How to Pursue the Truth (12)
In the last few gatherings, we fellowshiped on topics concerning marriage in “Letting go of one’s pursuits, ideals, and desires,” did we not? (Yes.) We have basically finished fellowshiping 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 one’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 fellowshiping, 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 fellowshiped 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 fellowshiped on the topics of personal interests, hobbies, and marriage, we are fellowshiping 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 fellowshiping on the topic of marriage follows a principle, so does fellowshiping 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 emotions 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.
Some may say: “The parents you just talked about are all smallholders, petty merchants, peddlers, cleaners, and those who do odd jobs. These social statuses are very low, and it’s right that people should let go of them. As the saying goes, ‘Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards,’ people should look upward and aim high, and should not look at these things that are associated with low status. For example, who wants to be a smallholder? Who wants to be a petty merchant? Everyone wants to make big money, become a high-ranking official, have status in society, and achieve meteoric success. No one aspires to be a smallholder from a young age, and to be content with working the land and having enough to eat and drink. No one regards that as making it big, there are no such people. It is precisely because families like this bring shame to people and cause them to be treated unfairly for their identity, that they should let go of the identity that they inherit from their family.” Is this the case? (No, it is not.) No, it is not. If we discuss it from a different aspect, some people are born into families that are advantaged, or which have a nice living environment or a high social status, so they inherit a distinguished identity and social status, and are highly regarded in all quarters. Growing up, they are treated with kid gloves by their parents and their family elders, to say nothing of their treatment in society. Because of their special and noble family background, at school, their teachers and classmates all look up to them, and no one dares to bully them. Teachers talk to them softly and cordially, and their classmates are especially respectful of them. Because they come from an advantaged family with a distinguished background, which gives them a noble identity in society and makes others think highly of them, they have a sense of superiority and feel that they have a respectable identity and social status. As a result, in any group they show themselves to be overconfident, saying whatever they please without considering anyone’s feelings, and are totally unrestrained in whatever they do. To other people, they are sophisticated and elegant, not afraid to think big, speak out, and act, and no matter what they say or do, because they have the support of their strong family background, there are always some distinguished people on hand to help them, and everything they do goes smoothly. The smoother things go, the more superior they feel. Wherever they go, they are intent on throwing their weight around and standing out from the crowd, and being different from others. Whenever they eat with others, they pick the big portions, and if they don’t get them they get angry. When living with brothers and sisters, they insist on sleeping on the best bed—the one situated in the sunniest spot, or near to the heating, or wherever the air is fresh—and it belongs to them alone. Is this not a sense of superiority? (Yes.) Some people’s parents earn good money, or are civil servants, or are talented professionals on high salaries, so their family is particularly comfortable and well-off, and has no worries about affording things like food or clothing. As a consequence, such people feel extremely superior. They can wear whatever they want, buying the most fashionable garments and discarding them once they go out of fashion. They can also eat whatever they want—all they have to do is say the word and someone will deliver it. They needn’t worry about anything at all, and they feel extremely superior. The identity they inherit from this type of advantaged family means that in the eyes of others, they are effectively a princess if they are female, or a playboy if they are male. What have they inherited from this type of family? A noble identity and social status. What they have inherited from this type of family is not shame, but glory. No matter what environment or group of people they are in, they always feel that they are head and shoulders above everyone else. They say things like, “My parents are wealthy businesspeople. My family has lots of money. I spend it whenever I want, and I never have to budget,” or “My parents are high-ranking officials. Wherever I go about my business, I can get things done with just a word, without going through the normal procedures. You see how much effort it takes you to get things done, you have to go through the proper procedures, wait your turn, and go cap in hand to people. Look at me, I just tell one of my parents’ aides what needs doing and it gets done. How’s that for identity and social status!” Do they have a sense of superiority? (Yes.) Some people say: “My parents are public celebrities, you can look their names up on the internet and see whether they appear.” When someone checks the celebrity lists and the parents’ names really are there, it gives those people a sense of superiority. Wherever they go, if someone asks them, “What’s your name?” they reply, “It doesn’t matter what my name is, my parents’ names are such-and-such.” The first thing they tell people is the names of their parents, to let others know their identity and social status. Some people think to themselves: “Your family has status, your parents are both officials, or celebrities, or wealthy businesspeople, which makes you the privileged children of high-ranking officials or super-rich parents. What am I?” After thinking about it, they reply, “There’s nothing special about my parents, they’re just ordinary workers earning average wages, so nothing to brag about—but one of my ancestors was a prime minister in some dynasty.” Others say: “Your ancestor was a prime minister. Wow, so you have special status. You are the descendant of a prime minister. Anyone who is descended from a prime minister is no ordinary person, it means you are the descendant of celebrities too!” You see, once a person associates themselves with a celebrity, their identity will be different, their social status will be raised immediately, and they will be a respected person. There are others who say: “My ancestors were a generation of wealthy businesspeople. They were extremely rich. Later, due to social changes and changes in the social system, their assets were confiscated. Now many of the houses that people live in, within a radius of tens of miles of here, were the houses of my ancestors. In the past, my family home had four or five hundred rooms, or at the very least, two or three hundred rooms, and over a hundred servants in all. My grandfather was the proprietor of the business. He never did any work, he just ordered others to do it. Grandma led a pampered life, and they both had attendants to dress them and wash their clothes. Later, because the social environment changed the family went to ruin, so we were no longer part of the nobility but became commoners. In the past, my family used to be big and prestigious. If they stomped their feet at one end of the village, the tremors could be felt right at the other end of the village. Everyone knew who they were. That’s the kind of family I come from, so what do you think of that? It’s pretty exceptional, isn’t it? You should be looking up to me, right?” Still others say: “There’s nothing impressive about your ancestors’ wealth. My ancestor was an emperor, and a founding emperor at that. It is said that my surname was passed down from him. My family are all his direct relatives, not distant kindred. What do you think of that? Now that you know the background of my ancestor, shouldn’t you regard me with renewed admiration and show me a bit of respect? Shouldn’t you be looking up to me?” Some people say: “Although none of my ancestors were emperors, one was a general who killed countless enemies, accomplished countless military exploits, and became an important minister in the imperial court. My family are all his direct descendants. To this day, my family still studies the martial arts moves passed down by my ancestors, which are kept secret to outsiders. What do you think of that? Is my identity not special? Is my status not distinguished?” These special identities that people inherit from their so-called distant ancestral families, as well as from their modern families, are seen as honorable and glorious by people, and from time to time, they name-drop them and flaunt them as a symbol of their identity and social status. In one sense they do it to prove that their identity and status are exceptional. In another sense, when people are telling these stories, they are also striving to carve out a higher standing and social status for themselves, so as to increase their worth among others and appear exceptional and special. What is the purpose of becoming exceptional and special? It is to gain a greater degree of respect, admiration, and esteem from others, so that they can live a more comfortable, easy, and dignified life. Particularly in some special environments, for example, there are people who are constantly unable to assert their presence within a group, or to gain the respect and esteem of others. So, they look for opportunities and from time to time they use their special identity or special family background to assert their presence and let people know that they are exceptional, and to make people value and respect them, so as to gain prestige among people. They say: “Although my own identity, status, and caliber are ordinary, one of my ancestors was counselor to a prince’s family in the Ming Dynasty. Have you heard of so-and-so? That was my ancestor, my great-grandfather’s grandfather, he was an important counselor to the prince’s family. He was known as ‘The Mastermind.’ He was an expert in everything from astronomy to geography, ancient and modern history, and Chinese and foreign affairs. He was also able to make predictions. We still have the geomantic feng shui compass he used in our family.” Though they might not talk about it often, they nevertheless regale others with stories about the dazzling history of their ancestors from time to time. No one knows if what they are saying is true or not, and some of it may be tall stories, but some of it may be true. In any case, in people’s minds, the identity that they inherit from family is very important. It determines their standing and status among others, the treatment they receive among people, and also their situation and rank among people. It is precisely because, when among others, people perceive these things that they get out of their inherited identity, that they regard them as very important. Consequently, they show off those “glorious” and “brilliant” chapters of their family history from time to time, while repeatedly avoiding mention of those aspects of their family background or those things that have happened in their family that are shameful, or which might be looked down upon or discriminated against. In short, the identity that people inherit from their family is very important in their hearts. When they experience some particular events, they often use their special family identity as capital and as a reason to show themselves off, in order to gain people’s recognition and earn status among others. No matter whether your family brings you glory or shame, or whether the identity and social status you inherit from your family are noble or humble, as far as you are concerned, this family is nothing more than that. It doesn’t determine whether you can understand the truth, whether you can pursue the truth, or whether you can embark on the path of pursuing the truth. Therefore, people should not regard it as a very important matter, because it does not determine a person’s fate, nor a person’s future, and less still does it determine the path that a person takes. The identity that you inherit from your family can only determine your own feelings and perceptions among others. Regardless of whether the identity that you inherit from your family is something you despise or is worth bragging about, it cannot determine whether you will be able to embark on the path of pursuing the truth. So when it comes to pursuing the truth, it doesn’t matter what kind of identity or social status you inherit from your family. Even if the identity you inherit makes you feel superior and honored, it is not worth mentioning. Or, if it gives you feelings of shame, inferiority, and low self-esteem, it will not affect your pursuit of the truth. Is it not so? (Yes.) It will not affect your pursuit of the truth in the slightest, nor will it affect your identity as a created being before God. On the contrary, no matter what identity and social status you inherit from your family, from God’s point of view, everyone has the same opportunity to be saved, and performs their duty and pursues the truth with the same status and identity. The identity that you inherit from your family, whether it be honorable or shameful, does not determine your humanity, nor does it determine the path you take. However, if you attach a great deal of importance to it, and regard it as an essential part of your life and being, then you will hold onto it tightly, never let go of it, and take pride in it. If the identity you inherit from your family is noble, then you will regard it as a kind of capital, whereas if the identity you inherit from your family is lowly, you will regard it as a shameful thing. No matter whether the identity you inherit from your family is noble, glorious, or shameful, that is just your personal understanding, and merely the result of looking at the issue from the perspective of your corrupt humanity. It is just your own feeling, perception and understanding, which is not in line with the truth and has nothing to do with the truth. It is not capital for your pursuit of the truth and, of course, it is not a hindrance to your pursuit of the truth. If your social status is noble and elevated, that does not mean it is capital for your salvation. If your social status is lowly and humble, that does not mean it is a hindrance to your pursuit of the truth, let alone a hindrance to your pursuit of salvation. Although a family’s environment and background, quality of life, and living conditions all derive from God’s ordination, they have nothing to do with a person’s true identity before God. Any person, no matter what family they come from, or whether their family background is illustrious or inferior, is a created being in God’s eyes. Even if your family has an illustrious background and you are of noble identity and status, you are still a created being. Likewise, if your family status is humble and you are looked down upon by others, you are nevertheless an ordinary created being in God’s eyes—there is nothing special about you. Different family backgrounds provide people with different growing environments, and different family living environments give people different viewpoints for dealing with material things, the world, and life. Whether one is well-off or wanting in life, or whether one’s family circumstances are advantaged or not, it’s just a different experience for different people. Relatively speaking, those who are poor and whose family has a modest standard of living have a deeper experience of life, whereas, for those who are rich and whose family is particularly advantaged, it is more difficult for them to attain this, right? (Yes.) No matter what kind of family environment you grew up in, and no matter what identity and social status you gained from that family environment, when you come before God, when you are acknowledged and accepted by God as a created being, you are the same as other people in God’s eyes, you are equal to other people, there is nothing special about you, and God will apply the same methods and the same standards in His requirements for you. If you say, “I have a special social status,” then before God, you must disregard this “specialness”; if you say, “My social status is lowly,” then you must also disregard this “lowliness.” Before God, each of you must step away from the identity you have inherited from your family, let go of it, accept the identity that God has given you as a created being, and adopt this identity in performing the duty of a created being. If you come from a good family and are of noble status, you have nothing to boast about, and you are no more noble than anyone else. Why is that? In God’s eyes, as long as you are a created human being, you are full of corrupt dispositions, and you are one of those whom God wants to save. Likewise, if the identity you inherit from your family is lowly and humble, you must nevertheless accept the identity of a created being that God has given you, and come before God as a created being to accept His salvation. You may say: “My family’s social status is low, and my identity is also lowly. People look down on me.” God says that it doesn’t matter. Today, before God, you no longer appear as a person whose identity was given to you by your family. Your current identity is that of a created being, and what you should accept is God’s requirements for you. God does not show partiality to anyone. He does not look at your family background or your identity, because in His eyes, you are the same as everyone else. You have been corrupted by Satan, you are a member of the corrupted human race, and you are a created being before God, so you are one of those whom God wants to save. It doesn’t matter whether you are the offspring of high-ranking officials or super-rich parents, whether you are a young man of privilege or a princess, or whether you are the child of smallholders or some ordinary person. These things are not important, and God doesn’t look at any of this. Because what God wants to save is you as a person. He wants to change your corrupt disposition, not your identity. Your corrupt disposition is not determined by your identity, nor is your worth determined by your identity, and your corrupt disposition does not come from your family. God wants to save you not because your status may be humble, and especially not because your status may be distinguished. Rather, God has chosen you because of His plan and His management, because you have been corrupted by Satan, and you are a member of the corrupt human race. Before God, no matter what identity you inherit from your family, you are the same as everyone else. You are all members of the human race, who have been corrupted by Satan, and have corrupt dispositions. There is nothing special about you. Is that not so? (Yes.) Therefore, the next time someone around you says, “I used to be a county magistrate,” or “I was a provincial governor,” or someone says, “Our ancestors were emperors,” or someone says, “I was a member of congress,” or “I ran for president,” or someone says, “I was the president of a large company,” or “I was the boss of a state-owned enterprise,” what’s so amazing about that? Is it important that you were once a senior executive or a commanding officer? This world and this society attach great importance to people’s identity and social status, and decide how to treat you according to your identity and social status. But now you are in God’s house, and God will not look at you differently because of how brilliant you were in the past, or how brilliant and glorious your identity used to be. Especially now that He requires you to pursue the truth, is there any point in showing off your qualifications, social status, and worth? (No, there isn’t.) Would it be foolish to do so? (Yes.) Foolish people tend to use these things to measure themselves against others. There are also some new believers who have little stature and do not understand the truth, and who often use these things from society and family to compare themselves to others. People who have some foundation and stature in their belief in God generally wouldn’t do this, nor would they talk about such things. Using one’s family identity or social standing as capital does not accord with the truth.
