Why we have to stop asking “Why?”

The other day, a good friend and I were out walking together. (Actually it was back in May but it took me 5 months to post this!).

This friend is a really good friend. As in a really good, HONEST friend. We have one of those relationships where we can be really honest with each other about everything. Even our junk.

If you don’t have one of these friends, I highly suggest you get one! It’s not easy to get a really good, honest friend. Because to GET a good, honest friend, you have to BE a good, honest friend.

Funny how that applies in other relationships too – like marriage for one.

Anyway, we were walking and I commented on a parenting thing I had done the week before. I had already told her the same thing the week before knowing deep down that it MIGHT be something she would be judge-y about because we’ve been down the judgment road before. Both ways. And we are usually very cool with it!

She hadn’t said anything the week before but this time she immediately said, “Let me ask you something. Why DID you do that?”

Why? The dreaded “Why?”

I’ve heard it said in marriage talks (by me for one) and books, that “why” is a challenge word – especially for men. In fact, when you ask a question starting with “Why”, you might as well just tack “you idiot” to the end of it because that’s usually the way it’s received.

What I honestly heard from my friend was, “Why did you do that, you idiot”?

And, I immediately launched in to full-blown defense mode! And it wasn’t pretty!

Maybe it started with me having that all-too-common feeling we moms have that we just aren’t succeeding at the motherhood thing and she was touching on a tender nerve.

Maybe it was that a little while before that, she’d commented negatively on something else I had done in the parenting arena and I put myself inside her head and assumed she was getting ready to come down on me again.

Maybe it was simply the well-known theory behind how “why” makes people feel!

My friend immediately looked at me and said quite firmly, “Geez! Calm down! Don’t get all defensive!” (She is allowed to talk to me like that so don’t judge her 😄)! I said, “Well, maybe it was your tone or maybe it’s just that you started it with the dreaded “why” or maybe it’s because of some parenting stuff you came down on me about a while back, but it seemed like maybe you were questioning me in a judge-y way”.

We then did something very rare! We had a very open and honest conversation about the whole thing!

She responded by totally being the bigger person. She defused the situation by telling me that she often asks me “why” because I usually have some pretty good answers to that question that make her want to do things differently herself – as a mother or as a wife.

Geez, talk about me misinterpreting her “why”!

I thanked her for calling me out on my defensiveness and once again admitted that I know it’s something I struggle with. And I need to be called out on it!

She was open and honest about her tendency to sometimes be judge-y 😄.

Here’s what we took away from the whole thing:

1. We realized that we were seeing first hand why almost every good marriage book says NOT to ask our husband’s “why”? It’s a “disrespect” word and almost always gets a negative/defensive response.
2. We realized how insecurities can cause us to react differently than we should.
3. We realized that we need to get out of other people’s heads and try to take things at face value.
4. We realized that a gentle/soft answer turns away wrath/deflects anger, but a harsh word stirs up anger/makes tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1
5. We realized that she’s judge-y and I’m defensive (which is a kind of lethal combination when you think about it! But God is using it to help us sharpen each other). And we realized, once again, that despite these flaws, we love each other. And we thank God that we have a friendship where we can talk about our faults so openly.

And guess what, all of those things can be applied to other relationships as well – marriage to name one!

So check your “why’s” in all of your relationships.

Replace them with something like, “That’s cool that you did that – what made you think of that?” Or use “I’d like to hear more about that.”

And sometimes if we don’t agree, we can say it a little nicer. Like maybe, “I’m not sure I understand that decision you made. Can you help me understand it because maybe it’s something I should consider myself?”

Yeah, it’s a lot more words and guys don’t love words. But believe me, in this case, your husband won’t mind!

And you know that the more words you use with your girlfriends, the more they will love you 😃!

Merrie Beth