47. Can People Pleasers Gain God’s Salvation?
By Hao Zheng, China
I’m from a poor, backward mountain village with feudalistic customs and complicated interpersonal relationships. I was really influenced by that environment and things my parents would say, like “Think before you speak and then talk with reservation,” “Silence is gold, speech is silver, and he who talks a lot errs a lot,” “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,” “Speak good words in harmony with others’ feelings and reason, as being frank annoys others.” All these philosophies became words of wisdom for me in my life. Even with my siblings, I was always carefully observing them, trying to say nice, complimentary things to make them happy. If one did something wrong and my parents asked me who it was, I’d always say I didn’t know, so my siblings liked me quite a bit. My mom always said I was a good kid, too. Once I got out into the world, whether I was with friends or with all the different types of people out there, I was always walking on eggshells to protect my relationships. I never did anything that would offend anyone or argued with anyone. If someone else offended me, I was really forgiving and wouldn’t rock the boat. I got the short end of the stick a lot, and I felt pent up and angry, but I’d stick to “Silence is gold, and he who talks a lot errs a lot” and just stuff my feelings. I became known among family and friends for being a nice person. I was complimented and praised by everyone for being that way, but I always felt this pressure and pain in my heart that I couldn’t put words to. I was on guard with everyone so I wouldn’t offend anyone, and I’d never dared to really open up to a single person. I was always pandering and putting up a false front to protect my own interests. That was a painful, tiring, and distressing way to live. I used to always wonder, “When will my suffering end? How can I lead an easier life?” When I was lost and in pain, Almighty God stretched out His hand of salvation to me.
In 1998, I had the good fortune to accept Almighty God’s work of the last days. I learned from Almighty God’s words that God has become flesh and come to save mankind mainly to resolve our corrupt dispositions and allow us to live out a true human likeness. Almighty God says, “You ought to know that God likes those who are honest. In essence, God is faithful, and so His words can always be trusted; His actions, furthermore, are faultless and unquestionable, which is why God likes those who are absolutely honest with Him” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “My kingdom requires those who are honest, those who are not hypocritical or deceitful. Are not the sincere and honest people unpopular in the world? I am just the opposite. It is acceptable for the honest people to come to Me; I delight in this kind of person, and I also need this kind of person. This is precisely My righteousness” (“Chapter 33” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God tells us to be honest, simple, and open, that that’s the only way to get into the kingdom of heaven. When I read this, I deeply felt that that was an easier, happier way to live and I aspired to be honest as God requires. In interactions and gatherings with brothers and sisters, I noticed they were all honest and spoke freely. They were sincere and genuine. When they had opinions about someone or saw someone revealing corruption, they could point it out to help them, and they could open up and talk about their knowledge of themselves. This was really surprising for me, because I had always thought one’s opinions about people absolutely couldn’t be talked about, that by being honest, I’d offend others and harm myself. But I didn’t need to worry about that here. Brothers and sisters weren’t as phony as people in the world, and they’d apologize when they hurt someone else. They always considered others. I knew they could practice that and live it out entirely because of Almighty God’s work and words. That made me even more certain that Almighty God’s words are the truth, that they can cleanse and change people, and I really wanted to be an honest person. But Satan’s philosophies for living had burrowed into me long before, becoming my own rules for survival. In my interactions with brothers and sisters, without realizing it, I was still relying on those satanic philosophies. I was afraid to open up and speak from the heart, afraid of offending someone or damaging my reputation. I kept on being careful to protect my relationships with them and I felt that being honest was a really tall order. Then to cleanse and change me, God carefully arranged the right environment to reveal my corruption and deficiencies, leading me into the reality of being an honest person.
Later, I started working as a team leader with Brother Li. We got along great and he helped me out with a lot of things. But in our duty, I found out that he was arrogant, self-willed, and didn’t go by the principles. Every time I wanted to say something, I’d be about to open my mouth, then end up just swallowing the words. I thought, “If I criticize him, he’ll say I don’t have a conscience, that he’s been so kind to me but I’m always pointing out his problems. What if he becomes biased against me, and we can’t work together in our duty anymore?” I never did bring this up with him so that I could protect our relationship. Brother Li later seriously impacted the church’s work because he was arrogant and neglected his duties, and he was replaced. In spite of this, I still didn’t reflect on myself. But then one day when I went to Brother Li’s house for something, his wife said to me, “You have a hand in my husband getting replaced. If you’d been able to warn him and help him, it’s possible he wouldn’t have acted so willfully and recklessly in his duty and disrupted the church’s work. Why can’t you uphold the church’s work? You’re a people pleaser, you don’t practice the truth!” Hearing her say this was devastating for me, and I felt ashamed more than anything. After leaving, I just couldn’t stop the tears. I prayed to God in my pain, saying, “Oh God, You allowed this sister to deal with me and reprimand me today, but I don’t truly know myself. Please enlighten and guide me.” I gradually calmed down after my prayer and started to think back on my time working with Brother Li. I saw I’d been living by Satan’s philosophies for living. I’d clearly seen him going against principles but I didn’t stop him or help him. I was so afraid of offending him and damaging our working relationship. I had a responsibility I couldn’t escape in Brother Li getting to that point. I felt more and more guilty and regretful.
