Why don’t we ask the tough questions?

Why do we wait to ask the tough questions until someone is on their deathbed, until it’s the last time we’ll see someone, or before we go our separate ways?

Why do we procrastinate until the final moment to ask someone the meaningful questions or tell them how we really feel?

Our hesitation to risk tasting the bitterness of life can stem from a multitude of reasons. Is it a touch of stoicism in all of us? Are we too scared of the answer? Can we handle the truth?

Would we rather live in a blissful ignorance than cope with the brutal honesty of life?

Would we actually do anything different?

This has been on my mind recently and it would be interesting to hear your thoughts. I’m an advocate for always saying what’s on your mind. Even if that means I come across as unpolished at times.

Life is too short to withhold how we feel. Isn’t it?





You can find E.L. Jayne’s poetry blog here: www.poemsandprose.travel.blog

34 thoughts on “Why don’t we ask the tough questions?

  1. I’m an end of life doula for this very reason. Death is the only thing of which we can be 100% certain. I feel often that I am here shouting into the void, but doing what I can do to remove the taboo, superstition and fear from the questions. Thanks for adding your voice to the narrative.

    1. I’ve enjoyed reading about the Life/Death/Life cycle recently… it really makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately in my culture death is taboo and not talked about. Some things must die for new life to begin. It’s a necessary part of life. We must open ourselves to that which we intuitively know must come to an end, in order to make space for new energy and new life.

      1. Made me think of a book I read about life before life for some reason. Kind of an esoteric subject, but the book was a compilation of hundreds of accounts of people talking to people trying to connect with past lives. Of course it could be a combination of people’s imaginations and memories they don’t quite consciously remember. But if you’re open to it, well, it’s an interesting possibility.

        I think the prospect of death isn’t easy to accept. But I think when you do, it’s a good check on your ego. But it’s not that we find it “good”, necessarily. It’s the melancholy of it that makes it sobering.

  2. Hey Jayne, since my childhood, I have been reading short stories, listening to people say that honesty is the best policy. Brutal honesty is good in general, but, if you are in a setting where it can harm another person (I’m talking about a hypersensitive person or the image that the person has given to you is that of being a hypersensitive person), then you are tongue-tied and cannot speak your heart or be brutally honest. I loved your own answer “Is it a touch of stoicism in us all?” and subscribe to it. Perhaps there is.
    So, based on the circumstances and who you are speaking to (mostly if you’re talking about family members, you can estimate their personalities if you have spent enough time with them) and how open the relationship is, you can ask the tough questions. Most of us like staying inside our heads so there’s not enough courage to ask the tough questions. We are selfish and we don’t want to hear the harsh truth because it may shake up someone’s world.

    Could you give an example of a tough question you want to ask someone in your life?

    1. I do think it might be a touch of stoicism in us all, and also maybe in some cases, we already know the answer in our hearts. I definitely agree that we shouldn’t be harsh to sensitive people, I’m very empathetic and never want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t deserve the truth. I see empathetic people in my life that see me as sensitive and may not want to ask me the tough questions for this same reason too. In the end, it always feels better to have clarity and work towards acceptance than to be believing a false reality… Is that also how you view honesty?

      1. Hey Jayne, surely, it is freeing to have clarity and yes, working towards acceptance is a possible solution some prefer, but everyone defines what their own reality is. We can never know what others think and believe is real is the same as what we think and believe in real. Hence your proposal about asking tough questions is the solution. At least it creates a dialogue to know a little more about the other person. Knowing a little more about the other person gives a sense of security, I feel.

  3. I’ve always been one of those people that will ask tough questions, but only if I think it’s necessary. If it’s just going to hurt people or upset them and no one gets anything out of it then don’t do it. But I think some of the best and most honest relationships and conversations can come from asking the tough questions, or challenging what feels comfortable or uncomfortable in the moment.

  4. “Why do we procrastinate until the final moment” . . . perhaps it’s because we’ve accepted the hopeful immortal fantasy that our final moment still remains in the future in lieu of acknowledging the reality that our dreadful mortal moment has arrived.

    Endeavor to live each day as it’s your last, thankful it wasn’t yesterday.

  5. Learning how to be human isn’t easy, communication notwithstanding. Like the energy of Chickadee, the truth doesn’t have to hurt. It can be expressed gently and with love. Easier said than done. But sometimes, saying aloud to someone, “how do I say this” or “I need to express this and really don’t want to come across harsh” are helpful ways to preface difficult conversations and tend to relax defenses. At the end of the day, authentic conversations feel empowering, even if nerve wracking. You can also check for understanding by asking someone what they took from what you say and inviting their feedback about your message. It’s how we help each other grow. Sometimes, this naturally leads to hitting the pause button in relationships, which is part of the risk of keeping it real.

  6. Seeking to know the truth is always good and asking questions to get to the truth may work sometimes with some people nearing their end but not always. It really depends on our own attitudes and perceptions, whether we can change ourselves, accept there is a difference and let that person go without harbouring any negative emotions. Expressing the truth doesn’t always mean that the situation can be resolved but often when we change ourselves the environment too, will reflect this. Thank you for the thought.

