Do you remember the Hans Christian Anderson story of the Emperor’s New Clothes?
You know, it’s the one about the rich and vain fashionista ruler who wore a new outfit every hour of every day?
Two swindlers came to town claiming to be the best fashion designers of their time. They also claimed to work with the finest cloth ever created.
There was one catch.
Okay, two actually.
The cloth they used was extremely expensive and it was invisible to those who were incompetent or stupid.
The emperor wanting only the best and most exclusive hired them on the spot and eagerly awaited his new wardrobe.
The swindlers set up their work area and feverishly began to work on… well nothing.
They asked for the finest silk and purest gold, which they promptly hid away for later.
The fashionista ruler wondered how they were progressing and desperately wanted to check in, but secretly wondered if even he’d be able to see the material with which they worked.
Instead he sent a reliable servant. The servant went. Saw nothing. And for fear of being deemed incompetent or stupid reported back to the emperor how wonderful everything was coming along.
The rich ruler sent several other servants and for fear of their own position claimed that what they could not see was beautiful and breathtaking.
The night before the big fashion show the swindlers demanded more silk and more gold. Again they hid it away for later.
The morning of the big show had arrived.
The vain, rich, fashion-icon emperor sprang from his bed and called for his new clothes to be delivered.
His imperial majesty and a couple of his closest aids joined him as his new clothes were brought in.
The swindlers asked the emperor to put on his birthday suit and proceeded to “dress” him piece by piece in their elegant, expensive and most exclusive clothes.
“How do they fit your majesty?” The fake clothing designers asked as they pretended to unfurl the train of his robe.
The emperor not seeing anything, but not wanting to let on responding with resounding approval, “Glorious.”
His aids agreed that no one in the entire kingdom compared to how he looked today… they were right.
The emperor wanted everyone to see his fabulous new clothes so naturally he threw a parade in his honor. He was the main attraction. There were no other floats, only his majesty and his new duds.
The young ruler and his entourage proudly paraded down the street toward the town square. Some servants led the procession with trumpets; others held the non-existent train from the robe that was not there. Everyone marveled at the emperor’s new clothes.
“Beautiful,” said one.
“Exquisite,” commented another.
No one in the kingdom wanted to be viewed as incompetent or stupid.
The ruler’s clothing had never received so much praise.
Then a small boy spoke up from the crowd, “But he doesn’t have anything on!”
His father echoed his son’s truthful statement. As the sentiment swept through the crowd everyone began to say the same thing: “He’s not wearing anything. He’s naked.”
The emperor shuddered, for he knew that they were right, but he thought, “The procession must go on!” He carried himself even more proudly, and his assistants walked along behind carrying the train that wasn’t there.
Everyone needs truth tellers in their lives.
People who love you enough to NOT gloss over your mistakes.
Leaders want to inspire others. That’s great. But we can’t afford to trick ourselves into thinking we’re so elite that we alone determine what is true and untrue.
I love my wife, but rarely trust her when it comes to evaluating my public speaking. She likes nearly everything I do. I need people who will be honest in their evaluation of my speaking.
We all need people who love us enough to speak the truth in love.
We need people who will build us up with constructive critiques, not tear us down with insults.
A few questions to consider:
Who loves you enough to really tell you the truth?
Are you humble enough to have an open, honest accountability relationship with someone?
Who’s going to tell you when you’re naked?