34. It Feels So Good to Take Off My Disguise
By Chen Yuan, China
In September 2018, I was elected as a church leader. I was very happy at the time. I felt this must have happened because I was better than most brothers and sisters, and I must pursue truth and do my duties. I didn’t want people to think that my leadership was merely symbolic. One day I went to a group meeting. When discussing work, some of the brothers and sisters talked about specialist skills. I was a bit flustered. I knew almost nothing about it. What if they asked me questions, and I couldn’t answer? Would they look down on me and wonder how I could lead if I didn’t understand? I could just say nothing, but wouldn’t that make me a useless leader? What could I do? I sat there like a cat on a hot tin roof, filled with anxiety. I couldn’t understand what anyone was talking about. When they were about done talking, I quickly said, “If there are no other questions, let’s end the meeting here.” I couldn’t relax until I left the meeting. I thought, “This group requires a lot of professional knowledge and I don’t know anything about it, so I’d best not go to many meetings. If the others find out I don’t know much about the professional things, they’ll definitely look down on me. Who would take me seriously after that?”
Over the next couple of weeks or so, I went to meet with other groups every day and helped solve their problems and difficulties. Our church life improved. Everyone supported me, and I really wanted to meet with these groups. But I was troubled when I thought about the group that needed specialized knowledge. I was scared that I wouldn’t know what they’re talking about, so I would make excuses and rarely go. One night, the sister I worked with said the group had some problems, so she asked me to go to a meeting. I reluctantly agreed, but I was anxious. I thought, “If I can’t solve the problem, will the others say that I am an incompetent leader?” I was troubled. The next day, after we’d fellowshiped on God’s word, I was afraid the others would ask questions about professional knowledge, and I would look stupid if I couldn’t answer them. So I braced myself and continued to talk to stall the situation, but I felt uneasy. I asked them, “What other problems have yet to be resolved?” The group leader talked about their problems and solutions. I got confused when he started using some jargon. I wasn’t sure if the problems had been completely solved or not. If they didn’t find a solution, it would affect their progress. But if I asked detailed questions, they would certainly want to hear my opinion. But I didn’t understand anything, and it would be embarrassing. After much consideration, I didn’t say anything. Then, a sister talked about some of the difficulties she was experiencing that were related to some professional issues. I got even more confused. I didn’t dare ask her what she meant. I was afraid that if I couldn’t solve her problem, she’d think that I was not a good leader. I just talked a bit and avoided the issue by saying, “I’ll look into this issue later.” After the meeting, I was totally exhausted. I felt empty. Nothing was solved during this meeting. Wasn’t I just muddling along in my duty? I also knew that the brothers and sisters in this group hadn’t achieved much. Their work didn’t progress much and I felt bad about it. I was afraid they’d say I didn’t understand this work and look down on me. I just muddled my way through every meeting. I never really grasped the work situation and didn’t solve any actual problems. I wasn’t doing any actual work. Wasn’t I deceiving God and fooling my brothers and sisters? I felt uncomfortable and blamed myself. I prayed to God to help me self-reflect and try to know myself.