Now that I have fellowshiped a great deal about it, do you understand what I said about the identity you inherit from your family? (Yes.) Tell Me something about it. (God, I’ll say something about it. People often attach particular importance to the family they were born into, and to their family’s identity and status in society. People who are born into a family with low social status tend to think that they are somehow inferior to others. They feel that they come from very humble origins, and they can’t hold their heads up in society, so they want to strive to better their social status; those who are born into a family with a relatively high standing and status tend to be quite arrogant and conceited, they love to show off, and they have an innate sense of superiority. But actually, people’s social status is not the most important thing, because before God, people have the same identity and status—they are all created beings. A person’s identity and status cannot determine whether they can pursue the truth, practice the truth, or be saved, so one cannot constrain themselves because of their identity and status.) Very good. People who don’t pursue the truth care a lot about a person’s identity and social status, so in some special circumstances, they will say things like: “You know that so-and-so in our church, their family is well-off!” Their eyes light up when they say the words “well-off,” indicating their extremely envious and jealous mentality. Their envious feelings have been growing for so long that it reaches the point where they’re drooling over such people and saying, “Oh, you know those people over there, her father is a high-ranking official, and his is a county magistrate, hers is a mayor, and that one’s father is a secretary in some government department!” When they see someone wearing nice clothes, or someone who dresses well, or who has a bit of class or insight, or who uses particularly high-end things, they feel envious and think, “Their family is rich, they must be rolling in money,” and they are consumed with admiration and envy. Whenever they talk about so-and-so being the boss of some company, they care about that person’s identity more than the person does themselves. They’re always talking about the person’s job even if the person never brings it up themselves, and they even vote for that person when it’s time to elect the church leader. They have particular feelings for people who have a higher social status than they do, and reserve them special attention. They are always trying to pander to those people, get close to them, and fawn over them, while hating themselves and thinking, “Why isn’t my father an official? Why was I born into this family? Why don’t I have anything good to say about my family? The families they were born into are families of either officials or wealthy businesspeople, whereas my family doesn’t have anything. My siblings are all ordinary people, smallholders who work the land and who are all at the lower end of society. And the less said about my parents the better—they’re not even educated. The shame of it!” As soon as anyone mentions their parents, they become evasive and say, “Let’s not bring up this topic, let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about so-and-so in our church. Look at the management position he holds, he knows how to be a leader. He’s been doing it for decades, no one could replace him. That guy was born to lead. If only the same could be said about us. Now that he believes in God it’s a blessing upon a blessing. He really is a blessed person, because he already has everything one could want in society, and now that he has come into God’s house, he can also enter the kingdom and have a beautiful destination.” They believe that when an official comes into God’s house, he or she should be the church leader, and have a beautiful destination. Who decides that? Do they have the final word? (No.) This is clearly something that nonbelievers say. If they see someone with a bit of ability and innate talent, who dresses well and enjoys the good things in life, and who drives a nice car and lives in a big house, then they persistently associate with that person, fawn over them and ingratiate themselves with them. Then there are others who feel that they have a high social status and standing. When they come into God’s house, they always demand special privileges, shout orders at their brothers and sisters, and treat them like slaves, because they’ve become so accustomed to leading the life of an official. Do such people think that their brothers and sisters are their subordinates? When it’s time to elect a church leader, if they don’t get chosen, they get angry and say, “I won’t believe anymore, God’s house isn’t fair, it doesn’t give people a chance, God’s house looks down on people!” They have become accustomed to being an official out in the world, and think that they are the real deal, so when they come into God’s house, they’re always trying to call the shots, take the lead in everything, and demand special privileges, and they treat God’s house like they do the world and society. Perhaps someone is the wife of an official out in the world, but she still wants to be treated like the wife of an official when she comes into God’s house, and have people flatter her and follow her around. During gatherings, if the brothers or sisters neglect to greet her, she gets angry and stops coming to gatherings, because she feels that people don’t take her seriously, and that believing in God is meaningless. Is this not unreasonable? (Yes.) No matter what special identity you have in society, when you come into God’s house, you lose your special identity. Before God and before the truth, people have only one identity, which is that of a created being. Out in the world, whether you are a government official or wife of an official, whether you are a member of society’s elite or a rank-and-file pen pusher, or whether you are a general or a soldier, you have only one identity in God’s house, which is that of a created being. There is nothing special about you, so don’t seek special privileges or make people worship you. There are still others who come from a special Christian family, or from a family that has believed in the Lord for generations. Perhaps their mother was trained in a seminary, and their father is a pastor. They are especially well-received in the religious community, and believers gather around them. After accepting this stage of God’s work, they still feel that they have the same identity as before, but they’re living in dreamland! It’s time for them to stop dreaming and wake up. It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor or a leader, when you come into God’s house, you must understand the rules of God’s house and learn to change your identity. This is the first thing you need to do. You are not some high-ranking official, nor some rank-and-file pen pusher, you are not a wealthy businessperson, and neither are you poor and penniless. When you come into God’s house, you have only one identity, which is the identity God has given you—that of a created being. What should created beings do? You shouldn’t flaunt your family history, or the social status you inherited from your family, nor use your superior social status to run amok in God’s house and seek special privileges, and you certainly shouldn’t use the experience you have accumulated in society, and the sense of superiority that your social status gives you, to act like a sovereign ruler in God’s house and to call the shots. Rather, in God’s house you should fulfill your duty as a created being, comport yourself in a proper manner, not mention your family background, not harbor any sense of superiority, and neither should you have an inferiority complex; there is no need for you to feel inferior, or have a sense of superiority. In short, you need to obediently do that which a created being ought to do, and perform the duty that a created being should perform. Some people say: “So does that mean I have to rein myself in and keep a low profile?” No, you don’t need to rein yourself in or keep a low profile, you don’t need to be subservient, and you certainly don’t need to act high and mighty. You don’t need to try to stand out, you don’t need to put on a pretense, and you don’t need to make concessions just to keep everyone happy. God treats people fairly, and in a just manner, because God is the truth. God has spoken many words to people and made many demands, and ultimately what He requires is for you to perform your duty as a created being properly, and do everything that a created being should do properly. In dealing with this matter of the identity that people inherit from their family, you are also required to view people and things, conduct yourself and act on the basis of God’s words and with truth as the criterion, rather than flaunting the sense of superiority that your family gave you. And of course, if you come from a disadvantaged family, you don’t need to be outspoken and open up to everyone about how bad it is. Some other people may say: “Does God’s house require that we ‘Don’t ask a hero about his origins’?” Is this saying the truth? (No.) This saying is not the truth, so you don’t need to measure anything on the basis of this saying, nor use it as a criterion for abiding by the requirements that God places on you. Regarding the identity that you inherit from your family, what God requires of you is that you perform your duty. Before God, your only identity is that of a created being, so you should let go of things that can impact on you being a good created being, or prevent you from doing it. You shouldn’t make room for these things in your heart, nor attach too much importance to them. Whether in terms of appearances or attitude, you should let go of the distinct identity that you inherit from your family. What do you think of that? Is it doable? (Yes.) Perhaps you inherited an honorable identity from your family, or perhaps your family background casts a shadow over your identity. No matter what, I hope you walk free from that, take this matter seriously, and then afterward, when you encounter some special situations, and these things affect the performance of your duty, and influence your treatment of people, and impact your correct principles for dealing with things, and your principles for getting along with others, I hope that you can stop being influenced by the identity you inherited from your family, and treat everyone and handle everything correctly. For instance, say there is someone in the church who is always careless in her duty and constantly being disruptive. How should you deal with her? You puzzle over this, thinking, “I must deal with her, because if I don’t deal with her, it will impact on the church’s work.” And so you set about dealing with her. But she refuses to give way, and comes up with a raft of excuses. You aren’t afraid of her, so you continue fellowshiping and dealing with her. She says, “Do you know who I am?” and you reply, “What does it matter to me who you are?” She says: “My husband is your husband’s boss. If you make things difficult for me today, your husband will be in trouble.” You reply: “This is the work of God’s house. If you don’t do it well and keep on being disruptive, I will dismiss you from your duty.” So she says, “In any case, I’ve told you how it’s going to be. Decide for yourself what should be done!” What does she mean by “decide for yourself”? She’s telling you that if you dare dismiss her, she will get your husband sacked. At this point, you’re thinking, “This woman has powerful backing, no wonder she speaks so arrogantly all the time,” so then you change your tone and say: “Well, this time I’ll let it go, but next time I won’t! I didn’t mean anything by what I said, it’s all for the sake of church’s work. We are all brothers and sisters who believe in God, we are all one family. Think about it, I’m the church leader, how can I not take responsibility for this? If I didn’t take responsibility, you wouldn’t have elected me, would you?” You begin to try and smooth things over. Are there any principles behind this? The defensive wall deep in your heart has collapsed, you daren’t stick to the principles, and you cave in. Is this not the case? (Yes.) So you end up letting her off the hook. You are ashamed that your identity is not as noble as hers, and that her social status is higher than yours, so you feel obliged to let yourself be controlled by her, and obey her. Though you both believe in God, you still let yourself be blackmailed by her. If you cannot get rid of the influence that social status exerts on you, you will not be able to uphold the principles, you will not be able to practice the truth, and you will not be faithful before God. If you are not faithful to God, will God accept you? Will God trust you? Will He still entrust you with important work? To Him you will be an untrustworthy person, because at the critical juncture, you sold out the interests of God’s house to protect your own interests. At the critical juncture, you took fright at the evil forces that come from society and from Satan, causing you to sell out the interests of God’s house and fail to stand firm in your testimony. This is a grave transgression and a mark of having brought dishonor to God. Why is that? Because when you did this, you betrayed your identity as a created being, and violated this principle of doing what a created being ought to do. In handling this matter, you allowed yourself to be influenced by your social status and your identity in society. In confronting any issue, if you cannot let go of the negative influences created by the identity that you inherited from your family, then you may react to these issues by doing unexpected things. In one sense, these things will make you violate the truth, and in another sense, they will leave you utterly at a loss, not knowing what choices to make. This will easily lead you into transgression and regret, so that before God you will be stained and regarded as an untrustworthy person who has violated the principle that God impresses on humankind, which is to perform one’s duty as a created being, and to do as a created being ought to do. Think about it, this matter is somewhat trivial but also very significant in its severity, is it not? (Yes.)
