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By grace, we are truly transformed


Hans Christian Andersen first told the story of an emperor who spent all of his wealth on being well-dressed. Egotistical as he was, the emperor easily fell into the trap of two swindlers who claimed they could weave (for a price) the most magnificent clothes imaginable. But clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office.

The emperor thought, “If I wore those clothes, I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts; I could tell the wise men from the fools.” Of course, the emperor was the fool. He dressed in his “new clothes” and went off in procession through the town.

No one in town would confess that the emperor was naked for fear of being called a fool. At last a little child declared the obvious: “He hasn’t got anything on!” This rippled through the crowd until finally everyone could admit the emperor was indeed naked. The emperor shivered, suspecting the crowd was right, but he could not admit it. He said, “The procession has got to go on.” So he walked on, his head held high, wearing a costume that wasn’t there.

The emperor built a bogus façade, was stubbornly living in it, and had lost the ability to be honest with himself about his condition. Be certain that when one loses the ability to be honest, he also loses the ability to change. It’s not only true of naked emperors; it’s true of us all.

How many people have been trapped or ruined by the words, “The procession has got to go on”? Hiding an addiction; remaining in an abusive relationship; continually apologizing and covering for the failures of a spouse, parent, or a business partner; maintaining religious beliefs for which they no longer have conviction; propping up a naked life: All because the prospect of being honest is more terrifying than the exertion of constantly camouflaging their charade.

The first tenet of transformation is this: One must “admit their powerlessness é and that life has become unmanageable.” This can be a tough admission, but when the exhaustion of sustaining the sham becomes stronger than our fear of being honest, the foolish procession of our lives will end and we can, by grace, be transformed. When we are honest about our open secrets, we can actually and finally change.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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