One day during devotionals, I read a passage of God’s words: “All corrupted humans exhibit this problem: When they are ordinary brothers and sisters without status, they do not put on airs when interacting or speaking with anyone, nor do they adopt a certain style or tone in their speech; they are simply ordinary and normal, and do not need to package themselves. They do not feel any psychological pressure, and can fellowship openly and from the heart. They are approachable and are easy to interact with; others feel that they are very good people. However, as soon as they attain status, they become high and mighty, as if no one can reach them; they feel that they deserve respect, and that they and ordinary people are cut from different cloths. They look down on ordinary people and stop fellowshiping openly with others. Why do they no longer fellowship openly? They feel that they now have status, and are leaders. They think that leaders must have a certain image, be a bit loftier than ordinary people, and have more stature and be able to assume more responsibility; they believe that compared to ordinary people, leaders must have more patience, be able to suffer and expend more, and be able to withstand any temptation. They even think leaders cannot cry, no matter how many of their family members might die, and that, if they do have to cry, they must cry into their bedsheets, so that no one can see any shortcomings, defects, or weakness in them. They even feel that leaders cannot let anyone know if they have become negative; instead, they must hide all such things. They believe this is how one with status should act” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice). God’s words revealed my true state. Before I was a leader, if I didn’t understand something, I would ask someone. I would fellowship openly with others if I had any issues or difficulties. After I became a leader, I felt I should be better than others. I felt that since I was elected by my brothers and sisters, I should act as a leader. I needed to be better than them, I had to be able to understand and solve anything. So, when I went to group meetings, I held myself differently. But because there were some things I didn’t understand, I was afraid the others would look down on me. I started acting fake and pretending, and I shirked my duty. I went to the groups with the easiest tasks where I could show my talent, and I avoided groups facing difficult tasks or involving areas that I didn’t understand so I wouldn’t lose face if I did a poor job. Even if I had gone, I would’ve just said some meaningless things and muddled my way through. I couldn’t face the actual problems in those groups. I was too invested in my vanity and being a leader. God’s house requires leaders to delve deeply into each task, to communicate truth and solve the issues our brothers and sisters encounter, so they can do their duties according to the principles of truth. This means doing real work and caring about God’s will. I knew that the brothers and sisters in that group faced difficulties, but I wasn’t willing to face their problems and seek the truth to solve them. I was obsessed with my own vanity, slipshod in my duty, and I lived only for prestige. I forgot all about the work of God’s house. As a result, the problems in this group were not resolved and progress was delayed. Wasn’t I just a false leader who enjoyed leadership status without doing the actual work? Pursuing status is exhausting and makes me feel uneasy in my heart. It also brings disruption to the work of God’s house, a lose-lose situation. If I didn’t repent, I would be doing evil and resisting God, which would make God abandon me. I quickly prayed to God and sought the path of practice.
Then, I read another passage from God’s words. “When you have no status, you can dissect yourself often and come to know yourself. Others can benefit from this. When you have status, you can still dissect yourself often and come to know yourself, allowing others to understand truth reality and comprehend God’s will from your experiences. People can benefit from this, too, can they not? If you practice so, then, whether you have status or not, others will benefit from it just the same. So, what does status mean to you? It is, in fact, an extra, additional thing, like a piece of clothing or a hat; as long as you do not take it as too great a matter, it cannot constrain you. If you love status and place special emphasis on it, always treating it as a matter of importance, then it will have you under its control; after that, you will no longer want to know yourself, nor will you be willing to open up and lay yourself bare, or set aside your leadership role to speak and interact with others and fulfill your duty. What sort of problem is this? Have you not assumed this status for yourself? And have you not then just continued to occupy that position and are unwilling to give it up, and even vie with others to protect your status? Are you not just tormenting yourself? If you end up tormenting yourself to death, whom will you have to blame? If, when you have status, you can refrain from lording it over others, focusing instead on how to perform your duties well, doing everything you should and fulfilling all the duties you ought, and if you see yourself as an ordinary brother or sister, then will you not have cast aside the yoke of status?” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice). After reading God’s words, I understood that when God exalted me to do my duty as a leader, He wasn’t giving me status, but a commission, a responsibility. No matter how difficult the problems were, I needed to commit fully to solving them. When interacting with brothers and sisters, I shouldn’t rely on my leadership status. Whenever I reveal corrupt disposition, or difficulties or deficiencies arise, I must communicate openly and be truthful and let others see my corruption and deficiencies, and know exactly who I am. There must be no faking or pretending. I should just be myself and only give fellowship on what I understand. When I don’t understand, I must seek the truth and fellowship with my brothers and sisters to do the best work possible together. Later I went to gatherings in that group. When I encountered problems related to this expertise, I consciously let go of my ego. I actively asked others about the things I didn’t understand and asked them to explain. They didn’t think any less of me. They also opened up about their problems and difficulties in their work. When they talked, I listened carefully and tried to understand. That’s when I gained some insight into their problems and fellowshiped with them using the principles of the truth. I also studied this area of expertise in my own time. When encountering difficulties, I’d look for answers with them. By working together, we were able to complement each other. We began to solve many problems in our work and we achieved better results in our duty. I felt much more relaxed and at ease.
