“He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning” (Danish Proverb).
IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS, WE SHOULD BE WILLING TO ASK THE QUESTIONS WE OUGHT TO ASK. That is, we ought, in the matter of questions, to aim for two things: (1) the good sense to see that some things are more valuable to know than others, and (2) the gumption to go ahead and ask the better questions. Both of these are important — more so than you might think.
Knowing what the good questions are. One of the most fascinating aspects of human nature is the amount of interest we bestow upon trivia. To be sure, there are times when we need to relax and be entertained by trivia, but it’s not good if our curiosity never goes beyond that. We live in a magnificent world that invites all manner of worthy questions, but all too often those questions go unasked. As Emerson noted, “The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people.” If the quality of what we know depends on the quality of the questions we ask, then we’ve got a real, practical need to sharpen our sense of priorities.
Having the humility and courage to ask. Even the best things we could know will remain forever in the realm of mystery if we can’t bring ourselves to do what learners do: ask. It’s such a simple thing, but most of us find that it can be difficult. Sometimes we’re too proud to let it be known that we don’t know certain things, and at other times we just don’t have the courage to ask. But in either case, the progress we need to make is impossible if we don’t open up and ask.
So it’s good to have good questions and it’s good to go ahead and ask our questions, rather than remain ignorant. Yet as undesirable as ignorance is, there is something even worse, and that is a lack of integrity. Asking a question should mean not only that we want to know the truth about something; it should also mean that we want to do what’s right about that truth. Living a quality life requires more than curiosity — it requires action. If we never get around to using the good answers that have been given to our questions, we forfeit many of the best things in this question-filled world.
“He who asks questions cannot avoid the answers” (Cameroonian Proverb).