66. How I Changed My Arrogant Self
Almighty God says, “Every step of God’s work—whether it be harsh words, or judgment, or chastisement—makes man perfect, and is absolutely appropriate. Never throughout the ages has God done work such as this; today, He works within you so that you appreciate His wisdom. Although you have suffered some pain within you, your hearts feel steadfast and at peace; it is your blessing to be able to enjoy this stage of the work of God. Regardless of what you are able to gain in the future, all that you see of God’s work in you today is love. If man does not experience God’s judgment and refinement, his actions and fervor will always remain at surface level, and his disposition will always remain unchanged. Does this count as having been gained by God? Today, although there is still much within man that is arrogant and conceited, man’s disposition is much more stable than before. God’s dealing with you is done in order to save you, and although you may feel some pain at the time, the day will come when there occurs a change in your disposition. At that time, you will look back and see how wise the work of God is, and at that time you will be able to truly understand God’s will” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God). I used to think that just enthusiasm and willingness to pay a price in my duty could gain God’s approval. I didn’t focus on accepting His words’ judgment and chastisement or pursuing dispositional change. I just did my duty being arrogant and dictatorial. I constrained and harmed brothers and sisters, and damaged the church’s work. I eventually saw that without God’s judgment and chastisement, my corrupt disposition couldn’t be cleansed and changed and I could never do my duty well to satisfy God. I’ve truly experienced that God’s judgment and chastisement are our salvation.
In 2016 I was given the duty of a set designer. I was thrilled, thinking, “I studied interior design and have over four years of experience in the field. I’ll have to make full use of my professional skills to do this well and satisfy God.” After that, I learned skills with brothers and sisters and we fellowshiped on principles. I started to see some results in my duty after a while. When I heard someone say, “You guys did a nice job on this set. It’s really realistic,” though I replied saying it was God’s guidance, what I thought was, “Well of course, don’t you know who designed it? I’m a professional!” I started walking with my head held high and I spoke more loudly. When I saw some mistakes in other team members’ duties, I looked down on them. I stopped discussing set arrangements with them. I figured since I’d studied design, there was no need, that it was a waste of time since they’d go with my ideas anyway. I’d work on the design on my own and then go discuss it with the director.
After I was promoted to team leader, I became even more dismissive of brothers and sisters. Once when we were setting up a restaurant scene, Brother Zhang on the team said, “The front door isn’t tall enough, it doesn’t look good.” I wasn’t having any of it. I thought, “I’ve designed so many restaurant sets. You really think I don’t know how tall the door should be? You haven’t done many sets, studied design, or had much practical experience, but you want to teach fish how to swim.” I impatiently shot down his suggestion and had everyone keep it the way I wanted it. When the cameraman saw it, he said the door was too low and would block the shot. He couldn’t film it that way. We had no choice but to make a new door. Later on, we needed to make a cupboard, so I told Brother Chen to make one according to a drawing I’d made. He said, “The center part is too wide. It doesn’t look good. How about making it a little narrower?” I thought, “I looked at all sorts of materials online and these are the right proportions. Do what I say and you can’t go wrong.” Sticking to my guns, I said, “What are you talking about? Just make it like I drew it!” In the end, everyone said that the center part was too wide and didn’t look good. Brother Chen had to spend more time to modify it, which held up filming progress. I still didn’t reflect or try to know myself, but thought nothing of it. I thought, “Who doesn’t make a mistake sometimes? Just a little time and materials to fix it isn’t a big deal.”
After a gathering one time, Brother Zhang had this feedback for me: “I’ve noticed you’ve been pretty strong-willed when working with others lately. You haven’t been listening to our suggestions, and you shoot down some that are totally viable. You speak condescendingly and stifle people, always insisting we do things your way. These are all expressions of an arrogant disposition.” I verbally accepted this but was thinking, “I am arrogant, but it’s not a big problem.” A few days later, Brother Liu also dealt with me for being arrogant, saying I wouldn’t listen to others and stifled them. My barriers went up even before he could finish. I thought, “None of you hold a candle to me. How dare you deal with me?” The more I thought about it, the less I could accept it. I was even making excuses in my prayers to God. The more I did that, the darker and more depressed my spirit became. I didn’t have much direction in my set designs, but I still didn’t reflect on myself. One day I knocked my leg against a metal chair frame, opening up a really long gash. I got seven stitches in the hospital. I was well aware this was no accident, but that God’s will was definitely behind it. I finally quieted my heart and really reflected. Whenever brothers and sisters had suggestions or helpful pointers, I was unconvinced and resistant. I wasn’t accepting or submissive at all. I was incredibly rigid. At this thought, I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to know my own corrupt disposition.
