We live in an “instant” world and in a “spoon-fed” society. Sadly, I’ve found that most people are too lazy to think for themselves. They rely on what they’re fed, and swallow anything and everything that’s dished up—bait, hook, line and sinker. And if it’s dressed up and well presented, it goes down even better. The coming of the Internet has facilitated research and the flow of information. However, too many Internet users accept, believe and propagate what they read without doing any verification homework.

True leaders simply aren’t like that—they question and they think! Questions such as who, what, where, when, why, how, etc. need constantly be asked to prevent indoctrination and misinformation.

Ontology is that branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of being. Thus the ontological question endeavors to provide an answer to the question, “What is it?” Epistemology is that branch of philosophy that deals with the validity, methods and scope of knowledge. Thus the epistemological question endeavors to provide an answer to the question, “How do we know that.”

Leaders needn’t be philosophers, but leaders need to ask questions and think for themselves. Too often we coin the phrase, “knowledge is power,” yet we fail in our responsibility to obtain verified knowledge. We’re content in our comfort zone of untested information.

In failing to ask the question, “How do you know that?” we become prone to the reasoning of other people. Their arguments, statements or agendas dominate the table, and we inevitably end up by discussing and debating the opinions of others. By asking the simple question, “How do you know that?” the entire emphasis is shifted from discussing a statement that everyone is supposed to accept as factual, to proving that statement as factual in the first instance, prior discussing it.

Let’s look at a very practical example. A person says that the remains of dinosaurs that lived 150 million years ago were discovered. Now the ensuing debate normally is about whether there were dinosaurs or not, whether evolution or creationism is the correct interpretation of origin, and the like. However, by simply asking the question, “How do you know that dinosaurs lived 150 million years ago?” the entire emphasis is shifted on the one making the statement, to prove his statement. And the irony of this exercise is that he can’t, because there are too many suppositions in the equation to make any reasonable sense at the end of the day.

Mankind has firstly been conditioned to accept the words of those in “authority” for they “know” what they are talking about. But do they? Unless we challenge their statements we’ll never really know what’s right and what’s not. Furthermore, mankind has been conditioned not to question for it’s an unacceptable practice, very rude and extremely disrespectful. Thus we’re conditioned not to think for ourselves—and to be followers where others lead.

Academic schools of thought present a certain sense of credibility which results in the fact that Joe Soap hardly ever questions their allegations and findings. This gives them power over the people. When a school of thought can control what people believe and think, they have power over those people, and they have “willing” and “controlled” followers!

Of this there are many practical examples throughout history. In South Africa the political concept of “apartheid” was dished up to the masses, who, without questioning and thinking for themselves, swallowed it for many a year. Not only do we have this in politics, but also in religion, where but a few “anointed” have the “insight” and “revelation” to interpret “the way.”

Sadly, this is also evident in Christianity! And this happens despite the fact the Bereans were commended for daily verifying the Scriptures to see whether Paul had been teaching the truth. I’ve a very simply question to the person in the pew, “Do you check what you’re being taught?” I also have a question for the person in the pulpit, “Do you ask your hearers to check if what you teach is true?”

Scientists are another group of people prone to this kind of thing. The theory of evolution has become a fact—without anyone proving a thing. Medical science has ridiculed the spiritual as “unscientific” to such an extent that believers have more faith in their doctors and their pills than in their Creator and Healer. A very small group of academics who prescribe to the humanistic world view have virtually taken over the world with their value system.

Evidently, if you make enough noise, if you sound credible enough, if you use the right platforms, you aren’t questioned sufficiently and your hollow philosophy turns into a masterpiece!

Tradition is another very powerful tool in the hands of manipulators. We are told to do things or believe things in certain ways because “it has always been done that way.” This is found in the political, spiritual, sociological and economic spheres of life. And because we simply don’t dare question our forefathers and think for ourselves, tradition, instead of reason and truth, rules our lives and dictates our belief systems. Thus today we still have societies in certain parts of the world that are governed by traditions dating back thousands of years—ignoring progress and innovation for the sake of tradition.

Why is it true that when a fable is repeated often enough it becomes accepted as a fact? Because no one questions the fable sufficiently! Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? These questions separate the leaders from the followers. These questions separate the thinkers from the undiscerning.

Ignorance and blind acceptance of what you’re told and taught give others power over you. Knowledge, truth and understanding enable and empower you—it makes a leader out of you. No wonder then that Jesus Himself said that knowledge of the truth sets free! In politics, in business and in the church, start asking questions. “What is it?” “How do you know that?” “Why should I do that?” These questions serve as a dividing line between fact and fable, between substance and nonsense, between reality and fantasy. It’s one of the marks of separation between a leader and a follower.

The Biblical reference that “rebellion is as witchcraft” is often misinterpreted and very effectively abused by classifying questioning as rebellion, and thus suppressing the development of independent thinking. The full context of the Scripture refers to obedience to the voice of the Lord and rebelling against the word of the Lord. It has nothing to do with questioning the rules and laws of man, with questioning the reasoning and revelations of the learned, or with questioning the authority of man over man.

Just for a moment picture a scene so often seen on TV: There’s a speaker—a religious preacher, a political orator, a public speaker, a popular entertainer… And there’s an audience—fascinated, captivated, entranced, emotional, and lapping up every word… Have you ever wondered about what you’re witnessing? Have you ever marvelled at the seeming adoration of the hearers? Have you ever been a part of such an audience? Have you ever questioned the speaker? “How do you know that?” “What is it?” Questions such as who, what, where, when, why, how, etc.

True leadership consists of integrity and accountability. If truth and knowledge of the truth is not part of the equation, both integrity and accountability become no more than mere empty words.

How then can a leader obtain knowledge, and in that, knowledge of the truth? Ask! Ask questions! Think! Think clearly about the answers, evaluate them carefully and discerningly—and then ask even more questions! And most importantly, leaders question everything! Often we’re apt to only question the things that don’t suit us, but we blindly follow the things that suit us or sort of make sense to us.

My challenge to you, dear reader, is simply this: QUESTION and THINK. It is true knowledge that empowers, and truth that sets free—not the indoctrination, manipulation or control of others.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to pass it along to your friends.
All that I ask is that you include the copyright and URL of my website.

© Emil Kirstein

(Author of Quest for Freedom)