How to Pursue the Truth (12) Part One

In the last few gatherings, we fellowshipped on topics concerning marriage in “letting go of people’s pursuits, ideals, and desires,” did we not? (Yes.) We have basically finished fellowshipping on topics concerning marriage. This time, we ought to fellowship on topics concerning family. Let’s first look at what aspects of family involve people’s pursuits, ideals, and desires. People should be no strangers to the concept of family. The first things that come into people’s minds whenever this topic is brought up are the composition and members of a family, and some affairs and people that involve family. There are many such topics that involve family. Regardless of how many images and thoughts exist in your mind, do they relate to “letting go of people’s pursuits, ideals, and desires,” which we will fellowship on today? You don’t even know whether these things are related before we start our fellowship. So before we proceed to fellowshipping, can you tell Me what family is in people’s minds, or anything you can think of that should be let go of when it comes to family? Previously we talked about several aspects relating to people’s pursuits, ideals, and desires. Did you identify what each aspect of this topic that we fellowshipped on involves? Regardless of which aspects are involved, what people need to let go is not the matter itself, but the wrong ideas and views they approach it with, as well as the various problems that people have in relation to this matter. These various problems are the crux of what we must fellowship on regarding such aspects. These various problems are issues that affect people’s pursuit of the truth, or rather, more precisely, they are all issues that impede people from pursuing and entering into the truth. That is to say, if there are deviations or problems in your knowledge of a matter, then there will also be corresponding problems in your attitude, approach, or handling of this matter, and these corresponding problems are the topics that we need to fellowship on. Why do we need to fellowship on them? Because these problems have a major or overwhelming impact on your pursuit of the truth and on your correct, principled views regarding a matter, and they naturally also affect the purity of your method of practice regarding this matter, as well as your principles for handling it. Just as we fellowshipped on the topics of personal interests, hobbies, and marriage, we are fellowshipping on the topic of family because people have many incorrect ideas, views and attitudes about family, or because family itself exerts many negative influences on people, and these negative influences will naturally lead them to adopt incorrect ideas and views. These incorrect ideas and views will affect your pursuit of the truth, and lead you to extremes, so that whenever you encounter family-related matters, or face family-related issues, you won’t have the correct views or path for approaching or dealing with these matters and issues, and for resolving the various problems that they give rise to. This is the principle for our fellowships on each topic, and also the main problem that must be resolved. So, as regards the topic of family, can you think of what the negative influences are that family exerts on you, and in what ways family hinders your pursuit of the truth? In the course of your faith and the performance of your duty, and while you pursue the truth or seek the truth principles, and practice the truth, in what ways does family influence and hinder your thinking, your principles of comportment, and your values, and outlook on life? In other words, you were born into a family, so what influences, what incorrect ideas and views, and what hindrances and disruptions does this family bring to your everyday life as a believer, and to your pursuit and knowledge of the truth? Just as fellowshipping on the topic of marriage follows a principle, so does fellowshipping on the topic of family. It demands not that you let go of the concept of family in the formal sense, or in terms of your thinking and views, nor that you let go of your actual, physical family, or any member of your physical family. Rather, it demands that you let go of the various negative influences that family itself exerts on you, and let go of the hindrances and disruptions that family itself causes to your pursuit of the truth. More specifically, it can be said that your family causes specific and precise entanglements and troubles that you can feel and experience in the course of pursuing the truth and performing your duty, and that constrain you so that you are unable to find release or effectively perform your duties and pursue the truth. These entanglements and troubles make it difficult for you to cast off the constraints and influences caused by this word “family” or by the people or affairs it involves, and make you feel oppressed in the course of your faith and the performance of your duty due to the existence of family or due to any negative influences that family exerts on you. These entanglements and troubles also often afflict your conscience and prevent your body and mind from finding release, and frequently prompt you to feel that, if you were to go against the ideas and views you acquired from your family, then you would have no humanity, and would lose your morality and the minimum standards and principles of comportment. When it comes to family issues, you often hover between the red line of morality and the practice of the truth, unable to find release and extricate yourself. What specific problems are there—can you think of any? Do you ever feel some of the things I mentioned just now in your everyday lives? (Through God’s fellowship, I recall that because I had some wrong views about my family, I couldn’t practice the truth, and felt conscience-stricken