Ask and Ye Shall Receive
7 – Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 – For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
“The child who asks becomes a partner in the learning process. He or she is no longer a passive recipient but an active participant. To ask is to grow.” http://askbigquestions.org/blog/201302/art-asking-questions
As many readers know from other articles I grew up in the Mormon faith. I use the word faith because believing and practicing in any religion requires faith. Defined as…
- trust or confidence in someone or something
- strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof
“But this is not just an issue of faith: In our lives, in general, there’s a tendency to move along on auto-pilot when we really ought to be in the habit of regularly stepping back and questioning everything—about our career choices, about our attitudes and beliefs, about the ways we choose to live. Questioning is good for us. It can help to open up new possibilities in our lives. It’s a first step in solving problems. It makes us more successful as leaders. People who ask a lot of questions tend to be more engaged in their lives, more fulfilled, and happier.” http://amorebeautifulquestion.com/why-should-you-care/
What do I Believe?
Twenty years ago I returned from a mission in Guatemala with my faith on autopilot. I grew up in an environment in which faith was rarely tested and I didn’t see any reason to question the faith in which I was raised.
The woman I was dating at this time who later became my wife started to ask questions about the Mormon beliefs, and more importantly my beliefs, which I thought were one in the same. Immediately I noticed that I didn’t have answers to her questions and in my lack of knowledge I became defensive. I wanted her to share my faith. What I really wanted her to do was stop asking questions that I didn’t have the answers to which embarrassingly was awakening me and exposing my autopilot state of being.
“Why are questions so important? The Maharal of Prague explains that people feel satisfied with their view of life. Thus they are complacent when it comes to assimilating new ideas. But when a person has a question, it is an admission of some lack. This creates an “empty space” to be filled.” http://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/_blog/The_ProsenPeople/post/jews-and-their-many-questions/
I had “empty space” in the life I was living, in the life I had created and I wanted to fill my complacency with questions and my answers, to my beliefs, my faith, and my life. So I started for the first time investigating my beliefs. I was raised to believe that I was fortunate enough to receive a body and be raised by loving parents (which I was) and this life is an opportunity to learn and grow. This life is my opportunity to question, to investigate answers, to discover my faith, and create my life.
“Why do I love someone who doesn’t love me?”
This was the question I asked myself as I drove down the lonely road of divorce. Throughout the divorce process I had lots of questions for my wife. How could you? Why would you? But the question, “why do I love someone who doesn’t love me,” was for me to answer. Because I asked the question of myself, in that moment I took ownership of my situation and from a place of accountability I would have the opportunity to do something about my situation.
“I must have lower self-esteem than I think, it’s the only reason I would love someone who doesn’t love me,” I answered. The answer was honest for me at the time and shocked me into the reality that I had placed my marriage on autopilot. I then asked, “what did I do to contribute to my current situation?” The floodgates of accountability opened as I was able to feel for the first time what it must have been like for my wife to be married to me. It was easy for me to recognize the moments that drove a wedge between us. I am not responsible for her choices, I am accountable for my actions and my creation.
THREE CONDITIONS FOR ASKING A JEWISH QUESTION
- seek genuinely to learn – not to doubt, ridicule, dismiss, reject.
- accept limits to our understanding. Not everything is intelligible at any given moment.
- learn by living and understand by doing.
For most who divorce there is an experience of humility, a feeling of failure, a sense of defeat for not having recognized the actions that lead to the result. And for myself, I experienced a genuine humility and acceptance that I didn’t have all the answers and I could stop pretending that I did. I wanted to learn from my mistakes, the mistakes I had made that lead me to so much pain. I was willing to ask hard questions, not dismissing or rejecting possible new understanding. As I knew there would come a time when I would want to live again having learned from the questions.
Several years later I was preparing to get married again. Inspired by my experience with divorce and after reading, “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews I asked the following question…
“What one choice could I make that would leave a historically positive impact on humanity?”
The following sequence of questions and answers were the result…
Question – what one choice could I make that would leave a historically positive impact on humanity?
Answer – change the divorce rate in our country.
Question – how?
Answer – we insure most anything of value and when we part with money we tend to take better care of the items for which we are paying.
Question – Would people pay to insure their marriages and family if it helped protect them from divorce or if in the case of divorce could help offset the financial consequences that affect family?
Answer – I don’t know but I want to find out.
Question– What could the policy provide that would “insure” policyholders against divorce, that could help after a marital mistake, that could provide security against irreconcilable differences?
Answer – Education
Question – What education could provide policyholders with a statistically better opportunity of staying happily married and connected as a family?
Answer – Conflict Resolution / Mediation (not to be confused with meditation)
Conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement among them. The disagreement may be personal, financial, political, or emotional. The negotiation process is managed by a mediator, unbiased third-party person who asks questions creating the opportunity for the conflicted parties to resolve their conflict with the answers that result in new understanding and possibilities. Resolution is more effective and the buy-in is greater when the solution is created and owned by the conflicted.
