65. A Human Likeness Is Attainable by Resolving Arrogance
By Zhenxin, USA
In March 2017, I started doing graphic design work for the church mainly for movie posters and thumbnails. At first, I didn’t know much about the technical side, so I was constantly learning the principles and technical skills. I would modestly ask for brothers’ and sisters’ help and I was careful to take others’ advice in my designs. After a while, I started to get a handle on the technical skills I needed for the duty. My thumbnails were put online and the click-through rate was pretty good. There was one particular poster for a documentary that lots of brothers and sisters praised. Others were consulting with me a lot on technical issues, so I felt like I had some real talent in the area of graphic design. I became arrogant without realizing it.
Later on, when I was designing thumbnails that were easier than the movie posters, I felt like I was skilled enough to get them done really quickly. So I’d do them based on the technical skills I had without putting in much thought or seeking the principles. As a result, I got feedback from brothers and sisters, saying both the lighting and color were off theme. I didn’t consider their feedback or accept it, but thought, “Don’t you have any taste? This is bold creativity. I’ve considered all this and it’s not a problem. You’re suggesting things out of ignorance.” I really stuck to my guns and my temper even flared up. I refused to make any edits. As a result, some of my thumbnails were rejected because of issues with the images. I heard later that a sister felt really constrained by me and was afraid to give me more suggestions. I felt kind of bad when I heard this, but I didn’t reflect on myself in light of what had happened.
I worked on a design for another movie poster before long. The movie was about a believer who was misled and controlled by pastors and elders and limited by religious notions, and thus wouldn’t accept God’s new work. She eventually accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days after seeking the truth and came to live in God’s light. I considered this theme and thought, “The poster should definitely fade from darkness to light—there’s no better idea.” I spent a long time looking for a similar movie poster to use as a reference. When I looked at my final image, I thought it was really good, that it looked like a poster for a blockbuster film. I was really patting myself on the back. Then a sister saw my poster and gave me this suggestion: “It’s too dark over here. There’s no detail and it’s too dull.” Another sister had this suggestion: “It’s too dark overall, it’s not clear. It looks kind of gloomy. This movie bears witness to God, so the image shouldn’t be too dark.” I felt really resistant to what they had to say. I thought, “I think this looks great. You don’t know how to manage shading, but you’re telling me how to do it. Aren’t you just nitpicking?” What I said was, “Isn’t this the right shading? There has to be the distinction of light and dark. Besides, it’s for a movie poster, so the point is to work on the shading. That’s the way other movie posters are done. There’s nothing wrong with it.” Then I sent them a copy of the movie poster I’d referred to. To my surprise, they said there was too much dark space in my poster and it didn’t look as nice as the other one. I was really annoyed when they said that, and thought, “Don’t you forget that you’re always asking me for advice on shading. You don’t even have a basic handle on this, but you’re telling me how to do it. Aren’t you trying to teach fish how to swim?” To prove I was right, I sent the image I’d designed to other brothers and sisters, but they also told me it was too dark. I just had to bite the bullet and change it. I still thought I had the right idea and that it accorded with the principles of shading, so I just made small changes, but it still wasn’t accepted. As a result, I was working on an image that should have taken a week for almost a month. It was ultimately tossed because of designing issues. That was like a slap in the face for me. I felt really dispirited and deflated and I didn’t want to open up in fellowship with the others. I was in a dark, painful place. Then the team leader reminded me that none of my recent designs had been successful and that I needed to reflect on myself before God right away. Only then did I come before God in reflection and I found some relevant words of God.
