the opportunity. It’s not the answer I wanted but if I’m honest, it’s the one I needed– for lots of reasons I won’t go into now.
The point is this- Questions are the marrow of life.
Many people will tell you it’s our “purpose” or “calling,” that’s written in our DNA.
I think there are multiple, wonderful things you and I can do with our lives. It’s the power of questions that will lead us to any of them and more.
But often times we don’t know how to ask.
Many of us were not invited to ask questions as children.
I’d venture to guess most of us were not encouraged and certainly not rewarded for asking questions as we grew up. Most adults would rather be around a “compliant” child, not a curious one.
There is much shaming and threatening around children asking too many questions. Children are supposed to “be quiet, follow the rules, and not ask questions.”
No wonder we have a hard time.
How do I give voice to my secret fears and doubts and questions?
We need to build our question asking muscles.
1. Give yourself permission to ask, no matter how scary or strange your question may seem.
2. Start simple. What have you been spending the majority of your time thinking or worrying about lately? What’s annoying you? Stopping you? Holding you back? Making you feel out of sorts?
Fill in these blanks.
I’ve been thinking/worrying/wondering about ___________________.
The first question I have is- (why /what / how) ___________________?
Now ask it.
Ask yourself. Ask God. (Ask me if you want to.)
Then pay attention. You’ll be amazed what comes through asking.