Marriage could be defined as a petri dish of conflict. Two people that at times have different personal, financial, political, and emotional disagreements, and who could benefit from an education that could help them learn to peacefully resolve disputes as they arise.
What could I do to get connected to my family?
My father, impressed by the Conflict Resolution / Mediation education I received and witness to its benefits in my life asked me to share with my siblings the value of mediation. I asked myself, “how am I going to share, that the most powerful way to impact another’s life is by asking questions and listening, when I come from a family that loves to tell others what to do?”
I asked for a volunteer to play a game. The name of the game is “Tell Me Your Life In 30 Seconds”. While my sister shared the 30,000 foot view of her life story, I listened for points of interest in order to ask more questions specific to her life. Several questions and minutes later, I had entertained my family audience with an example of how a mediator is to ask questions, not give advice. Creating an opportunity for the individual to discover a new possibility for themselves.
Playing this game with my family lead me to what has been the most “beautiful question” of my life. What could I do to get connected to my family? Asking the question what could “I” do versus what could “we” do creates ownership. I wanted to become better connected to my family and I wanted to create a way to do it. Now the question was, “how?”. The answer “Tell Me Your Life In 30 Seconds”.
I invited my siblings to play a game in an effort to get to know one another better. Instead of “Tell Me Your Life In 30 Seconds,” I wanted to create an opportunity to share stories, experiences and thoughts, I wanted to create an opportunity to really get to know the people that they have become, the people they currently are and the people they aspire to be.
“Asking questions is at the heart of Judaism. But once I know that, of course, I have to ask myself, why? What does questioning have to do with a spiritual practice?”
“We don’t necessarily need answers, the important thing is to know how to ask questions.”
But why? Why is it more important to have questions than answers?
With few answers and lots of questions, Jews go on talking it out, talking it over, “looking deeply into the matter” (Leviticus 10:16), challenging themselves and each other. http://www.tribejournal.com/columns/2014/12/a-questioning-faith/
So I committed to asking one insightful question a week, and asked for their participation in sharing answers. The result of asking for their participation, asking one insightful question a week and the sharing of the answers has been nothing short of a miracle for me, a “Family Transformation”.
What is my faith?
“There’s something inherent I feel in Jewishness that is rooted in standing in truth however we find it and standing in who we are, in not hiding who we are, in not having answers, but living in questions.” Mark Nepo “Inside the Miracle” http://www.goodlifeproject.com/mark-nepo/?t=radio
Years ago while getting my haircut, back when I had hair, I asked the stylist what the story was behind a trinket in her display case. For the remaining time in her chair she informed me of her beliefs and faith in Feng Shui and the role it has played in her life. As I was leaving the salon she asked, “do you believe?”. Confused by her question I asked, “in what?”. She replied, “in Feng Shui”.
More recently my sister asked me if I thought she was foolish for her faith, a faith that we do not share. This is a sister with whom I have become very connected to through the Connect52 process. I couldn’t help but think in that moment, “why does she care if we share the same faith?”.
“We are wired to be social. We are driven by deep motivations to stay connected with friends and family. We are naturally curious about what is going on in the minds of other people. And our identities are formed by the values lent to us from the groups we call our own.” “Social” – Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, by neuroscientist Matthew D. Liberman
“A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea.” Seth Godin, “Tribes” – We Need You to Lead Us
The last thing in the world I want is for my sister to feel foolish for her beliefs, I didn’t want to offend my hair stylist, or my Mormon family. How do I stay true to my beliefs and faith without alienating myself from the tribes I call my own? I wanted my sister to know that I loved her and that I valued her life’s journey, her beliefs and faith. I didn’t want her to feel she needed to change her beliefs, or conform to my reality in order for us to stay connected.
“asking a question is itself a profound expression of faith in the intelligibility of the universe and the meaningfulness of human life. To ask is to believe that somewhere there is an answer. The fact that throughout history people have devoted their lives to extending the frontiers of knowledge is a compelling testimony to the restlessness of the human spirit and its constant desire to go further, higher, deeper. Far from faith excluding questions, questions testify to faith – that history is not random, that the universe is not impervious to our understanding, that what happens to us is not blind chance. We ask, not because we doubt, but because we believe.” http://askbigquestions.org/blog/201302/art-asking-questions
Ask and Ye Shall Receive?
I have been obedient, I have been asking, and I testify to receiving the blessings. I have faith that if I ask, I will receive answers, if I knock, doors will be opened and if I seek, I will find. When I have been inquisitive in my life I have found amazing answers, not always the answer I thought I wanted or thought I would get but answers that lead to new understanding and possibilities. Sometimes the answers themselves aren’t the rewarding destination, more often the search itself rewards delightfully.
Living life requires faith and I humbly come before life not knowing, not having all the answers. I come before life knowing there are limits to my understanding but with a desire to learn by living and doing. I question to gain understanding, to gain increased empathy, to connect on a deeper level with humanity. I am driven to ask more questions, investigate possible answers, create beliefs, faith and a life that is uniquely mine, subject to questions, and change.