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Don’t ask why

May 11, 2022 | Shorts

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When things go wrong, avoid asking the "why?" question, which can lead to self-pity and inhibit your return to a meaningful life.
Many years ago, whilst serving in the military, I made a stupid mistake and badly misjudged a situation. This landed me in very public hot water and was the cause of so much shame, pain and suffering it took me to the edge.

During this crisis, I asked “why” and “why me?” In fact, it was a lost quarter of a century before I dared ask other questions.

Then, a year ago, a friend fell from her horse during a steeplechase at Taunton in the UK. A week later, she died in hospital. She was only 37, the daughter of my oldest friends, and I had known her since she was born.

Again, during those first tragic moments, I found myself asking, “why?”

The unhelpfulness of “why?”

When our world is turned upside down, whether in a close personal situation or a more global (and possibly remote) situation, our instinct is to ask “why?”

However, as I learnt to my cost all those years ago, asking “why” is usually not very skilful or helpful when meaning and purpose are struck from our lives.

Often the question cannot be answered, which leaves you without resolution.

Or it can turn into “why me?” which is even more unhelpful and only leads to us creating dramas to reinforce our egos.

The alternative to “why?”

So what are the alternatives?

“What happened?” is a good question. It brings clarity and certainty and, most importantly, weeds out the lies and confabulations we weave to protect ourselves, leading to the truth.

“So what?” helps to add perspective. Usually, we see things that happen to us as far more severe and detrimental than they actually are (or vice versa). Asking “so what?” can generate self-compassion and compassion for those on whom you have had an impact

“What next?” is probably the best question to ask. This question leads to growth, development, resolution, and forgiveness. It helps you move on and will, possibly, give meaning to your life as you use your experiences to benefit others.

So, when things go wrong, avoid asking the “why?” question, which can lead to self-pity and inhibit returning to a meaningful life.

Attributions and references

Photo by Gage Walker on Unsplash

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