Later, I read a passage of God’s words. “There must be a standard for having good humanity. It does not involve taking the path of moderation, not sticking to principles, endeavoring not to offend anyone, currying favor everywhere you go, being smooth and slick with everyone you meet, and making everyone feel good. This is not the standard. So what is the standard? It includes treating God, other people, and events with a true heart, being able to take responsibility, and doing all this in a way that is evident for everyone to see and feel. Moreover, God searches people’s hearts and knows them, each and every one. Some people always boast that they possess good humanity, claiming never to have done anything bad, stolen others’ possessions, or coveted other people’s things. They even go so far as to allow others to benefit at their own expense when there is a dispute over interests, preferring to suffer loss, and they never say anything bad about anyone just so that everyone else thinks they are good people. However, when performing their duties in God’s house, they are wily and slippery, always scheming for themselves. Never do they think of the interests of God’s house, never do they treat as urgent the things God treats as urgent or think as God thinks, and never can they set aside their own interests so as to perform their duties. They never forsake their own interests. Even when they see evildoers committing evil, they do not expose them; they have no principles whatsoever. This is not an example of good humanity. Pay no attention to what such a person says; you must see what he lives out, what he reveals, and what his attitude is when he performs his duties, as well as what his internal state is and what he loves. If his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds his loyalty to God, if his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds God’s interests, or if his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds the consideration he shows for God, then he is not a person with humanity. His behavior can be seen by others and by God; therefore, it is very difficult for such a person to gain the truth” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words showed me that being a good person isn’t acting nice. It’s not getting along with people or winning their approval. It’s turning your heart to God, being loyal, practicing the truth to uphold the work of God’s house, following the principles of the truth, and helping and supporting people spiritually in their lives. But even though I’d seen Brother Li be willful and go against the truth many times, and be very arrogant and not accept other people’s suggestions, knowing this was bad both for him and the work of God’s house, I still went by the satanic philosophy of “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship.” I turned a blind eye. I didn’t help him or mention it to a church leader. I just looked on as the church’s work was harmed. I just couldn’t sacrifice my prestige to practice the truth and be responsible. I was so selfish, despicable, and deceitful! Wasn’t I enabling his sin? Wasn’t I standing on Satan’s side? I became a despicable, self-interested person out of my fear of offending anyone. I had no sense of righteousness. I wasn’t a good person at all. In my pursuit to be a nice guy, I’d become the people pleaser and deceitful person that God despises. Out in the world, it would be fine to be like that, but in God’s house, that disgusts Him. Then I realized that not practicing the truth, but being nice to protect relationships actually does harm to people. For the first time ever, my view on being a good person was shaken. I saw that going by satanic philosophies in my relationships was totally wrong, and being dealt with this time left a deep impression on me that I’ll never forget. I felt like Brother Li had committed a transgression, but what I was left with was an eternal debt. Through God’s judgment and chastisement, I gained understanding of my misguided pursuit over the years and I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I became willing to be an honest, upright person as God requires. I had the desire to work to be an honest person, but since my corruption and satanic disposition ran so deep and I didn’t fully understand and hate my nature and essence as a people pleaser, I didn’t truly change. Before long, I was back to doing the same old things.
The husband of Sister Zhang from a nearby village was a thoroughly evil local thug who stood in the way of her faith. Whenever he saw her leaving for a gathering, he’d start trouble with other brothers and sisters so they couldn’t find any peace. One time when she was gone for a gathering, her husband took the wood a brother was going to use to build a house and set it all on fire. The church leader told her, “Don’t come to gatherings—we have to keep everyone safe. Do your devotionals and read God’s words yourself at home.” But after a while, she really wanted to attend a gathering and she couldn’t stop herself from coming to our village to meet with Sister Wang. Not knowing what to do, Sister Wang came to talk to me. I knew very well that the church’s interests had to come first, that Sister Zhang should go home. But then I thought, “I’m not a church leader. What will the others think if this is the wrong move? Besides, if Sister Zhang found out I stopped her from having a gathering, what would she think of me?” At this thought, I politely skirted around it, saying, “You should really talk to a church leader about this. Go find one of them.” She wasn’t able to find one in the end, so she let Sister Zhang stay.
The next evening while I was at home doing my devotionals and listening to hymns of God’s words, I suddenly heard someone violently pounding on the door. The moment my son opened the door, three or four big guys with wooden clubs burst in and then four or five more jumped down off my roof. They pinned me down on the bed without a word and gave me a vicious beating. I was really scared. I prayed and called out to God nonstop. Just when the pain was getting really bad, the bed frame snapped and I fell down onto the floor. Those bullies thought I’d been seriously hurt and fled in a panic. I thought after a beating like that I’d definitely have some broken bones, but surprisingly, they were just flesh wounds with no injury to the bones. I knew that was God’s care and protection. A day later I found out that Sister Zhang’s husband knew she was leaving for a gathering and thought I’d arranged it, so he got those guys to beat me up. I realized that happened because I hadn’t followed the principles. If I had, and I’d stopped Sister Zhang from attending that gathering, it never would have come to that. Getting beaten up by those thugs was entirely because I was selfish and despicable. I only cared about my own interests and was a “nice guy” who wouldn’t practice the truth. I’d brought it upon myself.