I read this in my devotionals one day: “When issues befall you, you must not be self-righteous, thinking, ‘I understand the principles, and I have the final say. You aren’t qualified to speak. What do you know? You don’t understand; I do!’ This is being self-righteous. Being self-righteous is a corrupt, satanic disposition; it is not something within normal humanity” “If you are always self-righteous and insist on your own ways, saying, ‘I won’t listen to anybody. Even if I do, it will be for appearances’ sake—I won’t change. I’ll do things my way; I feel I’m right and completely justified,’ what will happen? You may be justified and there may be no fault in what you do; you may not have made any mistakes, and you may have a better understanding of a technical aspect of an issue than others, yet, once you behave and practice in this way, others will see, and they will say: ‘This person’s disposition is no good! When issues befall them, they accept nothing anyone else has to say, right or wrong. It’s all resistance. This person does not accept the truth.’ And if people say you do not accept the truth, what must God think? Is God able to see these expressions of yours? God can see them all too clearly. God not only searches the innermost heart of man, but also watches everything you say and do at all times, in all places. And, when He sees these things, what does He do? He says: ‘You are hardened. You are thus in cases where you are in the right, and you are also thus in cases where you are in the wrong. In all cases, all your revelations and expressions are contrary and oppositional. You accept nothing of the ideas or suggestions of others. All within your heart is contradiction, confinement, and refusal. You are very difficult!’” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. If You Cannot Always Live Before God, You Are a Nonbeliever). God really does see into our hearts and minds. This totally exposed my state. I had been revealing the satanic disposition of arrogance. When my posters were approved and praised by brothers and sisters, I thought that was because of my own skill and that no one else could match my design and technical knowledge. When other people gave me suggestions, I refused to accept them, figuring they didn’t understand. Even when multiple people made the same suggestion, I was really rigid. I pretended to accept what they said, but really I clung to my own thinking. I only changed what suited me and refused to change what I disagreed with. I found all sorts of excuses to argue with people and even lost my temper. I ended up stifling a sister that way. I realized I was arrogant beyond all sense. I was totally unreasonable! I was so arrogant and self-righteous that I didn’t want to accept anyone else’s suggestions. Not only did my image have to be edited over and over, holding up our work, but my own state just kept deteriorating. Without facing those failures and setbacks, I never would have come before God to reflect and know myself. If I didn’t turn back, but kept living by my arrogant disposition, the others would reject me and God would be disgusted. I was filled with regret and felt a little afraid at that thought. I immediately came before God in prayer, willing to repent.
Afterward, I opened up to the sisters in the team about the corruption I’d revealed and told them I was willing to accept suggestions and being dealt with. In my duty from then on, brothers and sisters gave me a number of suggestions and at first it was quite hard for me to accept them. But when I remembered my recent failures, I would pray and set myself aside. I thought about why they’d make that suggestion, what could be achieved by following it, and where the problem lied. Then I’d consider it based on principle. With that approach it was easier to understand and accept others’ suggestions and my edits were much better received. I also saw how wonderful practicing the truth is. But my arrogant disposition was really entrenched in me, so I couldn’t uproot it with just one experience of failure.
I sunk back into arrogance a little while later. There was one time I designed a thumbnail for church hymns. I thought that since they are brothers and sisters expressing praise for God after experiencing His work, it should have a warm, romantic, beautiful feeling. I thought about some color theory I’d learned that said purple embodied that feeling, and had a dignified and elegant meaning. I felt I couldn’t go wrong by using purple as the primary color. When I was done, some brothers and sisters said they liked my thinking on that and the color was pretty. I was very pleased with myself and thought I did have some caliber and design capability after all. I was surprised when a sister who’d just started in design sent me a suggestion, saying “Church hymns are real experiences and understanding from brothers and sisters. The use of the color purple is too dreamlike and doesn’t fit with the hymns’ mood. It’s a little hard on the eyes. I’d suggest changing it.” I read her suggestion but felt some real internal resistance. I thought, “I’ve been through so many training materials that say purple has a nice warming feeling. Besides, there are lots of other designs online that use purple this way. Why would you say that it’s hard on the eyes? On top of that, you’ve just gotten your feet wet and have hardly designed anything yourself, but you’re giving me suggestions. You don’t know your own limits.” But I still didn’t feel comfortable refuting her outright, so I put her off, saying I’d canvass other brothers’ and sisters’ suggestions. I never did go ask for anyone else’s opinion, but just brushed it off.
A few days later, another sister gave me the same feedback and said the color I’d used was depressing. She suggested I change it. The team leader reminded me not to be stubborn and that I should make changes for further review. I didn’t dare stick to my guns at that point, so I tried to make some changes. But I wasn’t really willing to let go of that purple design. I thought, “My design with this color can’t really be that bad. Some of the others like it, so why do I have to change it?” So I struggled to change it when I thought about it that way. It still didn’t look good after a few attempts. Then a flaw cropped up in the image in one edit, which I spent hours on but couldn’t find a way to fix. I was incredibly frustrated and at my wits’ end and even wanted to give up. I thought of how I’d spent a month on that one image editing it six times, and the others had given me so many suggestions. I still hadn’t finished it and it was holding up our work. I was really upset. I remembered how I’d hindered our work before because I was arrogant and couldn’t take feedback. Now I was being arrogant again and rejecting others’ suggestions. Wasn’t that the same old problem? I quickly came before God in prayer, “Oh God, my arrogant disposition is really serious. I can’t submit in this situation. Please enlighten and guide me so that I can understand Your will, truly know myself and come out from this state.”
