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January 20, 2011

My wife was telling me the other day that in some cultures, when asked for directions and completely clueless, people will just make up something in order save face.  Poor drivers.  Crazy, eh?  It isn’t so different in our culture though.  We wanna have the answers too, even if they aren’t the right ones.  To answer means to defend ourselves.  To answer quickly means to exude a confidence, maybe even a false confidence.  Answers have the power to put everyone at ease.

But answers aren’t just about saving our butts in social situations or proving man knows where he is going more than Mapquest.  Answers also play a big part in how we relate and help others.  When people come to us for help, we hate not knowing what to say. To not answer is to not help.  We apply the “answers are the answer” mentality to the act of helping.

I was at a seminar this past weekend led by Michael Simpson, author of Permission Evangelism.   He did a great job talking about communicating topics of faith with respect and the importance of knowing your own personal story.  An important idea he touched on that couldn’t be overstated was the idea that sometimes it’s best to leave people with a question rather than an answer.  We believe answers move us along when in reality questions have the ability to guide, to be the catalyst in the deep processes of change.

When helping people, there are times when a thoughtful question is needed opposed to a thoughtful answer.  Questions pursue people.  A healthy dose of listening, thoughtful questioning, supporting, and a little bit of challenging can go a long way.

Don’t get me wrong, answers are needed to get us to our destination.  But a well placed question will stagger a man.  Questions confront us, ask something from us, and help guide our thinking along the journey.

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