about doing so. Previously, when I had just finished my studies and wanted to devote myself to performing my duty, I was conflicted inside. I felt that, because my family had raised me and funded my studies all this time, now that I had graduated from university, if I didn’t earn money and provide for my family, I would be unfilial and lack humanity, which weighed heavy on my conscience. At the time, I struggled with this matter for several months, until finally I found a way out in God’s words, and decided to do my best to perform my duty. I feel that these erroneous views about family do indeed affect people.) This is a typical example. These are invisible shackles that family places on people, as well as troubles that people’s feelings, ideas or views about their family cause with regard to their life, pursuits, and faith. To a certain extent, these troubles create pressure and a burden in the depths of your heart, which deep down give rise to some bad feelings from time to time. Who can add anything else? (God, I harbor a view that as a child who is now grown up, I should show filial piety and take care of all my parents’ worries and problems. But because I’m doing my duty full time, I’m unable to be filial to my parents or do some things for them. Seeing my parents still rushing around making a living, I feel in my heart that I owe a debt to them. When I first came to believe in God, I almost betrayed Him because of this.) This is also a negative effect that the enculturation of one’s family has on one’s thinking and ideas. You almost betrayed God, but some people really did betray God. Some people couldn’t let go of their family because of their strong familial notions. In the end, they chose to continue living for the sake of their family and gave up performing their duties.

Everyone has a family, everyone grows up in a distinct family, and comes from a distinct family environment. Family is very important to everyone, and it is something that leaves the biggest impression on a person’s life, something from deep within that is difficult to give up and let go of. What people cannot let go of and what they find difficult to give up is not the family house or all the appliances, utensils, and objects in it, but the members who make up that family, or the atmosphere and affection that run through it. This is the concept of family in people’s minds. For example, the elder members of the family (grandparents and parents), those of similar age to you (brothers, sisters, and spouse), and the younger generation (your own children): These are the important members in people’s concept of family, and they are also important components of every family. What does family mean to people? For people it means emotional sustenance and a spiritual anchor. What else does family mean? Somewhere that one can find warmth, where one can pour one’s heart out, or be indulgent and capricious. Some say that family is a safe haven, a place where one can draw emotional sustenance, a place where a person’s life begins. What else? You describe it to Me. (God, I think that the family home is a place for people to grow, a place where family members keep each other company and depend on each other.) Very nice. What else? (I used to think that family was a cozy haven. No matter how much injustice I’ve suffered out in the world, whenever I return home, it can relax my mood and spirit in every way due to my family’s support and understanding, so I felt that family was a safe haven in that sense.) The family home is a place full of comfort and warmth, is it not? Family is important in people’s minds. Whenever someone is happy, they hope to share their joy with their family; whenever someone is distressed and sad, they likewise hope that they can confide their troubles to their family. Whenever people have any feelings of joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness, they tend to share them with their family, without any pressure or burden whatsoever. To every person, family is a warm and beautiful thing, a kind of sustenance for the spirit that people can’t give up on or do without at any point in their lives, and the family home is a place that provides tremendous support to people’s mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, family is an indispensable part of each person’s life. But what kind of negative influences does this place, which is so important in people’s existence and life, have on their pursuit of the truth? First of all, it can be said with certainty that no matter how important family is in people’s existence and life, or what role it plays and what function it serves in their existence and life, it still creates some problems—both big and small—for people on their path of pursuing the truth. While it plays an important role in the course of people’s pursuit of the truth, it also creates all manner of upsets and problems that are difficult to avoid. That is, in the course of people’s pursuit and practice of the truth, the various psychological and ideological problems created by family, as well as problems to do with formal aspects, cause people a great deal of trouble. So what exactly do these problems entail? Of course, in the process of pursuing the truth, people have already experienced these problems in varying number and magnitude, it’s just that they haven’t carefully considered and contemplated them, to find out what exactly the inherent issues are. What’s more, they haven’t recognized the essence of these problems, let alone the truth principles that people should understand and abide by. So, today, let us fellowship on the topic of family, and what troubles and obstructions family puts in the way of people’s pursuit of the truth, as well as what pursuits, ideals, and desires people should let go of when it comes to the issue of family. This is a very real problem.