I fellowshiped just now about letting go of the identity that you inherit from your family. Is this easy to do? (Yes, it’s easy to do.) Is it easy to do? Under what circumstances will this matter affect you and disturb you? When you don’t have a correct and pure understanding of this matter, in a particular type of environment you will be influenced by it, and it will affect your ability to perform your duty well, and impact on your methods for handling things and on the outcomes. Therefore, when it comes to the identity you inherit from family, you should treat it correctly, and not be influenced or controlled by it, but instead view people and things, and comport yourself and act normally according to the methods that God gives to people. That way, you will have the attitude and principles that an acceptable created being should have in this respect. Next, we will fellowship about letting go of the conditioning effects that family exerts on you. In this society, people’s principles for dealing with the world, their methods for living and existing, and even their attitudes and notions toward religion and belief, as well as their various notions and views toward people and things—all these things are inevitably conditioned by family. Before people come to understand the truth—no matter how old they are, or what gender they are, or what occupation they are engaged in, or what kind of attitude they have toward everything, whether it be extreme or rational—in short, in all manner of things, people’s thoughts and views and their attitudes toward things are greatly influenced by family. That is to say, the various conditioning effects that family exerts on a person determine, to a large extent, that person’s attitude toward things and their method for dealing with them, as well as their outlook on existence, and even impact on their faith. Since family conditions and impacts on people so significantly, family is inevitably at the root of people’s methods and principles for dealing with things, as well as their outlook on existence, and their views on faith. Because the family home itself is not the place where truth arises, nor is it the source of truth, there is practically only one motivating force or aim that drives your family to condition into you any idea, viewpoint, or method for existing—that of acting in your best interests. These things that are in your own best interests, no matter who they come from—whether it be from your parents, grandparents, or from your ancestors—in short, they are all intended to enable you to defend your own interests in society and among others, to prevent you from getting bullied, and to enable you to live among people in a way that is more unconstrained and diplomatic, and which is intended to protect your own interests to the greatest extent. The conditioning you receive from your family is meant to protect you, to avoid you getting bullied or suffering any humiliation, and to turn you into someone who is a cut above, even if that means bullying others or hurting others, just as long as you are not harmed yourself. These are some of the most important things that your family conditions into you, and they are also the essence and chief aim underlying all the ideas that are conditioned into you. Is this not the case? (Yes.) If you consider the aim and essence of all the things your family has conditioned into you, is there anything that accords with the truth? Even if these things do accord with the ethics or legitimate rights and interests of humanity, do they have any connection to the truth? Are they the truth? (No.) It can be said with all certainty that they are definitely not the truth. No matter how positive and legitimate, humane, and ethical the things that your family conditions into you are, they are not the truth, nor can they represent the truth, and of course they cannot replace the truth. Therefore, when it comes to the topic of family, these things are another aspect that people should let go of. What specifically is this aspect? It is the conditioning effects that family exerts on you—this is the second aspect that you should let go of when it comes to the topic of family. Since we are discussing the conditioning effects that family exerts on you, let’s first talk about exactly what these conditioning effects are. If we differentiate them according to people’s concept of right and wrong, some are relatively correct, positive, and presentable, and can be laid out on the table, whereas some are relatively selfish, despicable, vile, relatively negative, and nothing more. But at any rate, these conditioning effects from family are like a layer of protective clothing that collectively safeguards a person’s fleshly interests, preserves their dignity among others, and prevents them from getting bullied. Is it not so? (Yes.) Let us talk, then, about what conditioning effects your family exerts on you. For example, when family elders often tell you that “People need their pride just as a tree needs its bark,” it is to make you attach importance to having a good reputation, living a proud life, and not doing things that heap disgrace upon you. So does this saying guide people in a positive or negative way? Can it lead you to the truth? Can it lead you to understand the truth? (No, it cannot.) You can say with all certainty, “No, it cannot!” Think about it, God says that people should comport themselves as honest people. When you have transgressed, or done something wrong, or done something that goes against God and rebels against the truth, you need to admit your mistake, gain an understanding of yourself, and keep dissecting yourself in order to achieve true repentance, and thereafter act in accordance with God’s words. So, if people are to comport themselves as honest people, does that conflict with the saying “People need their pride just as a tree needs its bark”? (Yes.) How does it conflict? The saying “People need their pride just as a tree needs its bark” is intended to make people attach importance to living out their bright and colorful side and doing more things that make them look good—rather than doing things that are bad or dishonorable, or exposing their ugly side—and to prevent them from living without pride or dignity. For the sake of one’s reputation, for the sake of pride and honor, one cannot rubbish everything about oneself, let alone tell others about one’s dark side and shameful aspects, because one must live with pride and dignity. In order to have dignity one needs a good reputation, and to have a good reputation one needs to put up a pretense and dress oneself up. Doesn’t this conflict with comporting oneself as an honest person? (Yes.) When you comport yourself as an honest person, what you are doing is completely at odds with the saying “People need their pride just as a tree needs its bark.” If you want to comport yourself as an honest person, don’t attach importance to pride; a person’s pride isn’t worth a cent. Faced with the truth, one should expose oneself, not put up a pretense or create a false image. One must reveal to God one’s true thoughts, the mistakes one has made, the aspects that violate the truth principles, and so on, and also lay these things bare to one’s brothers and sisters. It is not a matter of living for the sake of one’s reputation, but rather, it is a matter of living for the sake of comporting oneself as an honest person, living for the sake of pursuing the truth, living for the sake of being a true created being, and living for the sake of satisfying God and being saved. But when you don’t understand this truth, and don’t understand God’s will, the things that are conditioned into you by your family tend to dominate. So when you do something wrong, you cover it up and put up a pretense, thinking, “I can’t say anything about this, and I won’t allow anyone else who knows about it to say anything either. If any of you say anything, I won’t let you off lightly. My reputation comes first. Living is for nothing if not for the sake of one’s reputation, because it’s more important than anything else. If a person loses their reputation, they lose all their dignity. So you can’t tell it like it is, you have to pretend, you have to cover things up, otherwise you will lose your reputation and dignity, and your life will be worthless. If no one respects you, then you’re just worthless, cheap trash.” Is it possible to comport yourself as an honest person by practicing this way? Is it possible to be completely open and dissect yourself? (No, it isn’t.) Obviously, by doing this you are adhering to the saying “People need their pride just as a tree needs its bark” that your family has conditioned into you. However, if you let go of this saying in order to pursue the truth and practice the truth, it will cease to affect you, and it will cease to be your motto or your principle for doing things, and instead what you do will be precisely the opposite of this saying “People need their pride just as a tree needs its bark.” You won’t be living for the sake of your reputation, nor for the sake of your dignity, but rather, you will be living for the sake of pursuing the truth, and comporting yourself as an honest person, and seeking to satisfy God and live as a true created being. If you adhere to this principle, you will have let go of the conditioning effects that your family exerts on you.
