One of the most critical habits you may ever develop is the habit of asking questions, and make no mistake, it is a habit that must be developed. Habits are formed from constant practice over substantial time, and while many of us know how to ask questions, few of us have a habit of asking questions. I think there are a few reasons for this.
1. We view questions as a sign of weakness or ignorance. It’s interesting that Jesus had a habit of asking questions when, in fact, He knew everything.
2. We believe wisdom is knowing the answer. Wise people are always questioning the answer and their understanding of it. Fools are confident in their personal answer.
3. We are more interested in displaying our knowledge than gaining knowledge.
4. We believe we’re not allowed. Many of us believe it’s wrong to question certain people or authorities. Many believe it’s wrong to question God. David didn’t. As a matter of fact, on the cross, Jesus Christ Himself questions the Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” It’s a question.
I’m sure there are many more, but I find that these four are the primary obstacles that I encounter in developing the habit of questioning. We are obsessed not with the pursuit of wisdom but with the pursuit of performance and presenting ourselves in a certain light. Nothing will keep us from wisdom more than a lack of questioning, but we have the ability to change that. In my life, my greatest fear is not only that I won’t question, but that I won’t know the question that needs to be asked. I’ve addressed that with a few simple practices.
1. I place a very high value on curiosity and allow it to take precedent in my life. If I have a question, I pursue it even though it may seem meaningless. Many of those I interact with will shrug off their curiosity, but remember, curiosity is an appetite. If you feed it, it will grow. Value curiosity in your life. Allow it to take you down rabbit trails. You may be surprised how it impacts your willingness to ask questions in other areas of life as well.
2. I celebrate any learning experience. My family can find this a bit much at times. I don’t care if I just understood a scripture passage in a life-changing way or if I just learned how to adjust the height of my desk, I celebrate that and share that information with someone who can celebrate it with me. They don’t always find it as exciting as I do, but the practice drives me to care more about learning than knowing.
3. I value time with people who pursue unanswerable questions. Philosophers are annoying people, we all know that. However, they play a valuable role in life. I think of them the way I think of spiders. A bit unnerving, but necessary. I’m joking of course. I value time with people who like to ask questions that have been asked for ages without answer. I don’t believe we’ll find the answer, but the process is good for me. It forces me to value the question more than my obtaining the information.
4. I believe God created me to learn and that He enjoys that in my life. I don’t believe God thinks I know everything. I don’t believe He wants me to. If He did, He would have created me that way. He didn’t. He created me as a child that is ignorant of almost everything. I love watching my kids learn. I think He enjoys that as well. I ask Him questions all the time. I question Him about the world around me, how He works, the decisions He makes. I question it all believing that He loves to watch me learn. The only time I don’t enjoy my children questioning me is if they won’t listen to my answer. I think the same is true for Him.
The habit of asking questions is crucial if you are to live a life of wisdom. Those things that will keep you from that habit can be summed up into one word, pride. You can overcome that, you can develop this habit. Start today.
Don’t allow your pride to keep you from living a life you can be proud of. Ask questions!