A few months later, the church expanded the scope of my work. I knew I had a lot to learn. When I ran into difficulties, I’d often pray to God, and put God’s words into practice, and I solved some practical problems. Brothers and sisters began to approve of me and look up to me, and I began to enjoy that feeling. Without realizing it, I began to focus on status again. One day, during a co-workers’ meeting, our leader said that a certain church’s meetings hadn’t been very effective. My co-workers recommended that I go to the church to solve the problem. I thought to myself, “It seems like I possess some reality of the truth and can help solve problems. I must be outstanding among the co-workers. I need to work hard and show them what I can do.” As a result of my wrong intentions, God arranged a situation to deal with me. One day, Sister Li, a group leader, had some difficulties and was feeling a little negative. I quickly found two passages of God’s words and used my experience to fellowship with her. This went on for over thirty minutes, but it seemed to have no effect on her. I also felt that my fellowship was boring and didn’t solve anything. Then, Sister An brought up a passage of God’s words, and Sister Li began nodding and smiling. At the time, I felt a bit ashamed. The passage that Sister An referred to was more appropriate. I wondered what Sister Li would think of me. Would she say I was an unqualified leader, that I couldn’t quote suitable passages of God’s words or resolve problems as well as Sister An? I felt frustrated and didn’t want to fellowship anymore. A few days later, Brother Zhang was in a bad state. I found some related passages in advance and thought, “I need this fellowship to go well in order to save face in front of Sister An. Otherwise, how can I do this job?” When I saw Brother Zhang, I was very energetic and proactive. I tried to communicate everything I knew. Unexpectedly, Brother Zhang impatiently said to me, “Sister, I understand what you’re saying, but my state isn’t improving. Let me think about it some more.” His words shocked me. I just sat there at a loss for words. I wanted to hide under a rock. I was so troubled, and thought, “What’s wrong with me? This didn’t use to happen when I talked with other brothers and sisters. Why do I keep dropping the ball? This will make them look down on me. Will they say that all I do is talk and that I can’t resolve real problems?” I forget how the meeting ended.
After that, whenever I spent time with Sister An, I got very self-conscious. Sometimes the way she looked at me or the way she talked was a bit harsh. I’d think, “Does she have a problem with me? Does she not approve of me?” I felt I should keep my distance in the future so I wouldn’t reveal any more shortcomings. In front of other brothers and sisters, I also carefully maintained appearances. I intentionally distanced myself and rarely talked to them or helped with their problems. I stopped doing my duty responsibly. Slowly, I began to feel a darkness looming over my heart. I wasn’t able to understand or resolve others’ problems. Sometimes I was afraid to meet with them. I just muddled through each day and felt that God had abandoned me. It was then that I finally prayed to God: “God, I’m always trying to maintain my reputation and I’m always pretending. I’m not responsible in my duty anymore. You have hidden Your face from me and that is Your righteousness, but I am willing to turn to You and reflect on myself.” After that, I read God’s words: “People themselves are objects of creation. Can objects of creation achieve omnipotence? Can they achieve perfection and flawlessness? Can they achieve proficiency in everything, come to understand everything, and accomplish everything? They cannot. However, within humans, there is a weakness. As soon as they learn a skill or profession, people feel that they are capable, that they are people with status and worth, and that they are professionals. No matter how ‘capable’ they think they are, they all want to package themselves up, disguise themselves as lofty personages, and appear perfect and flawless, without a single defect; in the eyes of others, they wish to be regarded as great, powerful, fully capable, and able to accomplish anything. They feel that if they sought others’ help in a matter, they would appear incapable, weak, and inferior, and that people would look down on them. For this reason, they always want to keep up a front. … What kind of disposition is this? Such people are so arrogant, they have lost all sense!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Five States Necessary to Be on the Right Track in One’s Faith). “Some people particularly idolize Paul. They like to go out and give speeches and do work, they like to attend gatherings and preach, and they like people listening to them, worshiping them, and revolving around them. They like to have status in the minds of others, and they appreciate it when others value the image they present. Let us analyze their nature from these behaviors: What is their nature? If they really behave like this, then it is enough to show that they are arrogant and conceited. They do not worship God at all; they seek a higher status and wish to have authority over others, to possess them, and to have status in their minds. This is the classic image of Satan. The aspects of their nature that stand out are arrogance and conceit, an unwillingness to worship God, and a desire