I’m not really sure why this story is sticking in my head; but it has been ever since Ken and I read it. 

The story discussed the Quaker tradition to have a “clearness committee” whenever one has to make an important, life-altering decision. The committee is not there to discuss a decision or to give advice; it is there to ask questions.

A man was offered a new job. More money, more status, more influence – a seemingly no-brainer. Yet he couldn’t answer the question “Why do you want this job?” First, he started to list everything he didn’t like about it. After repeating the question several times, the committee members urged him more. Ashamed, he said he would like to see his picture in the paper. That was the only reason he really had for taking this job. And, of course, the fact that to everybody else this seemed like the greatest opportunity.

I feel like we should all have a clearness committee once in a while. Obvious answers are not necessarily right ones. And what’s right for everybody else doesn’t need to be right for you.

More importantly, I feel that we should sometimes consider ourselves to be a member of the committee. Asking the right questions is often harder than distributing advice.

Everybody deserves good questions. The answers often need some time to ripen… I’m still trying to figure out the exact answer to why this story stuck with me. I’ll let it ripen a little bit longer…

Leave a comment


  1. Bridget

     /  February 27, 2012

    Love this as I am in need of a clearness committee now.

  2. Marta Behrens

     /  February 28, 2012

    I definitely feel that questions can be more effective and more potent. We often have a difficult time asking ourselves the difficult questions so it’s nice when you have someone who is willing to do this for you.


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