half an ear

November 14, 2004

From Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person.

I’m an expert in “half an ear” listening. If this were a skill worth learning, I could teach a class on it. My mind is always calculating, always sorting, always developing. Ironically enough, even as I read this quote, I was thinking through how I could blog about it.

I suppose I could argue that this response is natural, because two of my primary gifts are teaching and wisdom. (In fact, I believe I have made that argument in a conversation with my wife at least once. 🙂 ) Those are gifts that seem like they are meant for response and direction. However, that would be an immature form of those gifts. They do not excuse me from listening. If anything, they require me to listen all the more. I cannot fully use these gifts until I have fully listened to God and others.

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