A recent story in the news reminded me of an old saying: “the quality of our lives is directly proportional to the quality of our questions.”
Usually, this phrase is thought of in terms of questions like "Why does this always happen to me?” compared to “What can I do to keep this from happening to me in the future?” It’s obvious that the second question is far more empowering than the first. But there’s another kind of question out there.
It’s the question that is posed to draw "battle lines" and to define "Us vs. Them." These types of questions are posed in such a way as to try and get you to choose between only two options, as though those were the only two options to choose from. These questions have to do with pushing agendas, not with solving problems. These are the questions that serve the group, not solve the issues.
Let takes a look at an issue that’s a real hot button in our society: abortion.
And it’s a hot button exactly because of the question that is routinely asked around it – "Are you 'Pro-choice' or 'Pro-life?'"
A recent news story told of how Sister Margaret McBride was kicked out of the Catholic Church, and how St. Joseph's Hospital lost its Catholic affiliation, because they approved an abortion in order to save a pregnant woman's life. Yes, you heard right, they were kicked out for trying to save a life. They approved an abortion for a 27-year-old woman who was 11 weeks pregnant but suffered from a serious heart condition. The hospital’s board of ethics, of which Sister Margaret was a member, made the decision that terminating the pregnancy in the third month was the only possible way the doctors of saving the mother’s life.
This, of course, started a huge uproar in the “Pro-life” and “Pro-choice” camps. I think it would be nice if Life could be reduced to “all or nothing” choices, but it can’t. Life is all about the shades of gray. Defining yourself as only “Pro-choice” or exclusively “Pro-life” places you in an ineffective position because “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” are two extremes, two polarities of the continuum called abortion. If only it were as simple as to adhere strictly to one polarity or the other. Many feel completely comfortable at either of these two extremes because they do cover around 80 percent of situations. The rub is that they don’t cover the other 20 percent, like the one mentioned above.
I have been asked before if I am “Pro-choice” or “Pro-life” and my first reaction is always “what a lousy question.” Does this person really believe that those are the only two choices a person can make on the subject? Whenever I am asked a question like this one, one that is designed to force me to make a choice between only a few options out of many, I usually reply with an “I can’t answer your question the way you’ve asked it.”
Then I follow up with, “Why are those my only choices?” That usually fries them pretty well because they never really thought deeply about the issue, they simply "jumped on the band wagon" and repeated what they had heard.
I think using abortion as "birth control" is unacceptable because I have a fundamental belief in the sanctity of all life. I believe that allowing a mother to die because the pregnancy would kill both herself and the child is unacceptable because I have a fundamental belief in the sanctity of all life. Being asked if I am “Pro-choice” or “Pro-life” is like being asked If I am “Pro-hot” or “Pro-cold” in reference to water. I can’t answer a question like that. I honor the fact that sometimes life calls for us to choose “warm.” Instead of being “Pro-hot” or “Pro-cold” the correct place to be is “Pro-water.”
Life is too complex and varied to effectively navigate with only a set of hard and fast rules. The proverb “there’s an exception to every rule” speaks to the fact that life is made up of situations that fall outside of “all or nothing” attitudes. We could dispense with a lot of anger, rage and fighting if we would start asking better questions. How about instead of needing to be either “Pro-Choice” or “Pro-Life,” we define ourselves as either “Pro-Love,” “Pro-Compassion,” or “Pro-Peace”?
Nah, too many people would probably miss being “Pro-anger.”