I later came before God in seeking and reflection: Why couldn’t I stop protecting my own interests and being a people pleaser? Why couldn’t I put it into practice when I knew the truth? One time, I read these words from God: “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. All of those officials, those who hold power, and those who are accomplished have their own paths and secrets to success. Are such secrets not perfectly representative of their nature? They have done such big things in the world, and no one can see through the schemes and intrigues that lay behind them. This shows just how insidious and venomous their nature is. 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” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). I found the root of the problem as I thought this over. I was always a people pleaser who couldn’t practice the truth because I was filled with Satan’s philosophies and poisons: “Silence is gold, speech is silver, and he who talks a lot errs a lot,” “When you know something is wrong, it is better to say less,” “Sensible people are good at self-protection, seeking only to avoid making mistakes,” “Think before you speak and then talk with reservation,” “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship.” I took these as words to live by, as my rules of conduct and I did everything I could to be a nice guy based on these things. In all of my interactions, all I ever thought about was not offending people, how to get people to praise and look up to me. I’d perfected Satan’s slippery and deceitful philosophies and they became things I naturally revealed. Even though I seemed like a good person in the world and people praised me as a nice guy, I was a far cry from a truly good person. What was I even gaining from living according to these poisons of Satan? I lost the innocence a child should have when I was little and I put up a false front with absolutely everyone. I was very careful and always observed others when I spoke and acted. I was on my guard with everyone. I never opened up and spoke from the heart with anyone. I was even deceitful with my own family. I went against my own conscience a lot and sold out my own dignity and integrity, because I was afraid of offending others. I never dared to stand up for what was just and I compromised my integrity just to protect my image. I forced a smile even when I was angry. Not only did these satanic philosophies keep me from living out normal humanity, but I was selfish, despicable, deceitful, and didn’t know good from evil. Living by these satanic philosophies did gain me praise from others in the moment, but it was like being held in invisible shackles, very tightly bound. I couldn’t speak or act freely. I had no freedom whatsoever, and I was really depressed and in pain. Now I could see that being the people pleaser I used to strive for wasn’t actually being a good person, but was being a crafty, black-hearted person who didn’t pursue the truth. I was opposing and betraying God. I never could be saved without God’s judgment and cleansing. Then I realized that God had allowed those thugs to beat me up. He was giving me a warning so I would come before God and reflect on myself, know the essence and consequences of being a people pleaser, and repent.
Through reading God’s words, I saw the nature and essence of being a people pleaser as well as its dangers and consequences. I prayed to God, willing to really pursue the truth, be freed of the bonds of Satan’s philosophies, and be honest according to God’s words. One time I found out that Sister Lin had been transferred to another church and selected as a deacon. I knew she was a really deceitful person and she’d always been really wily in her duty in the church before, saying one thing and doing another. I knew that someone so deceitful shouldn’t be a church deacon and I should uphold the church’s work. I decided to write a letter to that church’s leader explaining the situation. But I hesitated just as I was picking up the pen, thinking, “This is a matter for their church. Will their leader say I’m overreaching, not minding my own business?” Then I thought of some of God’s words. “All of you say you are considerate of God’s burden and will defend the testimony of the church, but who among you has really been considerate of God’s burden? Ask yourself: Are you someone who has shown consideration for His burden? Can you practice righteousness for Him? Can you stand up and speak for Me? Can you steadfastly put the truth into practice? Are you bold enough to fight against all of Satan’s deeds? Would you be able to set your emotions aside and expose Satan for the sake of My truth? Can you allow My intentions to be fulfilled in you? Have you offered up your heart in the most crucial of moments? Are you someone who does My will?” (“Chapter 13” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Every one of God’s words spoke to my heart and I could feel God’s urgent will, hoping people practice the truth and uphold righteousness, dare to say “no” to Satan’s forces and take responsibility to uphold God’s work. He doesn’t want us to calculate our gains and losses, but to prioritize the church’s interests. Once I understood God’s will, I found the confidence to put the truth into practice, so I wrote that letter to the leader of the other church about Sister Lin. A few days later, the leader told me that they had looked into it and confirmed Sister Lin was a deceitful person, so they’d changed her duty. Seeing it turn out that way was comforting and left me at ease. I saw being honest is wonderful and I got to do something meaningful. Some brothers and sisters later told me that writing that letter to protect the interests of the church showed that I really had changed, that I had gained a sense of righteousness. Hearing this from them was so moving for me. I knew in my heart that practicing the truth and having that little bit of change was all achieved by God’s judgment and chastisement. I give thanks to Almighty God for my salvation!