ESTRANGEMENT is an entrapping word. It brings with it a sense of abandonment of good things; of hope for reconciliation. Much of the conflict we find ourselves in finds us estranged to the other person, even if it’s for a moment, and that occurs even if they’re our life partner. And, importantly, when we feel under attack we need a way to handle the moment. We need a way to influence the situation we’re in; for peace, for understanding, and at times for reconciliation.
Questions are wisdom in a moment of potential foolishness.
There are several good reasons why questions were made for the moment of conflict:
1. Questions slow the pace of conflict down – both sides need to breathe in the midst of their emotions if there is to be the chance for the rays of perspective to break through the clouds of frustration, disappointment, and confusion.
2. Questions give space for an unemotional response, but listening comes first – for the person who is receiving feedback it’s just best to listen. As a person conveys their disappointment with us, and as we listen with interest and patience, even allowing for pauses (if they’re allowed), we give the other person a chance to: 1) be heard, and 2) to settle themselves down a little. If more space is needed because we just don’t know how to respond, we should feel free to say just that: “I’m still a little confused/overwhelmed, so can I have a think about it and get back to you?” Most people, most of the time, will understand the need for more time in order to wrestle with meaning and understanding.
3. Questions facilitate self-reflection – Jesus was the master of answering a question with a question. But what we must first resist is the urge to say our piece — to defend ourselves. (Defences almost always fall on deaf ears anyway.) It’s wiser to resist the temptation to defend, and simply ask questions for genuine need of clarity. The truth is we don’t have all the information we need to decide what to do next. But to resist temptation we must first be aware, and nurturing awareness takes time.
Wisdom reigns when we have the poise to ask questions in response to situations where we feel attacked.
Questions were made for the moment of conflict. They slow the pace of conflict down, allow perspective to land and settle, and they facilitate self-reflection.
A question may prove the space of reason over the pressure of forcing an answer.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.