I later read this passage of God’s words: “Arrogance is the root of man’s corrupt disposition. The more arrogant people are, the more liable they are to resist God. How serious is this problem? Not only do people with arrogant dispositions consider everyone else beneath them, but, worst of all, they are even condescending toward God. Even though, externally, some people might appear to believe in God and follow Him, they do not treat Him as God at all. They always feel that they possess the truth and think the world of themselves. This is the essence and root of the arrogant disposition, and it comes from Satan. Therefore, the problem of arrogance must be resolved. Feeling that one is better than others—that is a trivial matter. The critical issue is that one’s arrogant disposition prevents one from submitting to God, His rule, and His arrangements; such a person always feels inclined to compete with God for power over others. This sort of person does not revere God in the slightest, to say nothing of loving God or submitting to Him. People who are arrogant and conceited, especially those who are so arrogant as to have lost their sense, cannot submit to God in their belief in Him, and even exalt and bear testimony for themselves. Such people resist God the most. If people wish to get to where they revere God, then they must first resolve their arrogant dispositions. The more thoroughly you resolve your arrogant disposition, the more reverence you will have for God, and only then can you submit to Him and be able to obtain the truth and know Him” (God’s Fellowship). This helped me understand that arrogance is the root of resisting God. Controlled by my arrogant disposition, I thought I was always right, as if my perspectives were the truth, as if they were authoritative. I didn’t have any desire to seek the truth and submit to God. I just wouldn’t take in anyone’s suggestions. Especially when someone who wasn’t as skilled technically or didn’t understand a certain technical aspect gave me their suggestions, I was really resistant. I acted like I accepted them, but in reality I didn’t take their suggestions seriously. God reminded me multiple times through others to put my will aside, to focus on what benefits God’s house, to seek, to try, and to create the best version. But I was incredibly stubborn and conceited. I took my own ideas and experience as the truth and I dug my heels in when others’ suggestions didn’t pass muster with me. This disrupted the work of God’s house. Then I finally began to understand these words of God: “Not only do people with arrogant dispositions consider everyone else beneath them, but, worst of all, they are even condescending toward God.” “The more arrogant people are, the more liable they are to resist God.” I became totally convinced of them. I also felt a little afraid. It reminded me of the antichrists in the church. They were really arrogant and dictatorial, and never listened to others’ suggestions. They even lashed out at and excluded people who gave feedback and that really disrupted the work of God’s house and offended God’s disposition. They were all weeded out by God. I hadn’t done the kind of evil that the antichrists had, but how was the disposition I revealed any different from theirs? It was then that I realized how serious the consequences would be if my arrogance wasn’t resolved. I came before God in prayer right away, willing to repent.
Afterward, I read this passage of God’s words: “Looking at it now, is it difficult to fulfill one’s duty adequately? In fact, it is not; people must only be able to take a stance of humility, possess a bit of sense, and adopt an appropriate position. No matter how educated you think you are, what awards you have won, or how much you have achieved, and no matter how high you believe your caliber and rank might be, you must start by letting go of all of these things—they count for nothing. In God’s house, however great and good those things are, they cannot be higher than the truth; they are not the truth, and cannot take its place. This is why I say you must have this thing called sense. If you say, ‘I am very gifted, I have a very sharp mind, I have quick reflexes, I am a quick learner, and I have an exceedingly good memory,’ and you always use these things as capital, then this will cause trouble. If you see these things as the truth, or as higher than the truth, then it will be hard for you to accept the truth and put it into practice. Haughty, arrogant people who always act superior have the hardest time accepting the truth and are most prone to falling. If one can resolve the issue of one’s arrogance, then it becomes easy to put the truth into practice. Thus, you must first put down and deny those things that seem on their surface to be nice and lofty and that provoke the envy of others. Those things are not the truth; rather, they can block you from entering the truth” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is the Adequate Performance of Duty?). Then I understood that I had to put myself aside and deny myself to resolve my arrogant disposition. Human skills, abilities, experience, and gifts aren’t the truth, no matter how amazing they are. They’re just tools to help us do our duty. We shouldn’t try to capitalize on them. Seeking the truth, doing things by principle, working well with others, and learning from others are all key. That’s the only way to do our duty well. Then I looked through some of the better posters I’d designed and found that there had been obvious problems with the concept, shading, coloring, and composition in my original images. But after editing them based on brothers’ and sisters’ feedback, they were improved a lot and some had undergone a total transformation. I was embarrassed to see this. I thought that I’d had some success in my work and I’d received some praise from others because I had better technical skills and more experience than them. I capitalized on this, refusing to listen to anyone. But the reality was my designs had only succeeded because I’d gone by the principles of the truth and accepted others’ suggestions. They were made with God’s guidance and enlightenment and through working in harmony with brothers and sisters. When I just relied on my technical skills without seeking the principles of the truth or taking others’ feedback, my images were no good, and this really hindered the church’s work. I was so ashamed when I thought back on how I’d been so arrogant and self-righteous in my approach. I clearly wasn’t anything special. I’d just grasped the tip of the iceberg in design and I was a far cry from a true professional. But I was still so self-assured and arrogant. I’d been so brash. At this realization, I said a prayer and let go of my views. I followed the others’ feedback, and really thought about how to make edits for better results. Not only was the problem resolved but I also found a better color. I got the image edited really quickly and brothers and sisters said it looked a lot nicer after those changes. I felt so ashamed to see this. We’d gone through multiple revisions of that image entirely because of my own arrogance, wasting so much precious time and inconveniencing the others. It seriously disrupted the work of God’s house. Not only did my skills stagnate, but my life entry suffered a setback. I saw that living by my arrogant disposition did nothing but harm. I had so much regret and I silently resolved: “No matter what feedback I get in the future, I’ll learn to put myself aside, seek the truth, and put the interests of God’s house first. I can’t keep living in arrogance.”