Although the topic of family is a big one, it nevertheless poses specific problems. The problem which we are going to fellowship on today is the negative influence, interference and hindrance that people on the path of pursuing the truth face as a result of family. What is the first problem one should let go of with regard to family? It is the identity that one inherits from family. This is an important matter. Let’s talk specifically about how important this matter is. Everyone comes from a distinct family, each with its own distinct background and living environment, its own quality of life, and specific way of living and life habits. Each person inherits a distinct identity from their family living environment and background. This distinct identity not only represents each person’s specific worth in society and among others, but is also a distinct symbol and marker. So what does this marker signify? It signifies whether a person is regarded as distinguished or lowly in the group they belong to. This distinct identity determines a person’s status in society and among other people, and this status is inherited from the family they were born into. Therefore, your family background and the kind of family you live in are very important, because they have a bearing on your identity and status among other people and in society. So, your identity and status determine whether your standing in society is distinguished or lowly, whether you are respected, highly regarded, and looked up to by others, or whether you are despised, discriminated against, and trampled underfoot by others. Precisely because the identity that people inherit from their family affects their situation and future in society, this inherited identity is very critical and important to each person. Precisely because it impacts on your prestige, status, and worth in society, and on your sense of honor or humiliation in this life, you yourself also tend to attach great importance to your family background and to the identity that you inherit from your family. Because this matter has an overwhelming impact on you, it is a very important and significant thing for you on the path of your existence. Because it is such an important and significant matter, it occupies a crucial place deep in your soul, and in your view it matters greatly. Not only does the identity that you inherit from your family matter greatly to you, but you also view the identity of anyone you know or don’t know from the same vantage point, with the same eyes and in the same way, and you use this vantage point to weigh up the identity of everyone you come into contact with. You use their identity to judge their character, and to determine how to approach and interact with them—whether to interact with them on friendly, equal terms, or to be subservient to them and follow their every word, or to simply interact with them and view them with a contemptuous and discriminatory eye, or even to associate and interact with them in an inhumane way and on unequal terms. These ways of viewing others and dealing with things are largely determined by the identity that a person gains from their family. Your family’s background and standing decides what kind of social status you will have, and what kind of social status you have determines the ways and principles by which you view and deal with people and things. Therefore, the attitude and ways that a person adopts in dealing with things depend, to a large extent, on the identity they inherited from their family. Why do I say, “to a large extent”? There are some particular situations, which we won’t talk about. For the vast majority of people, the situation is as I have just described. Everyone tends to be influenced by the identity and social status that they gain from their family, and everyone also tends to adopt corresponding ways of viewing and dealing with people and things according to this identity and social status—this is very natural. Precisely because it is an inevitability and an outlook on existence that is naturally brought about by one’s family, the origin of a person’s outlook on existence and way of life depends on the identity that they inherit from their family. The identity that a person inherits from their family determines the ways and principles by which they view and deal with people and things, as well as their attitude when choosing and making decisions in the course of viewing and dealing with people and things. This inevitably gives rise to a very serious problem in people. The origin of people’s ideas and viewpoints in viewing and dealing with people and things is, in one sense, unavoidably influenced by family and, in another sense, it is influenced by the identity that a person inherits from their family—this influence is very difficult for people to step away from. As a result, people are unable to treat themselves correctly, rationally, and fairly, or to treat others fairly, and are also unable to treat people and everything in a way that accords with the truth principles taught by God. Instead, they are flexible in the way they deal with matters, apply the principles, and make choices, based on the differences between their own identity and those of others. Since people’s ways of viewing and dealing with things in society and among other people are influenced by their family’s standing, these ways must be at odds with the principles and ways of dealing with things that God has communicated to people. To be more precise, these ways must be antagonistic to, in conflict with, and in violation of these principles and ways that God has taught. If people’s ways of doing things are based on the identity and social status they inherit