Family conditions people not just with one or two sayings, but with a whole host of well-known quotations and aphorisms. For example, do your family elders and parents often mention the saying “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies”? (Yes.) They are telling you: “People must live for the sake of their reputation. People seek nothing else in their lifetime, other than to forge a good reputation among others and make a good impression. Wherever you go, be more generous in giving out greetings, pleasantries, and compliments, and say more kind words. Don’t offend people, but instead do more good deeds and kind acts.” This particular conditioning effect exerted by family has a certain impact on people’s behavior or principles of conduct, with the inevitable consequence that they attach great importance to fame and gain. That is, they attach great importance to their own reputation, prestige, the impression they create in people’s minds, and others’ estimation of everything they do and every opinion they express. By placing great importance on fame and gain, you unwittingly place little importance on whether the duty you fulfill accords with the truth and principles, whether you are satisfying God, and whether you are fulfilling your duty adequately. You see these things as being of lesser importance and lower priority, whereas the saying “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” which your family has conditioned into you, becomes extremely important to you. It makes you pay great attention to how every detail of yourself comes across in people’s minds. In particular, some people pay special attention to what other people really think of them behind their backs, to the point of eavesdropping through walls, listening through half-open doors, and even stealing a glance at what other people write about them. As soon as someone mentions their name, they think, “I have to hurry up and listen to what they’re saying about me, and whether they have a good opinion of me. Oh dear, they said that I’m lazy and that I like to eat nice food. Then I have to change, I can’t be lazy in the future, I must be diligent.” After being diligent for a while, they think to themselves, “I’ve been listening to whether everyone is saying that I’m lazy, and no one seems to have said it lately.” But still they are uneasy, so they casually drop it into their conversations with those around them, saying: “I am a bit lazy.” And others reply: “You’re not lazy, you’re much more diligent now than you used to be.” At this they instantly feel reassured, overjoyed, and comforted. “Look at that, everyone’s opinions of me have changed. It seems that everyone has noticed the improvement in my behavior.” Everything you do is not for the sake of practicing the truth, nor in order to satisfy God, but rather, it is for the sake of your own reputation. In this way, what has everything that you do effectively become? It has effectively become a religious act. What has become of your essence? You have become the archetype of a Pharisee. What has become of your path? It has become the path of antichrists. That is how God defines it. So, the essence of everything you do has become tainted, it’s no longer the same; you are not practicing the truth or pursuing it, but instead you are pursuing fame and gain. Ultimately as far as God is concerned, the performance of your duty is—in a word—inadequate. Why is that? Because you are devoted only to your own reputation, rather than to that which God has entrusted to you, or to your duty as a created being. What do you feel in your heart when God comes up with such a definition? That your belief in God all these years has been in vain? So does that mean you haven’t been pursuing the truth at all? You haven’t been pursuing the truth, instead you have been paying special attention to your own reputation, and at the root of this are the conditioning effects that come from your family. Which is the most dominant saying that you have been conditioned with? The saying, “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” has taken deep root in your heart and become your motto. You have been influenced and conditioned by this saying since you were young, and even after growing up you often keep repeating this saying to influence the next generation of your family and the people around you. Of course, what is even more serious is that you have adopted it as your method and principle for conducting yourself and dealing with things, and even as the goal and direction that you pursue in life. Your goal and direction are wrong, and so the final outcome is certain to be negative. Because the essence of everything you do is solely for the sake of your reputation, and solely in order to put into practice the saying “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies.” You are not pursuing the truth, and yet you yourself don’t know that. You think there is nothing wrong with this saying, because shouldn’t people live for the sake of their reputation? As the common saying goes, “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies.” This saying seems very positive and legitimate, so you unconsciously accept its conditioning effect and regard it as a positive thing. Once you regard this saying as a positive thing, you are unknowingly pursuing it and putting it into practice. At the same time, you unknowingly and confusedly misconstrue it as the truth and as a criterion of the truth. When you regard it as a criterion of the truth, you no longer listen to what God says, nor can you understand it. You blindly put into practice this motto, “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” and act in accordance with it, and what you ultimately get out of that is a good reputation. You have gained what you wanted to gain, but in doing so you have violated and abandoned the truth, and lost the chance to be saved. Given that this is the final outcome, you should let go of and abandon the idea that “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” which your family conditioned into you. It is not something that you should hold onto, nor is it a saying or idea that you should spend a lifetime of effort and energy putting into practice. This idea and view that you are being inculcated and conditioned with is wrong, so you should let go of it. The reason why you should let go of it is not only because it is not the truth, but also because it will lead you astray and ultimately lead to your destruction, so the consequences are very serious. For you, it is not just a simple saying, but a cancer—a means and method that corrupts people. Because in God’s words, among all of His requirements for people, God has never asked people to pursue a good reputation, or to seek prestige, or to make a good impression on people, or to win people’s approval, or to get a thumbs-up from people, nor has He ever made people live for the sake of fame or in order to leave behind a good reputation. God only wants people to perform their duty well, and to submit to Him and obey the truth. Therefore, as far as you are concerned, this saying is a type of conditioning from your family that you should let go of.
There is another conditioning effect that your family exerts on you. For example, when parents or elders encourage you, they often say “You have to endure great suffering in order to come out on top.” In saying this, their aim is to teach you to endure suffering, be diligent and persevere, and not be afraid of suffering in whatever you do, because only those who endure suffering, resist hardship, work hard, and possess fighting spirit can come out on top. What does “come out on top” mean? It means not being bullied, or looked down upon, or discriminated against; it means having high prestige and status among people, having the authority to speak and be heard, and the authority to make decisions; it means being able to lead a better and higher-quality life among others, and having people look up to you, admire you, and envy you. It essentially means that you are in the upper echelon of the entire human race. What does “upper echelon” mean? It means that there are many people at your feet and you needn’t put up with any mistreatment from them—this is what it is to “come out on top.” In order to come out on top, you have to “endure great suffering,” which means that you must be able to endure suffering that others cannot. So before you can come out on top, you must be able to endure people’s disdainful looks, sneers, sarcasm, slander, as well as others’ lack of understanding, and even their scorn, and so on. In addition to physical suffering, you must be able to put up with the sarcasm and ridicule of public opinion. Only by learning to be this kind of person can you stand out among people, and earn a niche for yourself in society. The aim of this saying is to make people become a top dog rather than an underling, because being an underling is so hard—you have to put up with mistreatment, you feel useless, and you have no dignity or face. This is also a conditioning effect that your family exerts on you, with the aim of acting in your best interests. Your family does this so that you don’t have to put up with mistreatment from others, and so that you have fame and authority, eat well and enjoy yourself, and so that wherever you go, no one will dare bully you and you can instead act like a tyrant and call the shots, and everyone will bow and scrape to you. In one sense, by seeking to be a cut above, you are doing it for your own benefit, and in another sense, you are also doing it to boost the family’s social status and bring honor to your ancestors, so that your parents and family members can also benefit from being associated with you and not suffer mistreatment. If you have endured great suffering and come out on top by becoming a high-ranking official with a nice car, a luxury house and a retinue of people buzzing around you, your family will likewise benefit from being associated with you, and your family members will also be able to drive nice