I read these words of God in my morning devotionals: “If you regard others as less than you, you are self-righteous, conceited, and of benefit to no one” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 22). “Do not think that you are a natural-born prodigy, only slightly lower than the heavens but infinitely higher than the earth. You are far from being smarter than anyone else—and, it could even be said that it is simply adorable how much sillier you are than any of the people on earth who are possessed of reason, for you think too highly of yourself, and have never had a sense of inferiority, as if you can see through My actions down to the tiniest detail. In point of fact, you are someone who is fundamentally lacking in reason, because you have no idea of what I intend to do, and you are even less aware of what I am doing now. And so I say that you are not even the equal of an old farmer toiling on the land, a farmer who has not the faintest perception of human life and yet puts all his reliance on the blessings of Heaven as he cultivates the land. You do not spare a second’s thought to your life, you know nothing of renown, and still less do you have any self-knowledge. You are so ‘above it all’!” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Do Not Learn and Remain Ignorant: Are They Not Beasts?). I felt gutted after reading this. I felt like I was being exposed with every word. Ever since I’d become a set designer, I thought I was an indispensable talent since I knew the industry and had experience. I was haughty with brothers and sisters, thinking I was the professional, so no one else was worth my time. I always had the final say and didn’t want to discuss work with others. I thought it was a waste of time since they didn’t have any design knowledge. When I did reluctantly discuss something, I thought I was the more informed one so I could see things more comprehensively. I never explored anything they suggested, but just rebuffed them. I didn’t have even the most basic respect for others. When brothers and sisters said I was arrogant and encouraged me to reflect, I couldn’t accept that either, but remained resistant. I saw that I revealed nothing but arrogance. Living by my arrogant disposition, I just looked down on others and did nothing but stifle and hurt brothers and sisters. I was arrogant and autocratic in my work, forcing others to listen to me, causing them to redo things time and again and disrupting the church’s work. I really was doing evil! Realizing all of this, I felt a little afraid. I prayed and repented to God. I didn’t want to do things out of arrogance anymore.
In my duty after that, I consciously put myself aside and listened to other people’s suggestions more to make up for my shortcomings. Sometimes I’d draw up a design and brothers and sisters would have lots of suggestions that were different from my ideas. I’d be about to dismiss them, then I’d realize I was being arrogant again. I prayed to God in my heart, asking Him to guide me to forsake myself and no longer live by my corrupt disposition. I wanted to go by whoever’s suggestion that would most benefit the work of God’s house. Once I started accepting others’ ideas, I found that our props worked better, they were more functional, practical, and could be made faster. I got a taste of the sweetness of practicing God’s words. But I didn’t truly understand my arrogant nature and I lacked self-awareness. A few months later, I saw our sets were well-received by everyone and I’d had some success in my duty. Before I knew it, my arrogant disposition was cropping up again.
Once when we were putting together a set of a rich person’s house, I thought, “Someone like that would have high-class stuff to reflect their status.” I had brothers and sisters arrange the set just the way I wanted. Brother Zhang pointed out that it was too modern and didn’t fit with the main character’s generation. I wasn’t too pleased to hear that. I thought, “What do you know? This is called being flexible. We have to design it according to his status without limiting it to a certain time period. As I see it, you just have no idea what kind of style these homes should have. Your ideas are so old hat.” What I said to him was, “I’ve got a sense of the time period. Just trust me on this.” It wasn’t long before Brother Chen also said the windows were too modern. I was so irritated, wondering why they were so backward and inflexible. I held my temper back and insisted on my perspective. Brother Chen didn’t say anything more. When the set was finished, I was surprised when the director said that our design wasn’t realistic, that it was too flashy and wasn’t well-suited for the main character’s generation. We had to redo it. I still wasn’t having it, though. I felt they just couldn’t appreciate it. But since everyone said it wasn’t working, I reluctantly agreed to redo the set.
