Weekly Message from T. J.

Asking Questions

His face is looking a bit white. But we keep asking questions. We finally get to it, the reason we are all here. Will he or won’t he admit his attorney had put him up to this entire case or not? My law partner is relentless…he asks harder and harder questions. And I watch. Until the witness actually grips his chest and says he is not feeling well and wants to take a break. My partner says, “Right after you finish answering the pending question.” He does. And we take a break…

For years, part of my work as a lawyer was taking part in asking questions. This usually took place in what is called a deposition. And really, depositions are allowed to be broad ranging affairs, where you can ask questions about a wide range of topics. Then the court later decides what will be allowed to be shared from the deposition, if anything at all. The piece of advice I was given is that no one ever wins a trial in a deposition. It’s really more of an ongoing conversation that helps us get to the truth.

We had a wonderful Pau Hana last night with my friend Kevin Landers (you can watch it by clicking here). One of the things he said, kindly, to the gathered group was something like “I didn’t realize having interviewing skills was a requirement for a minister.” And I admit that I really do enjoy speaking with people and interviewing them about their work, especially as that work helps to inform their lives, spiritual or otherwise. But when Kevin asked that rhetorical question, the lawyer part of me remembered all the ways I’d seen witnesses squirm and all the ways I’d made them uncomfortable. Back then I said, “Well, they wouldn’t be uncomfortable if they just told the truth from the beginning.”

Today I think differently. Yes, it’s wonderful to take a skill I honed for years as a litigator and use it to help bring out stories and information that folks may find helpful. There is redemption in that. But actually, for me, the feeling I have is that there is simply a wider conception of truth than I used to believe. As a lawyer and advocate, the truth you want is the narrative most helpful to your client. Today, though, I am more interested in disclosing the multitude of individual truths that guide us through our days.

And so on June 7 I will give my annual “Question Box” sermon. This is a chance for you to send to me any questions you have about, really, anything. You can just email me at the address below, and I will be your witness, telling you the truth as best as I can. It would be best to have the questions no later than Wednesday, June 3 so I can research and prepare the sermon.

…after the break we went back to the office. We all knew what the witness admitted. My partner and I wondered if we’d actually won a case in a deposition. The phone rang. It was opposing counsel telling us his client wants to dismiss the case. The truth does hurt sometimes, especially when you ask the right questions. But it can also set us free.

May it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.


One Response to “Weekly Message from T. J.

  1. Interviewing is definitely a strength of yours. Cat Brady’s Pau Hana also demonstrated that. It helps that you are really interested in the answer!!

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