16. Behind the Silence
By Li zhi, Greece
I’m not much of a talker, and it’s not often that I open up and speak from the heart. I always thought it was because I had an introverted personality type, but then after I went through some things and saw what was revealed in God’s words, I realized that always keeping to myself and never casually sharing my opinions wasn’t being an introvert, and it wasn’t acting with reason. Hidden within that was the satanic disposition of craftiness.
Some time ago, I started performing editing duty. I saw that the brothers and sisters I worked with on editing duty were pretty experienced; they understood the principles and were of pretty good caliber. Everyone had some discernment over who understood the truth, and who possessed true talent and solid learning. This rattled me a bit. I was of average caliber and didn’t have the reality of the truth, so if I just casually expressed my opinions in our discussions, wouldn’t that be like trying to teach fish to swim? It wouldn’t matter if I turned out to be right, but otherwise, everyone would think I was parading myself in spite of my shallow understanding of the truth. I felt like that would be really embarrassing. I was constantly warning myself to keep a low profile, to listen more than I spoke. And so, when we were all exploring issues together, I hardly ever shared what I thought. There was one time when I did make a suggestion, and everyone agreed it wasn’t the right approach—I felt so humiliated, and like I shouldn’t just rashly put myself out there, or I’d be likely to stick my foot in my mouth, making a fool of myself. I felt like I needed to proceed with caution and keep to myself. In discussions after that, I made sure not to volunteer what I thought, letting other people have their say first.
A sister later joined our team who had pretty good caliber and was really insightful, and she was assigned to work with me. Once when we were talking over an issue, I had some ideas that I wanted to share, but then I worried that if my thinking was off and what I said couldn’t hold up to scrutiny, this new sister might think I was simple and naive, and I’d be exposed for what I really was. Then what would I do if she started looking down on me? I decided to forget about it, and to just hear what she had to say. As we worked on this problem over the next couple of days, I hardly shared any of my own perspective, but just opted to go along with hers, figuring it would save me some potential embarrassment and make things easier. Since I didn’t do much talking, our collaborative environment felt pretty dull. Sometimes when she encountered a problem and I wouldn’t share my opinion, we’d just get stuck on it. Our productivity was really low and our general work progress was being held up. As time went on, I spoke up less and less, and even if I did have an opinion, I’d just turn it over in my mind over and over, thinking long and hard before opening my mouth. I was feeling really depressed and I wasn’t achieving much of anything in my duty; I was just stuck in that state, feeling oddly gloomy and troubled. It was at this time that I came before God to pray, saying, “God, I can’t feel any of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment in my duty these days and I’m hardly making any progress in work. I don’t know which corrupt dispositions I’m living within that disgust You—please guide me to know myself.” One day when I was doing some self-reflection in my devotionals, the word “slippery” suddenly popped into my head. I found this in my search for relevant words from God: “Someone might never open up and communicate what they think with others. And in all that they do, they never consult with others, but instead are closed off, seemingly on their guard against others at every turn. They enshroud themselves as tightly as can be. Is this not a cunning person? For example, they have an idea that they feel is ingenious, and think, ‘I’ll keep it to myself for now. If I share it, you could use it and steal my thunder. I’ll hold back.’ Or if there’s something they don’t fully understand, they will think: ‘I won’t speak up now. What if I do, and someone says something more elevated, won’t I look like a fool? Everyone will see right through me, see my weakness in this. I shouldn’t say anything.’ So regardless of the perspective or reasoning, regardless of the underlying motive, they’re afraid everyone will see right through them. They always approach their own duty and people, things and events with this kind of perspective and attitude. What kind of disposition is this? A crooked, deceitful and evil disposition” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Practicing the Truth Can One Possess Normal Humanity). Reading this left me with a heavy heart. God’s words perfectly exposed my true state and the words “a crooked, deceitful and evil disposition” were really poignant and discomfiting for me. I thought about how, by not speaking up directly or casually expressing my opinion, even though it felt like I was being very sensible, in fact, I was full of machinations. I had my own perspectives and opinions on issues we faced, but when I didn’t feel completely on top of things, I was afraid of having what I said rejected, of losing face and being looked down on by others. So, I held myself back, first getting a sense of what others thought and then taking things from there. Wasn’t that being slippery and crafty? I had always thought that only applied to those people in society who were constantly scheming, who were treacherous and cunning. All of my friends and colleagues out in the world agreed that I was a guileless person, that I wasn’t harboring any ulterior motives in my actions. I had always really hated people who were slippery as an eel, who were constantly trying to see which way the wind blew. I’d never thought of myself as anything like that. But then I saw that even though I didn’t tell any outright lies and I didn’t do things exactly like those people, I was still being driven by my crafty nature. I was careful to read the room in everything I said and did, and I’d just go along with the flow, afraid of looking incompetent and having people see right through me. I was insincere at every turn, disguising myself to protect my reputation. In the face of any difficulties in my duty, I never just casually shared what I thought, but I was crafty and deceptive, concealing my opinions and hardly giving any thought to the interests of God’s house. I finally realized that I actually was a slippery, crafty person. I’d always thought that not being a big talker was just a part of my personality—I hadn’t really analyzed the satanic disposition that was behind it. Only then did I see how poorly I knew myself.