At some point later we needed an 80s-style kang bed-stove for a set. I was thinking we’d need to budget a lot for it, but Brother Zhang said we could save a lot of money if we made it ourselves and he had a detailed plan in mind. But I had nothing but disdain for that idea. We could do it ourselves for less cost, but it wouldn’t be as durable. Wouldn’t it just be a waste of effort? I also told the director that Brother Zhang’s idea simply wouldn’t work. The director said my budget was too high, so he did away with the scene with the kang. Brother Zhang later voiced another suggestion and I lectured him, thinking he didn’t understand and was being obstinate. Another sister saw that he was being constrained by me and said I was arrogant. I refused to accept it. Even when discussing set arrangements with the director, I remained arrogant and unyielding. As a result, sometimes the sets weren’t what we needed and even had to be redone. This held up filming.
I was removed from that duty before long. The leader told me, “Brothers and sisters have said that you’re arrogant, you do things your own way and always have the final say. You lecture people condescendingly. You act like you’re the boss and they’re your underlings. Everyone feels stifled by you.” I was stunned when I heard this. I’d never imagined that I seemed so arrogant and unreasonable to the others. I was so upset that I didn’t hear anything else the leader said. I was miserable for a few days. I couldn’t eat or get decent sleep. A line of God’s words came to mind during my reflection: “Every one of you should examine anew how you have believed in God throughout your lives” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. Preface). I pondered this, thinking, “I’ve believed in God for five years now, but I’ve never really reflected on or known myself. I’ve revealed so much arrogance without realizing it. I have to really and truly reflect on myself.” I said this prayer to God: “Oh God, please guide and enlighten me so that I may know my corrupt disposition, and be able to hate and forsake myself. I’m willing to repent.” One day I went to the filming location for an errand where I saw an 80s-style kang that had been made as Brother Zhang suggested. It had cost less than half of my initial budget. Brother Zhang and the others had also made lots of props out of cardboard. They’d turned out well, saved time and energy, and used fewer materials. I was ashamed to see this. I saw how arrogant I’d been and how seriously I’d delayed our filming work. I started to ask myself, “Why was I so arrogant, always making others listen to me? What’s the real root of this?”
In my devotionals one morning, I read this in God’s words: “If you really possess the truth within you, the path you walk will naturally be the correct path. Without the truth, it is easy to do evil, and you will do it despite yourself. For example, if arrogance and conceit existed within you, you would find it impossible to keep from defying God; you would feel compelled to defy Him. You would not do it on purpose; you would do it under the domination of your arrogant and conceited nature. Your arrogance and conceit would make you look down on God and see Him as being of no account; they would cause you to exalt yourself, constantly put yourself on display, and, finally, sit in God’s place and bear testimony for yourself. In the end, you would turn your own ideas, your own thinking, and your own notions into truths to be worshiped. See how much evil is done by people under the dominance of their arrogant and conceited nature!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition). I felt terrible when I read this. I had known about my arrogant disposition but knew nothing about the consequences of arrogance. I finally saw from what God’s words revealed and by reflecting on my words and deeds that it pushes me to do evil and resist God. My arrogant nature drove me to think so much of myself, so I thought nothing of the others because I had a bit of skill. I thought my take on things was always right and nobody was my equal, that they had to do as I said. If I said “left,” no one could go right, and no one could suggest otherwise. I scolded anyone who didn’t listen to me, and I was willful and dictatorial. I was being controlling and taking the path of an antichrist. These words from God, “Your arrogance and conceit would make you look down on God and see Him as being of no account,” particularly made me think about how I’d shown off in my duty. I never sought God’s will or the principles of the truth. When others had a suggestion, I never considered whether it came from God, if it was God’s guidance. If it wasn’t my idea then I just didn’t listen to it. I saw I didn’t have any reverence for God at all. I was so arrogant that I treated others with contempt and had no place for God in my heart. In faith, I should submit to the truth and the Holy Spirit’s work. Whatever suggestion a brother or sister has, whether it fits with my own idea or not, it’s possible it came from the Holy Spirit. I should accept it and explore it with a God-fearing heart of submission. If it accords with the truth and would benefit the work of God’s house, I should obey and implement it. If I reject something from the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and guidance, that’s hindering the Spirit’s work and resisting God. That offends God’s disposition. I did my duty out of arrogance and I was autocratic, stifling brothers and sisters and shelving perfectly good ideas. This disrupted the work of the church. Being dismissed was God’s righteous disposition coming upon me. Thinking about all the harm I’d done to brothers and sisters and the losses I’d caused to the church’s work, I felt so regretful and guilty. I really hated my corruption. At the same time, I was full of gratitude to God, because if I hadn’t been harshly judged and chastised because of my arrogance and stubbornness, I never would have known myself. I would have kept resisting God.