from their family, then they will inevitably adopt different or particular ways and principles of doing things, due to their own distinct or special identities and those of others. These principles which they adopt are not the truth, nor are they in accordance with the truth. They not only violate humanity, conscience and reason, but even more seriously, they violate the truth, because they determine what a person should accept or reject based on their preferences and interests, and the degree to which people place demands on each other. Therefore, within this context, the principles by which people view and deal with things are unfair and not in accordance with the truth, and they are entirely based on people’s emotional needs and their need to profit. Regardless of whether you inherited a distinguished or lowly identity from your family, this identity occupies a place in your heart, and even a very important position in the case of some people. So, if you want to pursue the truth, this identity will inevitably influence and interfere with your pursuit of the truth. That is, in the process of pursuing the truth, you will inevitably encounter issues such as how to treat people and how to deal with things. When it comes to these issues and important matters, you will inevitably view people and things by adopting the perspectives or views associated with the identity you inherited from your family, and you can’t help but use this very primitive or socialized way of viewing people and dealing with things. Whether the identity you acquire from your family makes you feel that your status in society is distinguished or lowly, in any case, this identity will have an impact on your pursuit of the truth, your correct outlook on life, and your correct path of pursuing the truth. More precisely, it will impact on your principles of dealing with things. Do you understand?

Various families bring people various identities and social statuses. Having a good social status and a distinguished identity is something that people enjoy and revel in, whereas those who inherit their identity from a humble and lowly family feel inferior and embarrassed to face others, and also feel that they are not taken seriously or highly regarded. Such people are often also discriminated against, which causes them to feel anguish and low self-esteem deep within their hearts. For example, some people’s parents may be smallholders who work the land and sell vegetables; some people’s parents may be merchants with a small business, such as running a street stall or street hawking; some people’s parents may work in the craft industry, making and repairing clothes, or relying on handicrafts to make a living and support their whole family. Some people’s parents may work in the service industry as cleaners or nannies; some parents may work in the removals business or transportation; some may be masseurs, beauticians, or barbers, and some parents may repair things for people, such as shoes, bicycles, spectacles, and so on. Some parents may have more advanced craft skills and repair things like jewelry or watches, while others may have an even lower social status and depend on collecting and selling waste to support their children and raise their family. All these parents have a relatively low professional status in society, and obviously as a consequence, the social status of everyone in their family will also be low. So, in the eyes of the world, people who come from these families are of lowly status and identity. Precisely because society adopts this way of viewing a person’s identity and measuring a person’s worth, if your parents are smallholders and someone asks you, “What do your parents do? What is your family like?” you will reply “My parents … oh they’re like … it’s not worth mentioning,” and you won’t dare say what they do, because you are too embarrassed to. When meeting with classmates and friends or going out for dinner, people will introduce themselves and talk about their nice family background or their high social status. But if you come from a family of smallholders, petty merchants, or peddlers, you won’t want to say so and will feel ashamed. There is a popular saying in society that goes, “Don’t ask a hero about his origins.” This saying has a very noble ring to it, and to those with low social status it offers an ounce of hope and a glimmer of light, as well as a scrap of comfort. But why is such a sentence popular in society? Is it because people in society pay too much attention to their identity, worth, and social status? (Yes.) Those who come from humble backgrounds constantly lack confidence, so they use this saying to comfort themselves, as well as to reassure others, thinking that although their status and identity are lowly, they have a superior state of mind, which is something that cannot be learned. No matter how lowly your identity, if your state of mind is superior, it proves that you are an honorable person, even more so than those people of distinguished identity and status. What issue does this indicate? The more that people say, “Don’t ask a hero about his origins,” the more it proves that they care about their identity and social status. Especially when a person’s identity and social status are very humble and lowly, they use this saying to comfort themselves and make up for the emptiness and dissatisfaction in their hearts. Some people’s parents are worse off even than petty merchants and peddlers, smallholders and artisans, or worse off than parents who do any of those insignificant, humble, and especially low-income jobs in society, so the identity and social status that they inherit from their parents is even more lowly. For