There was another passage of God’s words I read that really helped clarify things for me. God says: “Satan corrupts people through the education and influence of national governments and of the famous and great. Their devilish words have become man’s life nature. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’ is a well-known satanic saying that has been instilled into everyone, and that has become man’s life. There are other words of philosophies for living that are also like this. Satan uses each nation’s fine traditional culture to educate people, causing mankind to fall into and be engulfed by a boundless abyss of destruction, and in the end people are destroyed by God because they serve Satan and resist God. … There are still many satanic poisons in people’s lives, in their conduct and behavior; they possess almost no truth at all. For example, their philosophies for living, their ways of doing things, and their maxims are all filled with the poisons of the great red dragon, and they all come from Satan. Thus, all things that flow through people’s bones and blood are all things of Satan. … Mankind has been profoundly corrupted by Satan. Satan’s venom flows through the blood of every person, and it can be seen that man’s nature is corrupt, evil, and reactionary, filled by and immersed in the philosophies of Satan—it is, in its entirety, a nature that betrays God. This is why people resist God and stand in opposition to God” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Know Man’s Nature). God’s words spoke precisely to the deepest recesses of my heart. I saw I’d been upholding satanic philosophies all along: “Open your ears and shut your mouth” and “Silence is gold, and he who talks a lot errs a lot.” By being a “receiver” instead of a “megaphone” with others, I wouldn’t have to put my weaknesses on display or look foolish. By bottling up what I wanted to say, many of my mistaken ideas never came to light, so of course no one could point out my faults or disagree with me. That way I could save face, and that further convinced me that following the ideas of “Silence is gold” and “Open your ears and shut your mouth” was the wisest way to get by in this world. After accepting Almighty God’s work of the last days, I still couldn’t help but continue to let these things dictate my interactions with brothers and sisters. I felt that as long as I didn’t say much or kept my mouth shut, no one would find out about my personal failings and shortcomings, and I could protect my image. I lived by these satanic philosophies, and whenever I did want to share my own perspective, I was always calculating my own loss or gain and what other people would think. If I thought there was a chance I’d embarrass myself, I’d choose to go the safe route, not saying or doing anything. These satanic poisons made me more and more slippery and cunning, and made me second-guess and guard against others more all the time. I wouldn’t take the initiative to communicate and open up, and my work with others was really depressing and monotonous. There was no way I could do a decent job in my duty that way.
Recognizing this, I came before God in prayer, asking Him to guide me to resolve this aspect of my corrupt disposition. After that, I made a conscious effort in discussions with brothers and sisters to turn away from my own personal motives and start volunteering my own thoughts without worrying about how it would make me look. With ideas that weren’t very well-developed, I’d present them to brothers and sisters for debate and dialogue; when we ran into difficulties in our duty, everyone would pray and seek together, all communicating with each other. We could find a way forward this way. But since I was so deeply corrupted by Satan, there were still plenty of times I couldn’t help but act according to my corrupt disposition. One time in a discussion regarding an issue in our duty, a couple of supervisors happened to be there. I thought to myself, “Tossing ideas around with brothers and sisters is all well and good, but with the supervisors here, what will they think of my caliber if my thinking is wrong, if my understanding is off? What if they think I’m not a good fit for this duty and they pull me off the team—what would the others think of me? I’d never be able to hold my head up again.” Racked with these worries, I didn’t say a single word in the entire discussion. As we were wrapping things up, one of the supervisors asked me why I hadn’t said anything at all. I felt really awkward and guilty, too, and I didn’t know what to say in response. Finally, I said, “That was another display of my crafty disposition. I was afraid that if I said too much, I’d be bound to slip up, so I didn’t dare open my mouth.” But after the fact, I still felt uneasy. Even though I’d acknowledged the corruption I was showing, would I still do the same thing next time I found myself in that kind of situation? Reflecting on this, I saw that even though I had some self-knowledge and I’d held myself up against God’s words exposing this problem, I still couldn’t help but live according to this corrupt disposition in the face of a challenge. I hadn’t truly repented and changed. I came before God to pray, asking Him to guide me to truly know myself.