cars, eat well, and live the high life. You will be able to eat the most expensive delicacies if you want, and go wherever you like, and have everyone at your beck and call, and do as you please, and live willfully and arrogantly without needing to keep a low profile or live with your tail between your legs, and do whatever you want, even if it’s above the law, and live boldly and recklessly—this is your family’s aim in conditioning you this way, to prevent you from being wronged, and to make you come out on top. To put it bluntly, their aim is to make you into someone who leads others, directs others, and orders others, and to turn you into someone who is only capable of bullying others and who is never on the receiving end, and to make you into someone who comes out on top, rather than someone who is led. Is this not the case? (Yes.) Does this conditioning effect from your family benefit you? (No.) Why do you say that it doesn’t benefit you? If every family educated the next generation this way, would it increase social conflict and make society more competitive and unfair? Everyone would want to be at the top of the pile, no one would want to be at the bottom of the pile, or to be an ordinary person—they would all want to be the person who governs and bullies others. Do you think society could still be good if that were the case? Society would clearly not be oriented in a positive direction, and it would only intensify social conflicts, increase competitiveness between people, and exacerbate disputes between people. Take school, for instance. Students try to get one up on each other, by expending great effort studying when no one is around, but when they meet up they would say, “Oh, yet again I didn’t study last weekend. Instead I went to a great place and had fun all day. Where did you go?” And someone else would chime in: “I slept in all weekend and didn’t study either.” They actually both know full well that the other spent all weekend studying to the point of exhaustion, but neither admits to having studied or put in great effort when no one was watching, because everyone wants to come out on top and doesn’t want anyone else to outdo them. They say that they haven’t been studying, because they don’t want others to know that in fact they have. What’s the use of lying like that? You study for your own sake, not for others. If you can lie at such a young age, can you walk the correct path after you enter society? (No.) Entering society entails personal interests, money, and status, so the competition would only get fiercer. People would stop at nothing and use every means at their disposal in order to achieve their goals. They would be willing and able to do whatever it took to achieve their goal, at any cost, even if it meant enduring humiliation to get there. If things kept going like this, how could society turn out well? If everyone did this, how could the human race turn out well? (It couldn’t.) The root of all kinds of improper social mores and evil trends comes from the conditioning that family exerts on people. What, then, does God require in this respect? Does God require people to come out on top and not to be mediocre, mundane, unremarkable, or ordinary, but instead to be great, famous, and lofty? Is this what God requires of people? (No.) It is very clear that the saying which your family has conditioned into you—“You have to endure great suffering in order to come out on top”—doesn’t guide you in a positive direction, and of course, it also has no connection to the truth. Your family’s aims in making you endure suffering are less than innocent, underpinned by scheming, and so despicable and underhand. God makes people endure suffering because they have corrupt dispositions. If people wish to be purified of their corrupt dispositions, they must undergo suffering—this is an objective fact. In addition, God requires people to endure suffering: This is what a created being should do, and it is also what a normal person should bear, and the attitude that a normal person should have. However, God does not require you to come out on top. He only requires you to be an ordinary, normal person who understands the truth, listens to His words, obeys Him, and that is all. God never demands that you surprise Him, or do anything earth-shattering, nor does He need you to be a celebrity or a great person. He just needs you to be an ordinary, normal, and real person, and no matter how much suffering you can endure, or whether you can endure suffering at all, if in the end you are able to fear God and shun evil, then this is the best person you can be. What God wants is not for you to come out on top, but to be a true created being, a person who can perform the duty of a created being. This person is someone unremarkable and ordinary, someone with normal humanity, conscience and reason, not someone who is lofty or great in the eyes of unbelievers or corrupt humans. We have fellowshiped a great deal on this aspect before, so we won’t discuss it further now. This saying “You have to endure great suffering in order to come out on top” is clearly something you should let go of. What is it exactly that you should let go of? It is the direction that your family has conditioned you into pursuing. That is, you should change the direction of your pursuit. Don’t do anything just for the sake of coming out on top, standing out from the crowd and being noteworthy, or being admired by others. Instead, you should let go of these intentions, aims, and motives and do everything in a down-to-earth manner in order to be a true created being. What do I mean by “in a down-to-earth manner”? The most basic principle is to do everything in accordance with the ways and principles that God has taught people. Supposing that what you do doesn’t blow everyone away or impress them, or isn’t even praised or valued by anyone. However, if this is something that you ought to do, then you should persist and keep at it, treating it as the duty that a created being should perform. If you do that, you will be an acceptable created being in God’s eyes—it’s as simple as that. What you need to change is your pursuit with regard to your comportment and your outlook on life.
Family conditions and influences you in other ways, for instance with the saying “Harmony is a treasure; forbearance is brilliance.” Family members often teach you: “Be kind and don’t argue with others or make enemies, because if you make too many enemies, you won’t be able to gain a foothold in society, and if there are too many people who hate you and are out to get you, then you won’t be safe in society. You will always be under threat, and your survival, status, family, personal safety, and even your career promotion prospects will be jeopardized and impeded by nasty people. So you must learn that ‘Harmony is a treasure; forbearance is brilliance.’ Be kind to everyone, don’t damage good relationships, don’t say anything that you can’t take back later, avoid hurting people’s pride, and don’t expose their shortcomings. Avoid or stop saying things that people don’t want to listen to. Just give compliments, because it never hurts to compliment somebody. You must learn to show forbearance and compromise in both big and small matters, because ‘Compromise will make a conflict much easier to resolve.’” Think about it, your family instills two ideas and views into you at once. In one sense, they say that you need to be kind to others; in another sense, they need you to be forbearing, not speak out of turn, and if you have something to say, you should button your lip until you get home and then tell your family. Or better still, don’t even tell your family at all, because walls have ears—if ever the secret leaks out, things will not go well for you. To gain a foothold and survive in this society, people must learn one thing, which is to be a fence-straddler. In colloquial terms, you must be slippery and cunning. You can’t just say what’s on your mind. If you go ahead and say what’s on your mind, that’s called being stupid, it’s not called being smart. Some people are loose cannons who say whatever they want. Imagine a guy who does that and ends up offending his boss. The boss then makes life difficult for him, cancels his bonus, and is always looking to pick a quarrel with him. In the end, he can’t bear to stay in the job any longer. If he quits his job, he has no other means to earn a living. But if he doesn’t quit, all he can do is put up with a job that he can’t bear to do any longer. What’s that called, when you are between a rock and a hard place? “Stuck,” in a fix. His family then tells him off, saying: “You deserve to be mistreated, you should have remembered that ‘Harmony is a treasure; forbearance is brilliance’! It serves you right for being a loose cannon and shooting your mouth off! We told you to be tactful and think carefully about what you say, but you didn’t want to, you had to go and be direct. Did you think your boss was that easy to mess with? Did you think it was that easy to survive in society? You always reckon you are just being straightforward. Well, now you must reap the painful consequences. Let this be a lesson to you! In future, you’ll do well to remember the saying ‘Harmony is a treasure; forbearance is brilliance’!” Once he has been taught this lesson, he remembers it, thinking, “My parents really were right to educate me. This is an insightful bit of life experience, a real nugget of wisdom, I can’t keep on ignoring it. If I don’t listen to what my elders are telling me, I can only expect to get taken advantage of, so I’ll remember it in future.” After he comes to believe in God and joins God’s house, he still remembers this saying, “Harmony is a treasure; forbearance is brilliance,” and so he greets his brothers and sisters whenever he sees them, and does his best to speak nice words to them. The leader says: “I’ve been a leader for a while, but I don’t have enough work experience.” So he interjects with a compliment: “You’re doing a great job. If you weren’t leading us, we’d feel like we