Direct Answers – A Father’s Words


I just read your recent column about everyone wanting to hear a reason, a “because.” It was fascinating. I find myself questioning if this further explains one of my late father’s teaching-moment stories. It goes like this.

A neighbor comes over and asks to borrow my dad’s axe. (It could be any tool, really. The story is not about the tool.) My dad says, “No.” The neighbor asks, “Why?” My dad says, “Because I need it to make soup.” The neighbor asks, “You need it to make soup?” My dad replies, “Yes.”

We would always ask him, “What kind of answer was that?” My dad would explain that the reason why is irrelevant. Let your no mean no. You don’t owe anyone a reason.

At other times my dad would do a twist on the story. If someone promised to do something, then didn’t do it, he would tell that story. I didn’t understand how it applied to the situation. Dad would say the excuse doesn’t matter. The reason, the why, doesn’t matter. The bottom line is they didn’t do what they said they would do. A man should always do what he says he is going to do.

People want to hear the because, the excuse. I always assumed that meant “and it better be a good one.” To hear that most people are satisfied with a poor excuse, well, that’s kind of sad. It seems to mean they lack the ability to reason.

Anyway, I really loved your answer to the young lady. You pointed out that her true love would not have caved in.

~ Christy

Christy, your dad was so wise in his teaching.

We don’t need to give people a reason why. They only want a reason so they can argue with us. A man asks a woman out and she says no. The man asks why. She says, “Because I have a boyfriend.” Then the man says, “I would be a better boyfriend.”

Though she gave a because, it is also an arguing point. The only thing that would have saved her from continued pursuit is something that can’t be argued with, like a simple no.

Your dad was shrewd to combine “no means no” with don’t let anyone “because” you. An acquaintance of ours never shows up on time, always with an excuse. Usually, it’s traffic was heavy. Which is odd. We always show up on time and the traffic doesn’t seem to affect us.

What is this acquaintance doing? Treating us like fools, and worse yet, fooling himself.

When parents don’t give children the understanding behind what they do, the child may not learn the lesson or learn the wrong lesson. That’s why an action must be memorably tied to a picture for the lesson to be learned.

Often when lessons are taught, people don’t quite get it. They don’t realize a lesson is being taught, because the teacher doesn’t fully explain what they mean. That’s why teachers must repeat the message multiple times, in multiple ways, until the principle is mastered.

Why do writers agonize over the words? Because the way something is expressed is so important. It’s like a speech by Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King. The manner of expression can make the difference between action and no reaction.

Words have the power to move us, to be memorable, to live on. “I need the axe to make soup.” That’s memorable. And it was remembered. And now it is passed along.

~ Wayne & Tamara

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Direct Answers for the week of July 29, 2019

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