And the crowd was stilled. One elderly man, wondering at the sudden silence, turned to the Child and asked him to repeat what he had said. Wide-eyed, the Child raised his voice and said once again, “Why, the Emperor has no clothes! He is naked!”
– The Emperor’s New Clothes
Who is a better priest? The man in his pure unsullied frock or the man made naked because his cloak went to the shivering? Who is more like Christ? The respected man whose achievements, traditions, wealth, and social standing justified him or the poor man who served, who gave, and who loved unto death?
To those of you who have messaged me about more of my thoughts, I apologize for not writing more. I’ve been so busy with work. I do not write or take time to help others because I have nothing better to do. I do so because it is important to me that others are encouraged to grow deeper in their beliefs, motivations, thoughts, and actions, and to live lives that, though imperfect, make positive contributions to the lives of others. This is my motivation, yet as you are all familiar with in your own situations, the realities of life, physical, emotional, relational, financial, mental, internal and external all come into play and we are forced to make value choices on what to act on and what to let go of, even if just for the moment.
My second apology is for the length of my articles. I know that blogs are supposed to be short and concise, and I will try my best with future posts. But not this one. Haha! While I sometimes try to be lighthearted, I do not write to entertain or to tickle your minds or emotions. I write for those who want to go deep and appreciate thoroughness. The readers that are intimidated by the length will most probably find the content too intimidating to act on anyway. Thus, nothing is lost.
Before I continue, I would like to make a very clear disclaimer. You have seen me put disclaimers in the past and the reason for this is that sometimes I write about lessons that are new to me and have not practiced, such as the ones on relationships, and I don’t want to be some poster boy for relationships because of what I’ve written when I clearly have failed on the practical end. The other reason why I add disclaimers is because I do not want to misrepresent my ideas as automatically the ideas of my family or the institutions I am connected to directly or indirectly. The ideas I write about are my own, and may sometimes be controversial because they are not commonly prescribed ways of thinking.
As I explore my own beliefs perhaps they will clash with yours, perhaps your opinions will be different, and that’s ok. In a highly opinionated family like mine, it is not uncommon that we don’t always agree or hold differing opinions. It doesn’t mean that my opinion is superior to others, it could actually mean that the thinking and manner by which I came about my position makes it inferior. Nevertheless, I think it is important that people rigorously think through what they believe and hold to be true.
I have many questions in my head. Many of these questions, when answered lead to more questions. I don’t believe it’s a bad thing to ask questions. I think it’s good to look for answers. But there’s a difference between open-minded and close-minded questioning. When an open mind encounters a question, she embraces the mystery, and this leads to discovery and learning. When a close mind encounters a question, she embraces her bias, and this leads to doubts and insecurity.
Let me give an example:
You have a business and you think you have this killer product. You go out, market it, sell it, but for some reason it doesn’t fly. An open mind will consider the many different reasons that has not led to success or has led to failure. A close mind will look at its biases. Guess who is most likely to come up with something more meaningful? The guy who considered different perspectives or the guy who insists on his biases?
Could it be that your product sucks?
If the bias is “I have a great product” then there will never be any reason to alter, or adapt, or pivot on the product front. The fault will fall somewhere else, maybe it’s a marketing problem, or a sales issue, something other than our bias. Yes, it is true the problem may be somewhere else, but problems and disfunction are not exclusive to one area. A wise person knows that we can grow in all areas hence we must be open to learning in all areas as well, and this also means we must be open to questioning and being questioned, keeping a soft heart and an open mind.
The enemies of a soft mind and an open heart are pride and fear.
Pride is simply valuing oneself most. We may or may not be openly arrogant. We may or may not be boastful. We may or may not challenge. But pride is not a matter of what others see, it is a resident of the heart, though it is a squatter. Unless we boot him out he will remain and entrench.
How do I know pride rests in my heart? Whenever “I” am more important than him (or her), I know that in that situation, I am valuing myself more. Give this reality, I must admit that I am guilty of being very prideful. I see it in my argumentativeness. I see it in my stubbornness. I see it in my difficulty to forgive. I see it in my gossiping. I see it in my inability to love. I see it when I cannot forgive. I see it in how I use most of my money on me. I see it when I justify my unkindness. I see it when I turn my back on those who need me. I see it when I hammer a Bible verse into a person. I see it when I don’t want to be embarrassed. I see it when I don’t want to be hassled. I see it when someone wrongs me. I see it when I wrong someone. I see it in almost every area of my life. I must recognize it so that I may admit it. I must admit it that I may deal with it. I must deal with it that I may be free of it – even if it is in one small area at a time.
