I struggle with the moral from the tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. In case you’ve never read it, here is the synopsis from Wikipedia:

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (Danish: Kejserens nye Kl├Žder) is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

It isn’t that I don’t understand the story but that I don’t know how to apply that lesson in the real world. Numerous times in my life I have met people filling the Emperor’s role who don’t respond well to any sort of criticism. Fewer times I’ve met people that think they are filling the child’s role who simply come across as assholes when they speak up.

Many things that I see as stupid make me want to say something. But what will be the benefit? I’ll either garner retaliation from the emperor or burn bridges in front of everyone else by looking like an asshole. And how can you be so sure that you are right? Few situations in your life will be as clear cut as a naked Emperor.

Here is how I suggest to handle it. In the great minority of situations you must say something, but you will know those times. Things like standing up for human rights.

The rest of the time, you don’t say anything at all. You smile and get along and have your own beliefs and go your own way and you don’t waste energy on it.