On the wall of my office is a clock, with a story. Like most clocks it tells the time, but for many people it is a source of much frustration and irritation. WHY? It goes backwards, that is it goes anti-clockwise! People often look at it and proceed to tell me that it is wrong – meaning that it is not telling the time accurately. My response it to look at it and read the time it is displaying, and assuring them that the time displayed is right. It only seems wrong because they only looked at the hands and failed to notice that the numbers were also in the “wrong” places.
As a friend told me this week, “The wisdom is in the story”, and we often get it wrong because we don’t take the time to look at the finer details and notice the subtle differences. The result? We jump to conclusions and get it wrong or tell others they got it wrong. The story is that my clock is an effective time keeper, it just happens to be a left handed movement, and it is only tradition that makes it seem wrong.
I spend a lot of time listening to stories, noticing not just what is said but what is not said, recognising that even though some people may do things differently, that doesn’t automatically mean that they are wrong. Many of the traditions we accept without thinking are neither good nor bad, right or wrong, just what we are used to, and what we think is normal. Others might have very different opinions!
So, next time you are tempted to tell others that they have got it wrong, step back, listen to the whole story, and look at the finer details. You might be surprised by the wisdom you find. And you may even be able to learn how to tell the time with my clock.
Chaplain Ian Whitley