When I was a child, I would hear a lot of things like this:
“Stop being so precocious”
“You’re being a know-it-all. People don’t like it when people are like that.”
Now that I’m older, I hear a lot of things like this:
“Stop being so high and mighty”
“You think you’re better than everyone else”
“You act like you think you know everything.”
But are those things really true? Even though I hear them a lot and, to some extent, they’ve become part of my inner dialogue of self-blame, they’re not entirely true.
I don’t think that I’m better than anyone else nor do I believe that I have all the answers. Until recently, I had been struggling to figure out the reason why I kept hearing the same things. I couldn’t figure out what it was that I was doing that led to reactions such as those from other people. Fortunately, a friend of mine pointed out the “problem”: I ask why.
There’s irony there. I ask why because I genuinely do not understand. I genuinely want to know why we do things the way we do them. Answers along the lines of “because that’s the way we’ve always done them” aren’t satisfactory. So, I ask why.
When I do, it seems that people interpret my questions as though I’m being sarcastic; as though I’m making a statement to the effect of this thing that we’re doing is pointless. I’m not making a statement when I’m trying to understand the point of something. If that challenges people because there really isn’t a discernible point, I don’t really see how it’s my fault for asking a question which highlighted the pointlessness.
The last time that this happened – the time when my friend highlighted that I ask why a lot and people seem to interpret it as me being a smart ass – I really had to take some time to figure out whether I had done anything wrong.
I was made to feel as though I was in the wrong because I had asked what the point of something was. While I obviously hit a nerve for some folks, I wasn’t passing judgement. I was simply seeking to understand.
Without questioning why we do things the way we do them, nothing will ever change. We can’t move forward and do better when we’re still stuck in doing things in the same way because that’s the way we’ve always done them.
Look around you: The way we’ve always done things isn’t working. We need to do things differently, and in order to do that, we need to question why we do things in certain ways. If we find valid reasons, then that’s good, but if we don’t, then we know that there’s an area where changes are needed.
So, I will continue to ask why, and I will continue to be on the receiving end of defensive reactions. At least when it happens again, I will know why. Why? is the reason why this happens. I ask why, people don’t know the answer, and so they assume I’m being high and mighty. I’m not. I’m just using my confusion about the world to discover whether there is meaning to it.