I later read this passage of God’s words: “Antichrists believe that if they are always fond of talking and of opening their hearts to others, everyone will see through them and see they have no depth, but are just ordinary people, and will then no longer respect them. What does it mean when others do not respect them? It means that they no longer have a lofty place in others’ hearts, and that they seem quite commonplace, quite simple, quite ordinary. This is what the antichrists are unwilling to see. That is why, when they see another in a group who, always lays themself bare and says they have been negative and rebellious against God, and in what matters they erred yesterday, and that today, they are suffering and in pain for not having been an honest person, the antichrists never say such things, but keep them hidden deep inside. There are some who speak little because they are poor of caliber and simple of mind, and do not have many thoughts, so the words they say are few. The antichrists’ ilk speaks little, too, but this is not why—rather, it is a problem in their disposition. They speak little when they see others, and when others speak of a matter, they would not offer an opinion lightly. Why do they not offer their opinions? First of all, they certainly do not have the truth and cannot see through to the heart of any matter; as soon as they speak, they make mistakes, and others will see them for what they are. So, they affect silence and depth, rendering others unable to gauge them accurately, and even making them think they are brilliant and exceptional. This way, no one will think them trivial; seeing their calm, composed demeanor, people will think much of them, and not dare slight them. This is the slyness and evil of the antichrists; that they do not readily offer opinions is part and parcel of this disposition of theirs. They do not readily offer opinions not because they do not have them—they have some fallacious and warped opinions, opinions that do not accord at all with the truth, and even some opinions that cannot see the light of day—yet, no matter which sort of opinions they have, they do not offer them freely. They do not offer them freely not because they fear others might take credit for them, but because they want to hide them; they dare not lay their opinions out plainly for fear of being seen for what they are. … They know their own measure, and they have another motive, the most shameful of all: They wish to be held in high regard. Is that not most repugnant?” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (4)). Every one of God’s words struck me to the core. I always clung to the ideas that “Silence is gold” and “He who talks a lot errs a lot.” It seemed that I was merely protecting my own image, afraid of saying the wrong thing and being laughed at and humiliated, but the crux of the issue was that I wanted to gain status in others’ eyes. I wanted everything I said, all the opinions I expressed to gain others’ admiration and approval, to get a “thumbs up” from them. To that end, I was disingenuous and disguised myself, always racking my brains, obsessing over everything I said and did so that I would look like a thoughtful, insightful person. In discussions with supervisors, I was particularly preoccupied with protecting my image and status, so I didn’t dare share my opinions, thinking it wouldn’t be a problem if I were right, but if I weren’t, I’d reveal my lack of understanding. Then if the supervisors were unimpressed and I lost my duty, my status among everyone else would be totally ruined. Harboring these sinister motives, I just kept my mouth shut, afraid to open up about my thoughts and opinions, not even daring to utter a simple “I’m not sure I understand this.” That was despicable, so shameful! I realized that in my collaboration with others in my duty and day-to-day interactions with brothers and sisters, I was quiet and appeared to be honest on the outside, but inside, I was harboring craftiness. I was hiding my ugliness, disguising myself and misleading others. And even in gatherings when we were fellowshiping on the truth and talking over problems, I would still try to go with the flow, hoping to safeguard my status and image in others’ eyes. I loved my own image and reputation much more than I loved the truth and righteousness—this was entirely the crafty and evil disposition of an antichrist that I was revealing. At this point in my reflection, I saw how dangerous my state was. I thought about how in the Age of Grace, God said to those who failed to do His will: “And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). I had faith, but I didn’t put God’s words into practice, and I wasn’t taking practical action in order to satisfy God; I wasn’t able to open up to brothers and sisters in fellowship and be honest. Instead, I was always covering up my undesirable side, trying everything to protect my image and mislead others so that they would look up to me. I was struggling with God for status, and I was on an antichrist’s path of opposing God. I knew that if I didn’t repent, I would ultimately be eliminated by God. Understanding this finally filled me with revulsion for my corrupt nature and also made me see how perilous it would be to continue in that kind of pursuit. I had to come before God and repent as soon as possible, forsake the flesh, and put God’s words into practice.
