The WHY Factor

By: Cara Barth

“Humble Pie” has NEVER been my dessert of choice. However, it seems I have been sent on a journey to taste the many flavors of this bitter concoction!”  ~ Cara Barth

 It all began with me standing in my kitchen recently and my 19 year old son coming home from college. As he walked by, I started the endless barrage of questions that typically come spewing out of my mouth almost faster than he can answer:

“How was your day?” “Did you get your test grade back?” How was traffic?” “You and Molly ok?” “What’s your schedule with work?” On and on I went…

Finally, I took a breath long enough to see my poor son, standing in front of me, coat still in hand, blinking as if to clear his mind and completely “beaten” because quite honestly, asking too many questions in a “conversation” can feel like an interrogation. Calmly and with a deep sigh he said very gently, “WHY do you ask SO many questions?” My immediate response was, “Because I want to know what’s going on in your life!”

There it was. It wasn’t about him. It was about me! “I want to know what’s going on,” spoke volumes about how I wanted to control what he told me, when I got that information, and how long the interaction was going to last… Wow! Yup, that realization hit me right in the gut and humble wasn’t tasting so good at the moment. A thought came to me from my past psych classes which again gave me another taste of humility, “Asking too many questions can limit the transfer of information and the productivity of the conversation, fostering a defensive and even adversarial atmosphere.” This was not my intention in asking questions but was exactly what was going to happen if this behavior of mine did not stop.

I really started to evaluate the “WHY Factors” of my constant questioning. Whenever something happens I don’t like or I don’t seem to understand, the questions fly! My husband, children, and even God fall victim to my questioning tactics. I am starting to realize that it is my own controlling tendencies, my insecurities, my longing for communication under my terms that have turned me into the “Questioning Queen.”

Probably out of self preservation and the fact that pie tastes better in the company of others, I began to see that I am not alone when it comes to controlling conversations. Even in the scriptures men and women tried to control and manipulate God with the “whys.”

  • “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”  Psalm 10:1-2
  • “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” Habakkuk 1:2
  • “And Moses, said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11
  • The whole book of Job is one big question fest!
  • Sarah said, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Genesis 18:12

I see people all the time asking the whys, what’s and who’s. Like me, many times they are not asking to engage in understanding but asking with the full intent on being heard. Through the asking, we are really telling someone what we want or need. The problem is, many people often question God and others with a rebellious untrusting heart not truly trying to get an answer. When we shower someone with questions, it’s a way of saying that we don’t trust them enough to share with us what is important in their time frame, and that we must know what’s what, now! We are screaming, “I have a RIGHT to know what you are up to, regardless of your needs or intentions!” The layers to chronic questioning may be a lack of trust, fear, loneliness, low self esteem etc., and unpacking my “Why Factors” has been very healing for myself and my relationships with others and the Lord.

Finally, I am by no means saying that there are not times when questioning someone is necessary. I am only saying that when the questioning becomes the primary mode of all interactions, then it becomes a problem. I for one, don’t want to continue to be like a lot of people I observe. I don’t want to just wait eagerly for my turn to talk or command someone to engage through my questions. I will try to put my own ego on hold and keep learning to really listen to what people actually are saying, as well as trust them when they say nothing at all.

“There are many benefits to this process of listening. The first is that good listeners are created as people feel listened to. Listening is a reciprocal process. We become more attentive to others if they have attended to us.”  ~Margaret J. Wheatley


  1. Reply
    Jerry says

    Thanks, Cara.

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