  7. Every time the testament or Last Will issue pops up in a conversation, I see people clamming up. It’s only on the bucket list of the very old or terminally ill. And then accidents happen, nothing is arranged and quarrels start.

    1. That’s a good point here. It’s a lack of stoicism in believing tomorrow would be a better opportunity, instead of accepting today as the best and possibly only opportunity.

    1. I agree! We like to think we want the truth, but we aren’t willing to sacrifice our happiness to reach the truth. Or maybe half truths are good enough. Lots of possibilities and situational variables…

  8. Although we know that death is imminent, we tend to think that we have all the time in the world. And when we near our final days, most of the time, there’s always a regret…

  9. Life is indeed short. I am currently reading ‘Notes on Grief’ by Chimamanda Adichie. She writes of she wished she had said all she wanted to her Dad.

    Say your piece and make peace with it.

    Excellent post!

    It’s great to read from you again, Ellen 😃

    1. That’s definitely a situation that comes to my mind when pondering this question. Also thank you for sharing that quote, I love it 🙂 Thanks for reading as always Billy!

  10. When my mother died and I had to piece together aspects of her life, I told my adult sons not to wait until we (me and my husband) die to get to know us. It’s sparked a lot of conversation and honesty.

  11. This is not a binary; like most things in life it’s nuanced and sensitive to context and people. Sometimes it’s just terribly inconsiderate to speak your mind. The other person might not be able to deal with it; is it then worth sitting on one’s throne of forthright and honest directness when without quite meaning to perhaps one has broken someone’s spirit? At other times directness is essential; it could prevent someone from sliding or help them grow.

    I used to be very direct (often brutally so) and I saw the devastation it caused at times. I learned to deliver it better keeping in mind who the recipient is and what the circumstance is even when the person asks me for an ‘honest’ (why should it be anything else?) opinion. And I learned as well to be more judicious on when to give counsel and when to withhold it.

  12. Life is too short most definitely we need to speak up otherwise it’ll be too late and we end up having more regrets of why we didn’t do it differently. Great piece

  13. Hello!
    Two things stand out for me in this post. These are written (in my perception) as choices:
    (1) blissful ignorance v.s. tasting reality
    (2) asking a meaningful question v.s tell how we really feel

    Nr 1 makes me think about a certain scene from the Matrix (movie), and how a Matrix character prefers the “blissful ignorance” to reality…. As far as I have got to know people, this is very applicable to a majority. Blissful ignorance seems like less discomfort at the first glance. At the second glance you´re too late… the idea of discomfort is too scary the older a person is… And every change brings discomfort in the beginning, so most people do not stir things up out of their own will.

    Nr 2 Asking a question, same as anything else we say, is always about ourselves. So, maybe it is not asking OR telling, it could be one and the same thing. The point is “meaningful”. What I found out is that “what we really feel”, that deep personal truth about ourselves, about others, about what´s going on internally and externally, is difficult to verbalise. These feelings, even when in an attempt to put them into meaningful questions, are simply not susceptible of language. Could this be the reason why we avoid asking/ telling this stuff in the first place?

    What´s common to both of these “points”, is a certain degree of discomfort people experience when engaging in reality 🙂
    Hope this will contribute a bit to your “quest”. Life is too short, that´s a fact and it is a real art of living to explore the life in all of its aspects, to learn and go on as improved version ;). Exploring is often not so comfortable and after engaging in discomfort it is an art to go on with dignity and a smile.
    Have a nice day

  14. My Mom was always brutally honest with how she felt, what she liked or didn’t like…believe me, she didn’t hold back lol. My Dad was eh with it. He never held back his opinions or thoughts but, his feelings were a mystery sometimes. He was a marine and his tour ended as the Korean War started. He came from a time when men didn’t cry or sympathize and had to be tough…which he was except for sympathizing lol. Maybe because he raised 4 girls lol. That’s where I am a perfect combo of both of them. Not only my Mom but, most of my family was up front for the most part. I just grew up that way so if something, someone made me feel a certain way I’d acknowledge it so it could be worked through and move on. My husband’s family…complete opposites. It’s better to be honest, even brutally honest rather than bottle it up until it explodes (bluntly honest cause my family and I never wanted to hurt anyone). It should also be a positive way to learn and communicate and work towards an equal resolution.
    Now there’s also those ‘Family Secrets’ that are only discussed privately and only between certain relatives or friends that become more…yikes…. It could be anywhere from wanting answers, having questions to apologies never said or truths withheld to protect another. Oh yeah…can you tell I come from royalty when it comes to family dysfunction?? Lol…surprisingly, my family has managed this rather normally.
    Anyway, I think it all depends on what the matter is when it comes down to it. I’d definitely would want the truth and not be blissfully ignorant.

  15. I am often scared of something working out the way I wanted it to.

    Depression manifests in different ways for me, but the most painful is when I can’t ask questions I know I want to, or can’t do the things I know are life-giving. Conversation with loved ones is big for me, and the days I don’t have enough words to say the things I want are ones I unintentionally return to and lament. I think this is a reason why sometimes I can’t say the words, being stopped by an invisible force, which I am starting to dig around to find the underlying reasons for and hopefully find solutions to.

    Thank you for these questions, and helping me to unpack a little bit more of where I’m going. ❤

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