Such a small word – but so powerful.
When we were raising our kids it was one of my favorite words to use when they would do something wrong. I would generally ask, “Why did you do that?” The reply would be a blank stare, a shrug of the shoulders or an “I don’t know.”
Little did I know that each of those three responses were correct in that there is no correct answer to the question of “why”.
Other than in a school setting there are two forms of a “why” question.
The first form is always asked from a position of power.
“Why did you do that?”
It is done with an accusatory tone.
There is no correct answer because you were wrong before the question was asked.
The second form of a “why” question is asked from a position on the ladder on life from below to above with a whining tone.
“Why don’t you love me?”
“Why did you spank me?”
“Why do you ignore me?”
“Why won’t you play with me?”
The tone of this question sets the stage for the answer.
And again there is no answer that will satisfy the questioner because they are afraid of the answer. They think they know what it is and they don’t like it – but they feel compelled to ask the question, but they are afraid of the answer.
It becomes a vicious circle. If they ask the question they are afraid of the answer – if they do not ask the question then they do not know what is going on and they feel out of place – they feel lost, out of place.
In form number one it is telling those around me that I am important and that I deserve to be answered. Everyone needs to answer me.
This is what the boss does. I am important. I am in control. You need to pay attention to me!
Many of us do this with our children at home or at the store when’d we say, “Why did you touch that?”
It is a feeling of power.
The second form is a little more nuanced because it is where we see our kids relationships with us and our relationship with God.
Now before everyone jumps up from their computers and runs away screaming about heresy give me a chance to explain.
As parents we do things both with and to our children. Just like God and His children, we have standards, we set up boundaries and those boundaries bring forth both positive and negative consequences.
And just like His children, all of this has a tendency to generate a responses from those same children.
Sometimes those responses come in the form of a “why” question.
“Why didn’t I get my full allowance last week?”
“Well, let’s look at what happened last week. You didn’t take the garbage out on Tuesday. You didn’t clear the table on Friday and I had to remind you on Saturday to sweep the kitchen floor.”
Now that “why” question wasn’t necessarily accompanied with a whining tone but it could have been.
The one I like it when the answer has been given and the child comes back with the “why” question.
“But why can’t I go to the river and go swimming with the other kids?”
Now that “why” has whining all over it.
The question has been asked, it has been discussed and the answer has been given. Maybe it was fair – maybe not. That is not the point. The point is the decision has been reached. It is over. Move on. Whining will not help.
Does any of this sound familiar? Have you been here with kids? With other adults? With God?
And maybe not with whining – but with questioning what was decided by the leadership?
Now look at your relationship with God (oh no).
Have I ever found myself asking God, “Why God, did You allow that to happen to me?” or worse, “Why God, did you do that to me?”
It doesn’t matter what “that” was.
What matters was the question.
You see, with the question of “why” you were placing yourself above God. You were demanding God answer your question about what He allowed or what you perceived He did.
I have done that. It doesn’t work.
God does not answer my demands like a spoiled child. He responds better when I approach Him like a student asking Him to teach me.
Within these blogs I try to offer some guidance.
“Why” is an easy question to ask but it is a power trap.
There is never a good answer to a “why” question.
A better question than “why” would be to ask “What do you want me to learn.”
So, “Why didn’t I get my full allowance last week?” becomes “What do you want me to learn when I don’t get my full allowance?”
“But why can’t I go to the river and go swimming with the other kids?” becomes “What do you want me to learn when I can’t go swimming with the other kids”
And “Why God, did You allow that to happen to me?” becomes “What do you want me to learn God, when You allow that to happen to me?”
Sometimes it is the small things that makes big changes. Like changing “decision” to “choice” and “why” to “what”.
Take a look around while you are here.
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