Why? Because I said so!

January 20, 2021 · Print This Article

Organisations and companies often employ a management tool to analyse problems, referred to as ‘The 5 Whys’.1

The basic principle is that in the face of a problem, the question ‘why’ is asked and answered 5 times, thereby getting closer and closer to the root cause. Why did you fail your exams?  Because I didn’t revise enough? Why didn’t you revise enough? Because I had too many other things to do? Why did you have too many other things to do? Because I hadn’t planned ahead and done them earlier? Why hadn’t you planned ahead? And so on.  I hadn’t heard of this method of problem analysis back when my son was a small toddler and experimenting with new words was an adventure.

Anyone who has spent time with a toddler will probably recognise the ‘Why?’ game. A seemingly innocuous comment on your part elicits the question, ‘Why?’ So, you answer it – because that’s what responsible parenting is all about. And whatever your answer, they come back with another ‘Why?’ So often this game ends up with an exasperated, ‘Because I said so!’ We call upon our ultimate parental authority to bring an end to what appears to be a pointless – and not to mention irritating – interaction. On one occasion I decided I would ‘out-why’ my son. I would answer every ‘why’ with a rational answer, and he would stop first. Don’t do it! A toddler has far more tenacity than you will ever have, particularly when it comes to repetitive and apparently futile activities. They will win.

The ‘whys’ came back at me as fast as I could think of an answer and despite the fact that they lacked any real inquisitiveness, they still kept coming. ‘Because I said so’ was the only way out of the verbal black hole I was sinking into. Toddlers quickly learn the excitement and power of words, using them to manipulate their worlds – and the biggest players in their worlds are their parents.

The Old Testament book of Job details an interaction between Job and God, after God had allowed Job to suffer devastating ill health and personal loss. Job is essentially demanding, over and over again that God answer his ‘why’ questions. Throughout chapters 26 to 31 He lists his obedience to God’s law, his rejecting of temptation and his good deeds. He is asking why God has permitted him to be punished in this way. God’s answer is along the lines of ‘Because I said so’, as he reminds Job of his ultimate creative power and perfection against Job’s human weakness. Job’s questions are silenced, and he says, ‘how can I reply to you … I spoke once, but I have no answer.’ And later, ‘Surely I spoke of things I did not understand’.2

When resurrected Jesus met with his disciples, over breakfast on the beach, he shared with one of his most loyal followers called Peter what he expected from him in his future ministry – and some of the unpleasant details of how his life would end. Peter looked across at another disciple called John and asked, ‘What about him?’ Peter wanted to compare what he’d just heard about his future with that of John’s, asking ‘why?’ ‘Why me?’ Jesus came back with the answer, ‘what is that to you? You must follow me’.3

Sometimes ‘Because I said so’ is good enough for us too, especially if it comes from the creator of all.

Maggie Mitchell info@because.uk.com

Maggie is an editor at Because

1https://www.toolshero.com/toolsheroes/sakichi-toyoda/
2Job 40:4-5; Job 42:3
3John 21:18-22
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