to be worshiped by others. Such behaviors can give you a very clear view into their nature” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Know Man’s Nature). After reading God’s words, I understood that I’m just one of God’s creatures. It’s impossible for me to understand and master everything. Whether it concerns truth or specialized knowledge, the things I can understand and grasp are very limited. It’s normal to overlook things and make mistakes, but I didn’t really know myself, and I didn’t want to admit my shortcomings. I wanted to be perfect, high and mighty, and I just pretended to be someone else, and paid too much attention to what others thought of me. When my co-workers recommended that I go to that church to solve their problems, I felt I had the reality of the truth and was better than them, so I wanted to show my talents and prove myself. When paired with Sister An, I felt like I was the leader and was there to solve problems, so I should be better than her at everything. When I saw how Sister An solved the others’ problems and I kept dropping the ball, I felt that I had lost face and I wanted to run away, so I deliberately distanced myself from others and started shirking my duty. The problems in the church life still continued, preventing the brothers and sisters from gaining life entry. I realized the reason I was always being fake was because I’d been corrupted by Satan’s poisons like “Men should always strive to be better than their contemporaries,” “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face,” and “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies.” No matter which group I was in, I tried to fake my way through and hide my shortcomings. I wanted people to only see my good side and only leave them with a good impression. I thought that it gave my life value and dignity, but when that feeling went away, I felt pained and dejected. I kept my guard up and was suspicious about others. It was exhausting. God uplifted me to do my duty as a leader to exalt and bear witness to Him, to fellowship the truth to solve practical problems and to bring brothers and sisters to God. But I didn’t do my best to uphold the work of God’s house. Instead, I took it as a chance to show off and be admired. When I didn’t get what I wanted, I neglected my job. I only ever thought about the rise and fall of my prestige and status, and I didn’t pursue truth or fulfill my responsibilities. As a result, God despised me, and my spirit dwelled in darkness. I not only couldn’t solve any real problems, I wasn’t even able to do the things I was originally able to do. I witnessed God’s righteousness and holiness. Paul’s nature was arrogant and competitive. He blindly pursued status and wanted to be admired. He brought people before himself and embarked on the path of resisting God. I didn’t pursue truth, but just blindly pursued status. I cared too much about what others thought of me and wanted to win them over and deceive them. Just like Paul, I took the path of resisting God! When I realized this, I hurriedly prayed to God and repented. I didn’t want to pretend anymore or protect my own status. I wanted to practice the truth and be an honest person.
When I next met with brothers and sisters, I wanted to tell them what I’d been going through, to expose my own corruption, but I just couldn’t get the words out. I was the church leader and was supposed to oversee their work. If I told them everything, warts and all, would they think I’m not a person who pursues the truth, that I’m not suitable to be a leader? It was like a tug of war in my mind. That’s when I realized I was trying to pretend again and maintain my reputation. I thought about how I kept valuing status again and again, which disrupted the work of God’s house and put me on the wrong path. My heart was filled with fear. I thought of God’s words: “You do not need to cover anything up, make any modifications, or employ any tricks for the sake of your own reputation, self-respect, and status, and this also applies to any mistakes you have made; such pointless work is unnecessary. If you do not, then you will live easily and tirelessly, and completely in the light. Only such people can win God’s praise” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing). God’s words brightened my heart and gave me motivation. I felt that being in this environment was an opportunity to practice truth. I could no longer hide my true self and protect my status, so I shared all my corruption and the lessons I’d learned with my brothers and sisters. We all got something out of this fellowship and grew closer to each other. We also talked about the work issues, and by drawing on each other’s strengths, we were able to rectify the mistakes in our duty. After some time, the problems in this church were resolved. The brothers’ and sisters’ states also improved, and they began to actively do their duty. After that, when I did my duty, even though I still sometimes felt constrained by thoughts of status, I was able to consciously pray to God, practice truth, and be honest, and I could be open about my corruption. Gradually, I stopped paying so much attention to my status. Since then, I’ve been able to get along with my brothers and sisters simply by being open without pretending. Without all the fakery, I’m able to pursue the truth and do my duty in a grounded way. This is the result of the judgment and chastisement of God’s words! Thanks be to God!