There are two kinds of people in the world … People who need Answers and People who need Questions.
Don’t hear that as a criticism; it’s my theory. But also for me, it’s anecdotal truth. Over the years, I’ve observed it in others but mostly I recognize it in myself.
My life was shaped by a strong conservatism – social, political and theological – and I still see the value of conserving healthy values and productive practices. I freely confess that in some ways I am quite conservative: I tend to take the same route to the same grocery store where I know where things are. I like the brands that I like and resist changing what I’m used to unless there is some really good reason for it.
But then on the other hand, I’ve long had a bold liberal streak in me. If something can be done a more efficient way then I say: “Go for it.” When introduced to new ideas, I’m curious. I want to know more and if I see value in new thoughts, I’m happy to adjust my beliefs or change my mind. So don’t hear my thesis as a criticism because I realize I am a person who yearns for answers and a person who thirsts for questions all at the same time.
In my life journey, it has been the questions that have saved my soul.
When I talk about salvation here, I’m using an ancient understanding that speaks of healing and wholeness. For me, the “salvation” of doubting and questioning and challenging represent a kind of rescue from smallness and arrogance and mediocrity.
Questions may not accomplish wholeness by themselves but I believe they lead us on a path toward a more complete, holistic way of being in the world. But even as I firmly believe all of us are multi-faceted, “both-and” humans, I also hold to my theory: some people do questions better than others.
When I was a minister serving in local congregations, I used to train my youth workers: “Your job is not to give our young people answers; especially your answers. Your job is to help them ask good questions; to find their best questions.”
A few years ago, when I saw another church in the neighborhood post a sign in its front yard: “Come here for the answers to your questions,” I wanted to rush back to my church and post a sign that said: “Come here to question your neat answers.”
Whenever I blog for the Coffee Party USA, I recognize (yet again) that there are many thoughtful, generous people in the world whose lives are sparked by curiosity. There are many who share my thirst for questions.
But I’m also seeing (yet again) how very easy it is to ask questions with answers already presupposed. And I’m seeing how very easy it is to judge other people for both their answers and their questions.
Our national dialogue is too often judgmental of people who have different beliefs and opinions. Our public conversation is too often contentious, suspicious and cruel. Instead of judging and categorizing, how about we figure out how to give people space to be on whatever journey they are on? No one will ever change anyone else’s mind with ridicule or criticism.
Whether we prefer questions or answers, whether we are male or female, whether we are gay or straight or black or brown or white or blue or red or old or young, how about we figure out how to let each other be? And how about we figure out how to be patient and kind even toward those who haven’t figured this out yet?
We all are on our own journey, proceeding at our own pace, and no two people are ever in the same place at the same time.
I know for me, it would have done no good for anyone to force the questions before I was ready. The right questions tend to come in their own right time. I know for me, it would have done no good for anyone to force their answers onto my questions. Good answers grow and unfold in their own good time.
But what has done me a huge amount of good is to have people in my circle who live life large and who will love me and accept me just as I am. It has been a huge relief to find in other people a wide place where questions are welcomed and answers are bold.
As we all continue to figure out how to be in relationship with each other in this fractured and fragmented society of ours, I think the main thing we need to figure out is how to love better.
Love life, love the questions, love the answers, love the journey, love one another. In the passionate words of Maya Angelou:
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave…
Maya Angelou poem: Touched by an Angel
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She frequently shares her thoughts with Coffee Party USA as a regular volunteer.