had nowhere to turn.” Someone else says: “I’ve gained an understanding of myself, and I think that I am quite deceitful.” So he replies, “You aren’t deceitful, you are really honest, I’m the one who’s deceitful.” Someone else makes a nasty remark to him, and he thinks to himself, “No need to fear nasty remarks like that, I can put up with much worse. No matter how nasty your remarks get, I’ll just pretend that I didn’t hear them, and I’ll keep on complimenting you, and trying my best to curry favor with you, because it never hurts to compliment you.” Whenever anyone asks him to give his opinion or open up during fellowship, he doesn’t talk frankly, and maintains this cheerful and jolly facade in front of everyone. Someone asks him: “How come you are always so cheerful and jolly? Are you really a smiling tiger?” And he thinks to himself: “I’ve been a smiling tiger for years, and in all that time I’ve never been taken advantage of, so it has become my overriding principle for dealing with the world.” Is he not like a slippery stone? (Yes.) Some people have drifted along in society like this for many years, and continue to do so after they come into God’s house. They never say one honest word, they never speak from the heart, and they don’t talk about their own understanding of themselves. Even when a brother or sister lays their own heart bare to them, they don’t speak frankly, and no one can work out what’s really going on in their minds. They never reveal what they think or what their views are, they maintain really good relations with everyone, and you don’t know what kind of people or what type of personality they actually like, or what they really think about others. If anyone asks them what kind of person so-and-so is, they answer, “He has been a believer for over ten years, and he’s just fine.” Whoever you ask them about, they will reply that the person is just fine or pretty good. If someone asks them, “Have you discovered any shortcomings or flaws in him?” They will reply, “I haven’t found any so far, I’ll keep a closer eye out in future,” but deep down they are thinking: “You’re asking me to offend that person, which I most certainly won’t do! If I tell you the truth and he finds out about it, won’t he just become my enemy? My family has long been telling me not to make enemies, I haven’t forgotten their words. Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I’d forget the education and conditioning I’ve received from my family just because you’ve fellowshiped two sentences of truth? It won’t happen! These sayings, ‘Harmony is a treasure; forbearance is brilliance’ and ‘Compromise will make a conflict much easier to resolve,’ have never let me down yet and they are my talismans. I don’t talk about anyone’s flaws, and if anyone provokes me, I show them forbearance. Haven’t you seen that character imprinted on my forehead? It’s the Chinese character for ‘forbearance,’ which consists of the character of a knife above that of a heart. Whoever says nasty remarks, I show them forbearance. Whoever deals with and prunes me, I show them forbearance. My aim is to stay on good terms with everyone, to keep relations at this level. Don’t stick to principles, don’t be so stupid, don’t be inflexible, you must learn to yield according to the circumstances! Why do you think tortoises live for so long? It’s because they hide inside their shell whenever the going gets tough, is it not? That way they can protect themselves and live for thousands of years. That’s how to live a long life, and also how to deal with the world.” You don’t hear such people utter anything truthful or genuine, and their true viewpoints and the bottom line for their comportment are never revealed. They only think about these things and contemplate them in their heart, but no one else knows about them. This kind of person is outwardly kind to everyone, appears good-natured, and doesn’t hurt or harm anyone. But in fact, what they really are is a fence-straddler and a slippery stone. This kind of person is always liked by some people in the church, because they never make big mistakes, they never give themselves away, and the evaluation from church leaders and brothers and sisters is that they get on just fine with everyone. They are lukewarm about their duty, they do just what is asked of them. They are especially obedient and well-behaved, they never hurt others in conversation or when dealing with matters, and they never take unfair advantage of anyone. They never speak ill of others, and they never judge people behind their backs. However, no one knows whether they are sincere in performing their duty, and no one knows what they think of others or what opinion they hold about them. After careful thought, you even feel that this kind of person really is a bit weird and difficult to fathom, and that keeping them on might lead to trouble. What should you do? It’s a tough call, isn’t it? When they are performing their duty, you can see them going about their business, but they never care about the principles that God’s house has communicated to them. They do things however they like, going through the motions and leaving it at that, trying only to avoid making any big mistakes. Consequently, you can’t find any fault with them, or identify any defects. They do things flawlessly, but what are they thinking inside? Do they want to perform their duty? If there were no church administrative decrees, or supervision from the church leader or their brothers and sisters, might this person associate with wicked people? Might they do bad things and commit evil together with wicked people? It is highly possible, and they are capable of doing it, but they haven’t done it yet. This kind of person is the most troublesome kind, and they are the archetypal slippery stone or sly old fox. They don’t hold grudges against anyone. If someone says something to hurt them, or reveals a corrupt disposition that infringes on their dignity, what do they think? “I will show forbearance, I won’t hold it against you, but a day will come when you’ll make a fool of yourself!” When that person really is dealt with or makes a fool of themselves, they secretly laugh about it. They readily make fun of other people, leaders, and God’s house, but they don’t make fun of themselves. They just don’t know what problems or flaws they have themselves. People like this are careful not to reveal anything that can hurt others, or anything that enables others to see through them, although they think about these things in their heart. Whereas, when it comes to things that can benumb or deceive others, they freely express them and let people see them. People like this are the most insidious and difficult to deal with. So what attitude does God’s house take toward people like this? Use them if they can be used, and clear them out if they can’t—this is the principle. Why is that? The reason is that people like this are destined not to pursue the truth. They are nonbelievers who make fun of God’s house, brothers and sisters, and leaders when things go wrong. What role do they play? Is it the role of Satan and devils? (Yes.) When they show patience toward their brothers and sisters, it constitutes neither genuine tolerance nor genuine love. They do it to protect themselves and to avoid attracting any enemies or danger their way. They don’t tolerate their brothers and sisters to protect them, nor do they do it out of love, and less still do they do it because they are pursuing the truth and practicing in accordance with the truth principles. Theirs is entirely an attitude that centers on drifting along and deceiving others. Such people are fence-straddlers and slippery stones. They don’t like the truth and they don’t pursue it, instead they just drift along. It is clear that the conditioning which such people receive from their family greatly affects the methods by which they comport themselves and deal with things. Of course, it must be said that these methods and principles of dealing with the world are inseparable from their humanity essence. On top of this, the conditioning effects from their family only serve to make their actions even more pronounced and concrete, and reveal their nature essence even more completely. Therefore, when faced with cardinal issues of right and wrong, and in matters that have a bearing on the interests of God’s house, if such people can make some appropriate choices and let go of the philosophies for dealing with the world that they harbor in their hearts, such as “Harmony is a treasure; forbearance is brilliance,” in order to uphold the interests of God’s house, reduce their transgressions, and lessen their evil deeds before God—how will this benefit them? At the very least, when in the future God determines each person’s outcome, it will alleviate their punishment and lessen God’s chastening of them. By practicing this way, such people have nothing to lose and everything to gain, do they not? If they are made to entirely let go of their philosophies for dealing with the world, it won’t be easy for them, because it involves their humanity essence, and these slippery stones and fence-straddlers don’t accept the truth at all. It’s not so simple and easy for them to let go of the satanic philosophies conditioned into them by their families, because—even leaving aside these conditioning effects from their families—they themselves are obsessive believers in satanic philosophies, and they like this approach toward dealing with the world, which is a very individual, subjective approach. But if such people are smart—if they let go of some of these practices to appropriately defend the interests of God’s house, as long as their own interests are not threatened or damaged—then that is actually a good thing for them, because at the very least it could alleviate their guilt, lessen God’s chastening of them, and even turn the tables so that instead of chastening them, God rewards and remembers them. How wonderful that would be! Would that not be a good thing? (Yes.) That concludes our fellowship on this aspect.