When I am prideful my heart hardens and my mind closes, and the discoveries waiting for me slip away.
Fear is the sense that something bad is going to happen. Fear in many ways can be healthy, it can keep us safe and prevent us from doing dumb things. Being fearful on the other hand, being “full of fear”, is a to live caged. And what am “I” afraid of? Isn’t it that usually “I” am afraid that harm will come upon the things “I” value?
Every day thousands of people go hungry, yet for the most part we do not fear for their meals. We fear when we can’t afford our own. Thousands of kids live naked and exposed to the environment and to influences of evil individuals, we do not fear for them. We fear for our own children. We do not fear for the embarrassment of others, if we did we would not gossip, but we do. Yet we fear for our own embarrassment. We do not fear the failure of others, if we did we would serve and help, but we won’t and don’t go out of our way. Yet we fear our own failure. In fact, we finally act, when another’s failure affects our own.
We do not fear until the danger threatens to affect us. We do not fear the evils others face, but our hearts pound when they show up at our door. This is the selfish reality of our fears.
What am I saying? Even our fears are rooted in our pride: I am most valuable.
When I am fearful my heart hardens and my mind closes to protect and shield. Protect what? Shield what? My self. My pride.
The Emperor Has No Clothes
In Hans Christian Andersen’s popular story, there is a king who is excessively fond of grand expensive clothes. So much so, that he is fooled by two rogues into investing in the construction of a “special garment” for himself. The rogues, pretending to be experts, dress the kind in this imaginary garment of elegance, and went on a procession this way. Everyone around him, from his court to the crowds, though they saw a naked man, praised the king and his amazing garment.
From the story:
… every one in the streets said, “How incomparable are the Emperor’s new clothes! what a train he has to his mantle! how it fits him!” No one would let it be perceived that he could see nothing, for that would have shown that he was not fit for his office, or was very stupid. No clothes of the Emperor’s had ever had such a success as these.
Here we see pride and fear in silly cooperation. Pride led the king to be fooled for elegance that didn’t exist. Fear led the people to believe the farce.
Until a child, unspoiled by the pride of life nor the fear of man, shouted:
“But he has nothing on!” a little child cried out at last.
I think it’s time we admit that in many areas of our life, we have nothing on. We have believed rogues and given money, time, effort, and affection to lies. Just because everyone else praises our stupidity doesn’t mean we are wise. We can parade ourselves but the child in us, and our actual children will wonder, “What’s so special about that? You have nothing on!”
Someone told us to wear success, if you put it on others will respect you. So we strive and earn, strive and earn, and for what? To earn the respect of people who don’t really care and lose the respect of those who have cared all along. This emperor has no clothes.
Someone told us to wear sexiness, if you put it on others will desire you. So we strive and strip, strive and strip and for what? To please people who treat us like paper plates, so common, so used, ready for disposing, not realizing we are fine China, not unknown, but preserved. This empress has no clothes.
Someone told us to wear religion, if you put this on you will be justified. So we strive and moralize, strive and moralize, and for what? To deserve acceptance and receive blessings, without realizing that we are called to a love relationship not enslavement and certainly not religious prostitution to get what we desire. This emperor has no clothes.
Someone told us to wear wealth, if you put this on you can afford everything you want. So we strive and grasp, strive and grasp, and for what? To afford the life we thought we wanted at the cost of the beautiful blessings God has given for free. This emperor has no clothes.
Who is more successful? The man who achieves high position or the man who achieves high purpose? And what about the man who enjoys eternal relationship with God with no recognized success to His name?
Who is more desirable? The woman who traded her dignity FOR validation or the woman who faced rejection TO love?
Who is a better priest? Who is a better priest? The man in his pure unsullied frock or the man made naked because his cloak went to the shivering? Who is more like Christ? The respected man whose achievements, traditions, wealth, and social standing justified him in the eyes of man or the poor man who served, who gave, and who loved unto death though remain unknown?
Success, desirability, religion, are great things. I believe we should work towards success, that we should take care of our bodies, which includes our appearance, and that religion, a system of beliefs can be incredibly beneficial for deepening in our faith. But they are not enough to clothe us and to hide behind them is to someday find what the boy found: nakedness. These questions float in my head as I think through them myself. I don’t have specific next steps for you or for myself. I do know I do not want to parade wearing a non-existent garment held up by straps of the pride of life and the fear of man.