No one likes appearing foolish or incompetent. And so often, we just go along with what everyone else is doing to at least fit in and not stand out as being different. But occasionally it must be made clear that the emperor is not wearing anything at all.
In the fairy tale, everyone pretended to see something that was not there because no one wanted to appear as being stupid or seemingly unworthy. It took a child to finally name what everyone else was afraid to admit – that the emperor was indeed naked.
And throughout our life, we sometimes play the role of the emperor, the crowd, and, hopefully, the truth-telling boy as well.
As emperor, we surround ourselves with people who simply tell us what we want to hear. Or perhaps more accurately we only hear what we want to hear from them. The result is the same either way. And all our pride and posturing only makes us look more foolish in the end.
As part of the crowd, public opinion is given greater weight than our own integrity. We compromise who we are and what our own eyes are telling us just to fit in with everyone else. And stuck in this herd mentality, public opinion becomes a blind guide leading us all into the ditch.
As the truth-telling boy, we’re not concerned about pretenses and appearing a certain way to others. We’re free to name reality for what it is, and the fear of what others might think doesn’t hold us back. To be sure, there are times in which we speak up with the unencumbered innocence of a child. While at other times we must muster every ounce of bravery we have to speak out against the status quo.
In the end, we must not think so highly of ourselves, or value public opinion to the degree, that we miss the simple voice of reason and reality right in front of us.
Don’t walk around naked just because everyone agrees you’re finely dressed. Listen to the simple voice of truth, and speak up yourself whenever necessary.