Wise leaders understand that well-formed questions can become a battle horn. 

Revolutions—whether of a nation or a single human heart—begin when someone asks a question.

Agents of Transformation:

A  stumpy, toga-draped figure with a homely face is counted among the most influential individuals of all time.

Unlike the other great characters of ancient Athens, he chose to steer clear of politics and climbing the civic ladder. And unlike other popular philosophers of his era, he wrote no books, established no school, and did not even offer any formal classes.

Yet this man has stood at the heart of Western philosophy for twenty-four hundred years. And his influence grew almost entirely from conversations built upon a single tool: the question.

Day in and day out, Socrates shaped the thoughts and perspectives of the students and others who gathered around him. He drew them with his questions toward new insights and perspectives:

  • “If a speech is to be good, must not the mind of the speaker know the truth about the matters of which he speaks?”
  • “But is it not better to be ridiculous than to be clever and an enemy?”
  • “He who has learned what is just is just?”

The leading Athenians of Socrates’ day had their faults, but they cannot be accused of being unperceptive. They knew that Socrates’ unassuming dialogues and probing questions—what is today called the Socratic Method—presented more of a threat to Athens’ status quo than even the enemy armies of mighty Sparta.

Despite his sincere piety and patriotism, Socrates was put on trial for subversion. He was charged with corrupting the youth and undermining religious practices. A small majority of the jury voted to convict.

Rejecting their offer of life in exile, Socrates submitted to the jury’s final sentence: death by suicide. He spent his final hours with students and family members. As the sun drew low, the aging teacher raised a cup of hemlock to his lips. He walked around the cell, allowing the poison to move into his bloodstream. Then, as those gathered around him wept, he lay down, never to rise again.

His question-centered communication, however, continues to reverberate. Athens, and with it the entire Western world, have never been the same.

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Consider other great transformations in society: The fight for American independence. The invention of human flight. The struggle for civil rights and women’s suffrage. The fall of the Iron Curtain, or the end of Apartheid in South Africa.

All these tipping points in history started with questions—inquiries, second-guesses, an “is this the way things have to be?” that set in motion fundamental change.

Revolutionaries—those initiators of transformation in human lives—are men and women who understand the power of a question.

How to Start a Revolution (Part 2)  “Jesus – The Answer Who Asked Questions” will post on Monday, December 10

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Authors of Upended Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe

Jedd serves as president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans

Erik is the principle at  Different Drummer, a LA and NYC based audience mobilization agency for global entertainments brands and content.

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