When I opened up to brothers and sisters about my state after that, a sister sent me a passage of God’s words: “When people do their duty or any work before God, their heart must be pure like a bowl of water—crystal clear—their attitude must be correct. What kind of attitude is correct? No matter what it is that you’re doing, you are able to share with others whatever is on your heart, whatever ideas you may have. If they say your idea won’t work and make a different suggestion, you listen and say, ‘Good idea, let’s go with it. Mine was no good, lacking insight, undeveloped.’ From your words and deeds, everyone will see that you have crystal-clear principles in your conduct, there’s no darkness in your heart, and you act and speak sincerely, relying on an attitude of honesty. You call a spade a spade. If it is, it is; if it isn’t, it isn’t. No tricks, no secrets, just a very transparent person. Isn’t that a kind of attitude? This is an attitude toward people, events and things that is representative of this person’s disposition” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Practicing the Truth Can One Possess Normal Humanity). I read this passage of God’s words, too: “God tells people not to be deceitful, but to be honest, to speak honestly and do honest things. The significance of God saying this is to allow people to have a true human likeness, so that they do not have the likeness of Satan, who speaks like a snake slithering along the ground, always equivocating, obfuscating the truth of the matter. That is, it is said so that people, in both word or deed, can live a life that is dignified and upright, without a dark side, without anything shameful, with a clean heart, with what is outside in harmony with what is inside; they say whatever they think in their heart and they don’t cheat anyone or cheat God, keeping nothing back, with their heart like a piece of pure land. This is God’s objective by requiring people to be honest people” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Man Is the Greatest Beneficiary of God’s Management Plan). I saw in these passages that God likes honest people. An honest person is simple and forthright, without any deceit or craftiness toward God, and they are guileless with others. They speak out what is in their heart without twisting it, so that both God and man can see their true heart. This is how a person should present themselves—upright and aboveboard. An honest person loves the truth and loves positive things, so they more easily gain the truth and can be perfected by God. I, on the other hand, couldn’t say a single true word from the heart in my interactions and collaborations with others. There was no transparency in my speech and actions—I was shady and cunning, and there was no way I’d be able to understand and gain the truth. In fact, God knows my caliber inside and out, as well as how deep my understanding of the truth is. Disguising myself may be able to fool other people, but it will never fool God. God could see how evil and disgusting it was that I was always playing games and being dishonest, so there was no way He would work to guide me. However, putting the truth into practice as God requires and being an honest person, opening up to others whether I’m mistaken or not in my perspective, won’t be so exhausting for me, and it brings God joy, too. Additionally, it’s only by opening my mouth that I can learn where I’m mistaken; then other people can give me pointers and help me, which is the only way for me to make progress. Even though it means I lose a little bit of face, it’s very beneficial for my understanding of the truth and my growth in life.
Before, I really had no idea how to conduct myself. But once God took us by the hand to teach us how to speak and act, we could live out a human likeness. I came to understand God’s earnest intentions and I felt really encouraged, and also gained a path of practice. After that, when working with brothers and sisters or communicating with supervisors in my duty, I started working to open up and not be secretive, to stop protecting my reputation and status. I tried to share what I truly thought, to be straightforward with brothers and sisters. I could openly tell brothers and sisters that my ideas weren’t thought through very well, that my understanding was shallow or my thinking was simplistic, and they were welcome to correct what was lacking. Practicing doing this was really freeing for me. On top of that, saying something wrong wasn’t humiliating; in fact, it was constantly disguising myself and creating a false front to get others to admire me that was hypocritical and shameless. Before long, I started working alongside the sister that had been in the team the longest. She did pretty well in our work and in fellowship on the truth, so I was reluctant to express my views in my work with her so that I wouldn’t reveal my shortcomings, and I’d seem more sensible. When that idea reared its head, I immediately realized that I was once again wanting to disguise myself, so I prayed to God and forsook myself. In my work discussions with that sister from then on, I no longer held myself back, but volunteered to share my perspective. These mutual discussions helped me see if my perspective really was valid or not, and where it might be flawed. She was able to see my weaknesses and give me suggestions accordingly. This kind of collaboration allowed me to make progress in my work and in the realm of grasping the principles. My experience was that by voluntarily communicating and having discourse with others, being an honest person, and by doing my duty facing God directly, the darkness in my heart faded quite a bit, and I felt much more at ease. I also started doing much better in my duty. I give heartfelt thanks for God’s guidance!