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When Bad Questions Happen to Good People

by Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.

As an astrological counselor, most of my clients come to me with questions, hoping that I will provide them with answers.

They’re usually a bit surprised when I tell them that I don’t do answers.

My clients come to me with questions, and at the end of the consultation, they leave with questions. I’ve done my job so long as the questions that they leave with are better than the questions that they came with.

We’re all responsible for coming up with our own answers. Just as no one can live our lives for us, no one can tell us what choices are right for us. Taking responsibility for our own choices and finding our own answers is what life is about. However, the quality of the answers we find is entirely dependent on the quality of the questions that we ask.

So many people spend their lives searching for the answer, when what they really should be looking for is the question.

When we look for the answer, we’ve already missed the point. Because we are individualized aspects of All That Is, we already have every answer; in fact, we are the answer. The truth is that we are connected to all of creation, and therefore, if an answer exists, it is, by definition, a part of us. The ultimate Answer is that All That Is is all that is. While this answer has the ability to provide the kind of peace and joy that we all ultimately crave, it does lack a certain practical element. If we want a more specific answer that we can make use of in our daily lives, we have to ask a more specific question.

Now, those of you who are familiar with my past articles know that I assiduously avoid judgment whenever possible. When I counsel my clients or teach astrology, I continuously remind my clients and students that there is no such thing as a “bad” chart; there are no such things as “bad” planets or “bad” aspects. In my relationship coaching work, I insist that there are no such things as “bad” choices—inelegant choices, yes, unskillful choices, sure, but no bad choices. As a rule, I avoid value judgments such as “good” and “bad” because they are of limited use at best.

I do, however, believe that there are such things as good and bad questions.

Good questions are designed to help us to reconnect with the truth of who we are. Good questions empower us, open us up to new possibilities, and support our personal, material and spiritual growth.

Good questions include “How can I experience more love, joy and peace in my life?” “How can I be of service?” and “How do I love thee? (Let me count the ways).”

Bad questions, on the other hand, reinforce the illusion of separation, disempowering us and making us feel trapped, isolated, alone and helpless. What makes things worse is that we base our experience of reality on the (incorrect and ego-based) answers to our bad questions, and this makes it more difficult for us to even recognize that we can choose to ask better questions at any time.

Bad questions include “What should I do?” and “Why does this always happen to me?”

Let’s explore some of these bad questions and consider some better alternatives.


In general, “what” questions are useful because they encourage specific, practical, concrete answers. One would also presume that asking for direction in life is a good thing (and one would be correct). So what’s wrong with this question? One word: should.

I personally endeavor to be very careful with my language, and feel that certain words are almost never appropriate. Whatever the FCC may think, I have no problem with the more “adult” four-letter words, although I do try to avoid using them in public. The one word that I do believe should be banned is “should.” (And yes, I appreciate the irony of not being able to come up with a way to express the strength of my feelings about not using the word “should” without using the word “should.”)

Perhaps I could be more specific. There are times when the word “should” is appropriate, and most of these involve parents teaching their children how to behave properly.

The word “should” is almost never appropriate when used between adults, particularly when we use it in our self-talk. It’s amazing how often we find ourselves “should-ing” all over ourselves, and it’s exactly as unappealing as it sounds.

“Should” is such a damaging word because it immediately robs us of our ability to choose. “Should” assumes obligations, unwanted responsibility, burdens, hardship, and weakness, not to mention a lack of options and dearth of free will.

We are absolutely arguing semantics here; however, since our words define our reality, I invite you to consider just how important semantics are.

We all have obligations and responsibilities. We all have things that we do, not because we enjoy doing them, but because doing them is necessary, or because the consequences of not doing them are far more unpleasant than doing them. Even so, we can still live up to our responsibilities because we choose to, not because we should.

When we do something because we “should” do it, we don’t experience any joy, satisfaction or validation from the deed because we performed it under duress. On the other hand, when we choose to live up to our responsibilities, we experience a rise in self-esteem and a surprisingly significant deposit in our Validation Account.

As soon as we shift our language from “I have to do this,” to “I choose to do this,” we free up a tremendous amount of personal power and energy.

So, rather than asking “What should I do?” we can ask “What are my choices?” Either question will give us the same basic answer; however, one question will empower us and provide us with more elegant and creative options.


“Why” questions are some of the most dangerous questions to ask. The idea of linear cause and effect only applies to the third dimension. Every answer to a “why” question simply presents more “why” questions to explain the answer and gain a greater perspective. Ultimately, the only answer to “Why?” is “Because.” If you’ve forgotten this fact, have a conversation with your average four-year-old. Trust me: after answering about six or seven consecutive “Why” questions, you’ll find the only final answer is “Because.”

Alas, when we ask questions like “Why does this always happen to me?” we actually receive an answer—from our egos. And that answer is always wrong, biased, and limiting, and is usually along the lines of “Because you’re not ___ enough.”

The problem is that while this answer is painful, limiting, and ultimately entirely wrong, it does seem to answer the question in a satisfactory manner. And since every time we ask the question our egos give us the same answer, if we ask the question enough, we’ll begin to believe that the answer is, in fact, true.

Even the question itself is immediately disempowering. When we ask “Why did this happen to me?” we immediately give up any personal responsibility for our lives and step into victim consciousness. Things only happen to victims, and things happen to victims because victims are powerless and weak and have no choice in the matter. As soon as we make a choice, we are no longer a victim.

If we are unhappy with circumstances in our lives, a better question is, “What did I do to create this?” We may not like the answer to this question either, but at least the question accepts the fact that we are responsible for our lives, and our choices, both conscious and unconscious, elegant and inelegant, determine our experiences of reality. An even better question is, “What is the lesson in this?” or, “What is the gift in this?”

The Universe is entirely impersonal. It gives us whatever we ask for. The answers are always available to us. But if we want better answers, we have to ask better questions.

Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life. Visit for a FREE Report on creating Amazing Relationships.

©2006 Kevin B. Burk, all rights reserved. If you would like to reprint this article in your publication, web page, or eZine (which you may do for free!), click here for details.


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