The other day a friend asked me if I was ticklish. I laughed and said, “I do not answer yes/no questions.”
Now, if you were to ask me if I wanted a kick in the shin or to have a slice of blueberry pie, I would not hesitate to answer.
However, if you ask me to define my whole self with a yes/no answer, most often I will tell you that I don’t answer those questions. This started with a question from a four year old when I was in my 20s.
I was at a family gathering when she came up to me and asked if I was a Christian.
The question came at a time when I was asking myself the same question and had not determined if I knew the answer. This little girl looked at me with such trust, wanting to know if her trust in me was backed up by the “correct” answer to her question.
I didn’t know what to say. I suppose I could have just said, “Yes,” and it all would have turned out fine. But, her trusting eyes gave me no choice but to answer her question truthfully.
Wanting to be honest with her put me in an awkward position. Saying, “I don’t know,” would have created confusion. And saying, “No,” would have caused her to see me as an unsafe person. “Yes,” does not guarantee my trustworthiness.
I knelt down, held her hands, and said, “I am a person you can trust.” She flashed me a beautiful smile and skipped away. I breathed a sigh of relief. That was really all she wanted to know.
It is nearly 50 years since that day and there have been many times I have said, “I do not answer yes/no questions.” I explain that “yes” or “no” does not give you enough information about who I actually am.
No matter what answer I give, you will have an array of assumptions that you expect to match that answer. Like the little girl, hearing “yes” might lead you to believe all kinds of things about me that may or may not be true. “No,” might simply confirm that I am a bad person.
Recently, an adult friend asked me the same question and I again explained that I do not answer yes/no questions. He quickly said, “Then, that means no.”
No, it does not mean no. It means, get to know me, find out who I am by how I live my life. If you assume you know me by relying solely on the answer to a yes/no question, you won’t ever know me very well.