I later read another passage of God’s words: “Much of the time, the thoughts, actions, and mentality of people who are talented and gifted are at odds with the truth, but they themselves are unaware of this. They still think, ‘See how clever I am; I’ve made such smart choices! Such wise decisions! None of you can match me.’ They forever live in a state of narcissism and self-appreciation. It is hard for them to quiet their hearts and contemplate what God asks of them, what the truth is, and what the truth principles are. It is hard for them to enter into the truth and the words of God, and it is hard for them to find or grasp the principles of putting the truth into practice, and to enter into the truth reality” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Exactly What People Have Been Relying on to Live). God’s words showed me that if we rely on our gifts and strengths in life, we’ll become more arrogant and self-satisfied and think those things are the truth without seeking the principles of the truth. I’d thought I had some skill, so brothers and sisters couldn’t do without me for set designs and props, but in fact, some of them did their duties really well without any professional experience, even making props much better than I could. I thought I was insightful, skilled, and had good ideas, but I made a mess of things. The things I made weren’t useful and often had to be redone, wasting time, energy, and money. I saw that by relying on my gifts and strengths without seeking the principles of the truth, I lacked the Holy Spirit’s work, so I couldn’t do my duty well. If someone’s heart is in the right place, God will enlighten and guide them. God bestows wisdom no human could imagine. I realized that those gifts and skills I’d been so proud of were worthless. Taking those things as my capital was really arrogant and unreasonable. I felt so ashamed thinking about it. I then said this prayer to God: “I don’t want to live by my arrogant disposition anymore. I wish to firmly pursue and practice the truth, and do my duty well.”
I later took on the duty of watering new believers and kept a lower profile when working with others. I consciously sought God’s will whenever something came up and listened more to others’ suggestions. One day a brother on the team said to me, “Your style of watering and supporting brothers and sisters is a little rigid. It’s not that effective. It would be better if you could focus your watering on people’s individual weaknesses.” I wasn’t very convinced. I felt I was bringing all my experience to bear, so how could I be doing anything wrong? I was just about to shoot him down when I realized my arrogance had reared its head again. I said a silent prayer to God, then this passage of His words came to mind: “When other people voice dissenting opinions—what practice can you put in place to keep from being arbitrary and rash? You must first have an attitude of humility, set aside what you believe to be right, and let everyone have fellowship. Even if you believe your way to be correct, you should not keep insisting on it. That, first of all, is a kind of step forward; it shows an attitude of seeking the truth, of denying yourself, and of satisfying God’s will. Once you have this attitude, at the same time that you do not adhere to your own opinion, you pray. As you do not know right from wrong, you allow God to reveal and tell you what the best, most suitable thing to do is. As everyone joins in fellowship, the Holy Spirit brings you all enlightenment” (God’s Fellowship). I’d been too arrogant and stubborn in the past, stifling others and disrupting the work of God’s house. I knew I couldn’t keep on that way, stifling people, resisting God, but had to listen to other people’s suggestions. I should accept it and submit first, then seek God’s will. That’s the only way to receive God’s guidance. So, I patiently heard this brother out and realized there really was room for improvement in my methods. The approach he suggested was more flexible and adaptable. I put it into practice and discovered it really was effective. When brothers and sisters gave me pointers after that, I wasn’t resistant anymore, but accepted them and explored them, and discussed things with others to find a better path of practice. Everyone later said they gained a lot from that kind of watering. I felt a real sense of peace. I knew this was God’s guidance, and could only offer up my thanks and praise to Him. I also experienced God’s blessings that come from practicing principles of the truth instead of doing my duty arrogantly.