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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






14 May 2009

Questioning a Questioner


Q: My husband feels that I ask too many questions [with] details which ... are needless. I feel that my inquisitive personality is fine, meaning that the Bible doesn’t say that asking questions is sinful. I know that I want to know more things than my husband and probably more than an average person — I ask more than average person.... I think my questions are valid ... and relevant.

It’s not my fault if a person is not articulate enough to convey a story to me in a such a way that I wouldn’t have any questions afterwards.... If the story was told in enough detail, then I’d have no need for more questions.... I want to know if I am doing something wrong according to Bible and am willing to change. What passages from Bible would either support the fact that it is ok to ask detailed questions or not? Thank you.


Question MarksA: I, too, am a curious sort. May I ask a few questions of you before attempting an answer? First of all, how long have you been married? Is this the biggest problem you detect in your marriage? Why do I ask these? First of all, I wonder if this has been an issue for an extended period or if it’s just now cropping up. I also want to know if arguing over whether or not you ask too many questions is masking deeper issues, at least with him. Is the old “opposites attract” syndrome is to blame, where the same things that once pulled you together have become irritating habits? Do you fear to argue over issues truly divide you, choosing “safer” battlefields in hopes of avoiding the ultimate confrontation? If anything close to either of these exists, you need to start talking to a pastor or counselor face-to-face.

If it really just is this one personality trait, let’s examine it in greater detail. Sometimes Christian husbands get the idea that a biblically submissive wife is a stone-silent woman, at least in public. This certainly isn’t the case — just check Proverbs 31. However, if a wife uses superior conversational skills in a manner that appears to undermine her husband’s position, she needs to think a bit more about the who, what, where, when, and why of her public speech.

BabblingThis isn’t for wives alone. Scripture simply doesn’t support talking for talk’s sake. Proverbs 20:19 warns, “Do not associate with a simple babbler.” Paul cautioned Timothy twice about “irreverent babble,” urging him in 2 Timothy 2:16 to avoid it “for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” Of course, this is an extreme, but unchecked excess can grow to an extreme.

In general, people learn by asking questions. Unfortunately, some parents tire too soon of their youngsters’ constant barrage of, “Why, why, why?” They shush the kids so often that they forget how to ask — even how to be curious. While the right teachers and life friends can undo some of this damage in many circumstances, at other times the sense of curiosity — of pure wonder — is so stunted that it never grows back. I sincerely hope that this isn’t your husband’s problem. However, you can tell better than I, since you know both him and his parents.

It may not be issues of differing inquisitiveness, however, but of gregariousness. Are you always “Chatty Kathy” in contrast to his “Silent Sam”? Does the difference vary depending upon setting? Maybe he has a discomfort with public discourse that extends to you, since you are “one flesh.” Perhaps it’s the size of the group or whether or not friends and family are involved.

Maybe he was embarrassed by extremely outgoing parents and this is his response. My own father sometimes made me cringe, striking up conversations with complete strangers. However, I discovered that many of those strangers became life friends and some of them came to know Christ because Dad was genuinely interested in them. I know that my own children feel the same about me from time to time. I think that it’s a factor of nature and nurture or, if you will, God fine-tuning a natural ability and me trying to use it to the maximum without abusing it.

Put a Sock in ItAnd there, I think, is where you need to start. I don’t suggest that you “put a sock in it,” literally or figuratively, any time you venture out with him. However, you might think about tapping the brakes once in a while, of counting to ten instead of to one before offering your first inquiry. I’ll take your word that you’ve a handle on the appropriateness of your public speaking, so we won’t worry about that. Just consider a more conscious and conscientious monitoring of your words. After all, if your husband is feeling overwhelmed, chances are that at least some of those with you have a similar reaction.

After you’ve taken a few personal steps and also considered your husband’s personality in more depth, find a good time to sit down for a leisurely session of conversation and dialogue. Notice the roots of these words mean having a talk together, that is between or among people. Make this time as balanced as you can and don’t rush to fill the quiet spaces. Instead, let them have a voice of their own. If just talking doesn’t seem easy to both of you, a quiet romantic dinner or a peacefully shared activity might bring you together and allow for both sound and silence.

Finally, be careful about pride and being judgmental. Comments about others, like mentioning those who are “not articulate enough,” could be turned around and thrown back at you. You already feel pressure from your husband — don’t allow yourself to become one of those of whom everyone politely says, “She overstates everything” (or, less politely, “she talks too much”).

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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Newspaper column #579:1

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