Recently I designed a thumbnail for a video of the reading of God’s words and when I showed my first draft to the brothers and sisters that read God’s words, they said the globe image was too big and seemed crammed into the center, so the field of view wasn’t open enough. They sent me some images for reference to help me make improvements. I was thinking, “The globe has to be that big to have the proper effect and you don’t have professional graphic design experience or any practical training. I’m more skilled in this area. There’s nothing for me to gain from your feedback.” So I just haphazardly scanned through their feedback and wanted to edit the image based on my own thinking. I realized I was showing my arrogance again, that I hadn’t calmly considered the feedback or the ultimate outcome. I was making blind judgments and that was at odds with God’s will. I said a prayer right away asking God to quiet my heart so I could practice the truth and forsake my flesh. I read this passage of God’s words after that: “You must first have an attitude of humility, set aside what you believe to be right, and let everyone have fellowship. Even if you believe your way to be correct, you should not keep insisting on it. That, first of all, is a kind of step forward; it shows an attitude of seeking the truth, of denying yourself, and of satisfying God’s will. Once you have this attitude, at the same time that you do not adhere to your own opinion, you pray. As you do not know right from wrong, you allow God to reveal and tell you what the best, most suitable thing to do is. As everyone joins in fellowship, the Holy Spirit brings you all enlightenment. God enlightens people according to a process, which sometimes simply takes stock of your attitude. If your attitude is one of rigid self-assertion, God will hide His face from you and close Himself off to you; He will expose you and ensure you hit a wall. If, on the other hand, your attitude is correct, neither insistent on your own way, nor self-righteous, nor arbitrary and rash, but an attitude of seeking and acceptance of the truth, then, when you fellowship with the group, and the Holy Spirit sets to work among you, perhaps He will lead you to understanding by means of someone’s words” (God’s Fellowship). Then I understood that when I encountered different ideas from others in my duty, that was something God allowed. God watches our every thought and deed, so I should be practicing the truth and accepting God’s scrutiny. I couldn’t just take things at face value and judge other people’s professionalism. Even if I was more knowledgeable, no matter how reasonable I thought my idea was, I should come off my high horse, set aside my own imaginings, seek the principles of the truth, and do whatever would be most effective. Even if I turned out to be right in the end, at least I would have sought and practiced the truth. That is invaluable. God detested my satanic dispositions that are in enmity with Him, so displaying my arrogance was worse than making a mistake. I thought about how my arrogance had really disrupted the work of God’s house and really felt that I couldn’t be so headstrong anymore. I had to approach suggestions for revisions calmly and strive to make the image better. After that, I took others’ suggestions seriously and found one of the reference images was really stylish and I could learn from it. I discussed it with other team members and everyone agreed edits should be made as suggested. I reworked the layout and some other aspects and it was done before I knew it. I felt this had all been achieved through God’s enlightenment and guidance. Though I received a few more suggestions, I handled it appropriately and didn’t feel so resistant. I was happy to change it as many times as necessary to bear witness to God. After a few rounds of revisions, everyone said it was great and they didn’t have any more suggestions. I saw how wonderful it was to perform my duty that way.
After being disciplined and exposed, and by reading God’s words, I finally understood and hated my arrogant satanic disposition and I saw how key it is to seek and accept the truth in everything. I’m not as arrogant as I used to be and I can take suggestions from others. I’ve changed this way entirely because of God’s judgment, chastisement, and discipline.