Lessons In Listening (or, Boats Don’t Fly)


I remember my first day in the 1st grade Sunday school class in Canby. I was so nervous as we were new at this church and I didn’t know anyone except for my brothers. We were learning about Noah’s ark that morning and the teacher asked us what animals flew in the sky. I gathered the courage to raise my hand to answer this exceptionally easy question, and meekly lifted my little arm.

“A bird”, I said quietly.

The only problem was my speech impediment that turned my R into a W.

“No Katie, boats don’t fly”, the teacher responded condescendingly sweetly.

After deciding that this teacher was the worst, I tried again with more determination:

“No, a BIRD” (which sounded more like “bowd”, and admittedly, sounds just like “boat”)

She responded with something like “bulls don’t fly either” and tried to move on to another kid. The other children helped me out and clarified to the teacher for me and, grateful but embarrased, I remained quiet for the rest of the class.

I laugh at that story all the time, especially when I consider my thought process as a first-grader (“that teacher, what an idiot”), but something about it still sticks with me, teaches me.

How often do we genuinely try to communicate with people, but something in how we say it impedes others from really hearing us?

Or we are like the teacher in this story, and no matter how many times something is said, we cannot get it out of our heads that they are wrong.

Sometimes people are hearing from God and doing their absolute best, and by scolding or embarrassing or refusing to hear them, we stunt their progress and cut them off from community and connection that is vital for growth.

Can I challenge us all in something?

Don’t assume.



Whether speaking to people about something you’re passionate about, or listening to someone talk about something that just doesn’t make sense to you, don’t assume.

Don’t assume that you have the right point of view, or that the person listening doesn’t have a genuine desire to understand you. If you assume anything, assume the best of a person and that you don’t have the whole picture.

If you keep repeating yourself about an issue and still don’t feel heard, try to find a way to say it that will be received better. Take a break if you have to, or find someone else (an author, public figure, etc) who can say it more clearly than you.

If you endlessly hear the same issues come up and it frustrates you because it seems wrong or makes no sense to you- listen harder. Try to truly hear what someone is saying, even if they are speaking it imperfectly or through brokenness. Read articles and blog posts and tweets from people who see things differently from you. Listen to understand, not to respond with how wrong that person is.

And finally,

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”

Colossians 3:12-14

Default to love.

When you think someone is wrong- default to love.

When you can’t imagine how you could possibly be wrong- default to love.

Notice how that scripture says “forgive anyone who offends you“,  not, “make sure your brother or sister in Christ forgives anyone who offends them”.

Here’s the thing guys. We tend to consider ourselves each others parents, when we are actually siblings. There have been times that I have babysat siblings where one of them decides to take all the disciplining into their own hands. They would try to punish or scold their siblings for things they deemed inappropriate, when in my eyes there was either nothing wrong with what they were doing, or the reason I would intervene was different than this childs reason. I always wished that these “parent-children” would just worry about themselves and trust me to do my job.

Instead of the scolding and warnings and punishments, let’s maybe leave that to God, and come alongside each other as fellow kids who also don’t quite have it together.

I have been wrong so.many.times. my friends. There are beautiful people that I wouldn’t have met, lessons I would not have been able to learn, and frankly a call from God that I would have refused, if I didn’t learn to be wrong, to listen. It is a lesson I am constantly re-learning, and one I hope to never forget.

One of my most treasured quotes is by Simone Weil, which reads:

“attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

Let’s be generous people in this. With our attention, our time, our ears, our hearts, our patience: generosity. We all have our own “speech impediments”, don’t we? And because of that we are in need of both giving and receiving a little extra attention, a little extra grace at times. Listen through the brokenness, the imperfection. We’ve been given the most generous gift in Christ. Let us not hold back now.

One thought on “Lessons In Listening (or, Boats Don’t Fly)

  1. Kate,

    I loved this! Such a simple, sweet reminder to seek understanding and lead with a positive perspective. I just found your blog after I stumbled upon your Instagram account. I don’t think we’ve actually met in person but I know your husband Spencer. I’ve served alongside him at a few summer camps the last few years.
    Anyways, I love your blog and your heart behind it. Can’t wait for the next post!

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