Fear not (…) Isaiah 41:10a
As a student in the teacher-training track at William and Mary in the 1980s, I remember some classes that dealt with the importance and skill of asking questions. We learned that, when done well, asking questions can turn a boring lecture into a fascinating discussion and also differentiate a mediocre class from a great one. We also learned the difference between convergent and divergent questions.
Convergent questions only have one right answer. Examples include: What year did the South secede from the Union? Was Lincoln president of the North during the Civil War? What is the capital of Hawaii?
Divergent questions, in contrast, can have more than one answer. (Language tip: “di” means 2, as in “divide” or “diverse.” Examples of divergent questions include: Why do you think the election of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, caused the Southern states to secede? What factors caused the western counties of Virginia to break away in 1863 to form the new state of West Virginia? Was the US annexation of Hawaii ethical, and how did you come to that conclusion?
See the difference between the two? Clearly, divergent questions tend to be the more challenging type–both to ask, and to answer.
As a licensed teacher since 1987, I have tried to generously pepper my classes with questions. Unable (or unwilling) to “turn it off,” I try to bring that same inquisitive spirit to my columns. Over the past year and a half I have been blessed with the opportunity to share columns on theroanokestar.com, I have posted a few such as:
- Do You Suffer from “Questionophobia”?
- What Does An African Think About Virginia’s Elections?
- Why Did Sen. Tim Kaine Live on Confederate Avenue For 28 Years? And Why Is The Media (Save theroanokestar.com) Silent About It?
As I have asked some questions in the course of writing these columns since May 2020, I have noticed that some people–a tiny minority, I might add–do not seem to appreciate my curiosity or turning over those stones.
Also, as I have tried to tell my students over the years, “If you ask a question and someone gets defensive, take that as a red flag. Maybe they don’t know the answer or else they have something to hide.” I do not know about you, but when I ask a question and get a defensive response, it piques my curiosity and sometimes motivates me to dig a bit deeper.
Therefore, I was interested to read an email today from business coach Molly Fletcher entitled “5 Things Fearless People Do” and realize #2 is “Be consistently curious.”
So, three cheers for curiosity and asking questions! Here is her list of 5:
- Get clear on your purpose.
- Be consistently curious.
- Take ownership of your story.
- Practice resilience.
- Take bold action.
You can read Molly’s blog post on this topic here. All five steps are components of a meaningful and rewarding life.
Even though a new year is ostensibly a time for “Happy New Year!” and funny hats and setting positive goals, January can also be a time of apprehension and fear. A fear of the unknown is probably as old as the human race, and in January, those eleven blank pages in the rest of the new calendar can trigger anxiety if we let our minds run with all the negative “what ifs?” about our upcoming health, finances, relationships, etc.
Therefore, as we approach Week 4 of 2022, Year 2 of the Biden administration, and Week 2 of the Youngkin administration, it is a good time to remember the most common command of the Bible is “Fear Not.” And part of that may be, do not be afraid to be curious and ask questions.
For those who struggle with angst, you may want to read the fine and very readable book FEARLESS: Imagine Your Life Without Fear by the gifted author Max Lucado.
So, happy new year, fear not, stay curious, and keep asking questions! God willing, we will be asking and discussing more questions in this column in 2022.