example, some people’s parents have quite a bad name in society, they don’t really do things that they ought to do, and they don’t have a socially acceptable occupation or a fixed income, so they struggle to support their family’s living expenses. Some parents frequently gamble and lose money with each bet. In the end, the family are left broke and penniless, unable to afford everyday expenses. The children born into this family wear shabby clothes, go hungry, and live in poverty. Whenever the school holds parent-teacher meetings, their parents never show up, and the teachers know that they have gone gambling. It goes without saying what sort of identity and status these children have in the eyes of teachers and among their classmates. Children born into this kind of family are bound to feel that they cannot hold their head up high around others. Even if they study well and work hard, and even if they are strong-minded and stand out from the crowd, the identity which they inherit from this family has already determined their status and worth in the eyes of others—this can make a person feel very depressed and anguished. Where does this anguish and depression come from? It comes from school, from teachers, from society, and especially from humankind’s incorrect views toward dealing with people. Is this not so? (Yes.) Some parents don’t have a particularly bad name in society but have done some unsavory things. For instance, take the case of parents who have been imprisoned and sentenced for embezzlement and taking bribes, or because they broke the law by doing something illegal or engaging in speculation and profiteering. The result is that they have a negative and adverse impact on their family, by forcing their family members to suffer this disgrace alongside them. So, belonging to this kind of family effectively has a greater impact on a person’s identity. Not only are their identity and social status lowly, but they are also looked down upon, and even labeled with such titles as “embezzler” and “member of a thieving family.” Once a person is labeled with titles like these, it will have an even greater impact on their identity and social status, and will further exacerbate their predicament in society, making them feel all the more unable to raise their head up high. No matter how hard you try or how friendly you are, you still cannot change your identity and social status. Of course, such consequences are also the effect that family has on a person’s identity. Then there are family structures that are relatively complicated. For instance, some people don’t have a biological mother but only a stepmother, who is not very kind or considerate to them, and who didn’t give them much care or maternal love when they were growing up. So for them, belonging to a family like this effectively gives them a particular identity, that of being unwanted. Within the context of this particular identity, more shadows arise in their heart and they feel that their status among others is lower than that of anyone else. They have no feelings of happiness, no sense of existence, let alone a purpose to live for, and they feel especially inferior and unfortunate. There are other people whose family structure is complex because their mother, due to some particular circumstances, went through a succession of marriages, so they have several stepfathers and don’t know who their real father is. It goes without saying what kind of identity such a person would get from belonging to this particular family. Their social status would be low in the eyes of others, and from time to time there would be people who use these issues or some opinions regarding family to humiliate this person, and to slander and provoke them. Not only would this lower the person’s identity and status in society, but it would also make them feel ashamed and unable to show their face around others. In summary, the particular identity and social status that people inherit from being part of a particular family like the ones I have mentioned, or the common, ordinary identity and social status that people inherit from belonging to a common, ordinary family, is a kind of faint pain deep in their heart. It is both a shackle and a burden, but people cannot bear to cast it off, and are unwilling to leave it behind. Because for every person, the family home is the place where they were born and grew up, and it is also a place full of sustenance. For those whose family saddles them with a humble and lowly social status and identity, family is both good and bad, because psychologically people cannot live without family, but in terms of their actual and objective needs, family has brought them varying degrees of disgrace, preventing them from getting the respect and understanding they deserve among other people and in society. So for this section of the population, the family home is a place that they both love and hate. This kind of family is not valued or highly regarded by anyone in society, but rather is discriminated against and looked down upon by others. Precisely because of this, the people born into this kind of family also inherit the same identity, status, and worth. The shame they feel from belonging to this family often impacts on their deepest emotions, their views on things, and also the ways in which they deal with things. This inevitably affects their pursuit of the truth to a great extent, and also their practice of the truth while they are pursuing it. It is precisely because these things can affect people’s pursuit and practice of the truth, that no matter what identity you inherited from your family, you should let go of it.

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