How else has your family conditioned you? For instance, your parents often tell you: “If you have a big mouth and talk rashly, sooner or later it will get you into trouble! You must remember that ‘He who talks a lot errs a lot’! What does this mean? It means that if you say too much, you will definitely end up putting your foot in your mouth. Whatever the occasion, don’t speak rashly—see what everyone else says first before you say anything. If you go along with the majority, you’ll be just fine. But if you always try to stand out, and constantly speak rashly and reveal your point of view without knowing what your chief, boss, or everyone around you is thinking, and then it turns out that your chief or boss doesn’t think the same way, then they will give you a hard time. Can any good come from that? Silly child, you must be careful in future. He who talks a lot errs a lot. Just remember that, and don’t speak rashly! Mouths are for eating and breathing, sweet-talking your superiors, and trying to please others, they’re not for telling the truth. You must choose your words wisely, you must employ tricks and methods, and you must use your brain. Just before the words escape your mouth, swallow them and run through them repeatedly in your mind, waiting until the time is right before saying them. What you actually say should also depend on the situation. If you start sharing your opinion, but then notice that people don’t take kindly to it, or their reaction isn’t so good, stop right there and think about how to say it in a way that can keep everyone happy before continuing. That’s what a smart kid would do. If you do that, you’ll keep out of trouble and everyone will like you. And if everyone likes you, won’t that work in your favor? Won’t that create more opportunities for you in future?” Your family conditions you by telling you not only how to gain a good reputation, how to come out on top, and how to establish a stable foothold among others, but also how to deceive others through outward appearances and not tell the truth, much less pour forth everything that is on your mind. Some people who have come to grief after speaking the truth recall their family telling them the saying “He who talks a lot errs a lot,” and draw a lesson from it. Thereafter they become more and more willing to practice this saying and turn it into their motto. Other people haven’t come to grief but earnestly accept the conditioning of their family in this regard, and continually put this saying into practice whatever the occasion. The more they put it into practice, the more they feel that “My parents and grandparents are so good to me, they are all sincere toward me and want the best for me. I’m so fortunate that they told me this saying, ‘He who talks a lot errs a lot,’ otherwise I’d come to grief so often due to my big mouth, and so many people would give me a hard time, or cast me disdainful looks, or ridicule and mock me. This saying is so useful and beneficial!” They gain a great deal of tangible benefits from putting this saying into practice. Of course, when they then come before God, they still think that this saying is a most useful and beneficial thing. Whenever a brother or sister openly fellowships about his or her personal state, corruption, or experience and knowledge, they too want to fellowship and to be a forthright and open person, and they too want to honestly talk about what they think or know in their heart, so as to temporarily relieve their state of mind, which has been stifled for so many years, or to gain some degree of freedom and release. But as soon as they recall what their parents keep drumming into them, namely, “‘He who talks a lot errs a lot.’ Don’t speak rashly, be a listener rather than a talker, and learn to listen to others,” they swallow whatever it is they wanted to say. When everyone else finishes talking, they say nothing and instead think to themselves: “This is great, it’s just as well I didn’t say anything this time, because once I’d said my piece everyone might have formed opinions about me, and I might have lost something. It’s great to say nothing, maybe that way everyone will keep thinking that I’m honest and not so deceitful, but just a naturally taciturn person, and therefore not someone who is scheming, or someone who is so corrupt, and particularly not someone who has notions about God, but instead someone who is simple and open. It’s not a bad thing for people to think of me this way, so why should I have to say anything? I’m actually seeing some results by adhering to this saying ‘He who talks a lot errs a lot,’ so I’ll keep on acting like this.” Adhering to this saying gives them a nice, rewarding feeling, and so they stay silent once, twice, and on it goes until one day, when they have so many words pent up inside them and want to open up to their brothers and sisters, but their mouth feels like it’s sealed and bandaged shut, and they can’t get a single sentence out. Since they can’t tell their brothers and sisters, they decide to try talking to God instead, so they kneel before Him and say, “God, I have something to tell You. I am …” But although they have thought it through in their heart, they don’t know how to say it, they can’t express it, it’s as if they have become well and truly mute. They don’t know how to pick the right words or even how to string a sentence together. So many years of pent-up feelings make them feel completely stifled, and that they are living a dark and sordid life, and when they make up their mind to tell God what is in their heart and unload their feelings, they are lost for words and don’t know where to start, or how to say it. Are they not wretched? (Yes, they are.) Why, then, do they have nothing to say to God? They just introduce themselves. They want to tell God what is in their heart, but they don’t have the words, and in the end all that comes out is: “God, please give me the words I ought to say!” And God replies: “There is so much that you ought to say, but you don’t want to say it, and you don’t say it when you are given the chance, so I am taking back everything that I have given you. I won’t give it to you, you don’t deserve it.” Only then do they feel that they have lost out on so much these past years. Although they feel that they have led a very dignified life, and wrapped themselves up tightly and packaged themselves perfectly, when they see that their brothers and sisters have been making gains all this time, and when they see their brothers and sisters talking about their experiences without any qualms and opening up about their corruption, these people come to the realization that they themselves cannot say a single sentence, and don’t know how to. They have believed in God for so many years, and want to talk about knowledge of themselves, and to discuss their experience of and exposure to God’s words, and to get some enlightenment and a bit of light from God, and to gain something. But unfortunately, because they all too frequently cling to the opinion that “He who talks a lot errs a lot,” and are often bound and controlled by this idea, they have lived for this saying for so many years, they have not received any enlightenment or illumination from God, and they are still poor, pitiful, and empty-handed when it comes to life entry. They have practiced this saying and idea to perfection and obeyed it to the letter, but despite having believed in God for so many years, they have not gained anything of the truth, and remain poor and blind. God gave them mouths, but they have no ability whatsoever to fellowship on the truth, nor any ability to talk about their feelings and knowledge, let alone the ability to communicate with their brothers and sisters. What is more pitiful is that they don’t even have the ability to talk to God, and have lost such an ability. Are they not wretched? (Yes, they are.) Wretched and lamentable. Do you not dislike talking? Are you not always afraid that he who talks a lot errs a lot? Then you should never say anything. You wrap up your innermost thoughts and that which God has given you, suppressing them, sealing them away and preventing them from escaping. You are constantly afraid of losing face, afraid of feeling threatened, afraid that others will see through you, and constantly afraid that you will no longer be a perfect, honest, and good person in the eyes of others, so you wrap yourself up, and say nothing about your true thoughts. And what happens in the end? You become a mute person in every sense of the word. Who did such harm to you? At the root, it was being conditioned by your family that harmed you. But from your own personal perspective, it is also because you like living by satanic philosophies, so you choose to believe that the conditioning of your family is correct, and don’t believe that God’s requirements for you are positive. You choose to regard the conditioning effect that your family exerts on you as a positive thing, and to regard God’s words, His requirements, and His provision, help, and teaching as things to guard against, as negative things. Therefore, no matter how much God bestowed upon you at the outset, because of your guardedness and refusal all these years, the end result is that God takes back everything and gives you nothing, because you are not worthy of it. So before it comes to that, you should let go of the conditioning effect that your family exerts on you in this regard, and don’t accept the erroneous idea that “He who talks a lot errs a lot.” This saying makes you more closed, more insidious, and more hypocritical. It is completely antithetical and contrary to God’s requirement for people to be honest, and His demand that they be forthright and open. As a believer in God and a follower of God, you should be absolutely determined to pursue the truth. And when you are absolutely determined to pursue the truth, you should be absolutely determined to let go of what you imagine to be the good conditioning effects that your family exerts on you—there should be no choosing. No matter what conditioning effects your family exerts on you, no matter how good or beneficial they are for you, no matter how much they protect you, they come from people and Satan, and you should let go of them. Even though God’s words and His requirements for people may conflict with the conditioning effects of your family, or even hurt your interests, and strip away your rights, and even if you think that they don’t protect you and are instead intended to show you up and make you look a fool, you should still regard them as positive things, because they come from God, they are the truth, and you should accept them. If the things that your family has conditioned into you have a bearing on your thinking and comportment, your outlook on existence, and the path you take, then you should let go of them and not hold fast to them. Instead, you should replace them with the corresponding truths from God, and in doing so, you should also constantly discern and recognize the inherent problems and essence of these things that your family conditioned into you, and then act and practice by following God’s words more precisely, practically, and truly. Accepting ideas, views on people and things, and principles of practice that come from God—this is the duty-bound responsibility of a created being, and what a created being should do, and this is also the idea and view that a created being should possess.
Parents in some families, in addition to instilling things that people think are positive and beneficial to their survival, prospects, and future, also instill some relatively extreme and distorted ideas and views into their children. For example, such parents say: “Better to be a true villain than a fake gentleman.” This is a saying that tells you how to comport yourself. This saying, “Better to be a true villain than a fake gentleman,” makes you choose between one or the other. It makes you choose to be a true villain, that is to say, to be openly bad, rather than doing it behind people’s backs. That way, even if people think that the things you do aren’t so good, they will still admire you and approve of you. It means that, no matter what bad things you do, you must do them to people’s faces, out in the open and candidly. Some families condition and educate their children this way. Not only do they not despise those people in society who have contemptible and vile ideas and behaviors, they even educate their children by telling them: “Don’t underestimate these people. In actual fact, they are not necessarily bad people—they might even be better than fake gentlemen.” In one sense, they tell you what kind of person to be, and in another sense, they also tell you how to discern people, what kind of people to regard as positive, and what kind of people to regard as negative, teaching you to discern positive things from negative things, and also teaching you how to comport yourself—this is the kind of education and conditioning they give you. So, what kind of impact does such conditioning imperceptibly have on people? (Not distinguishing between good and evil.) That’s right, not distinguishing between good and evil, right and wrong. Let’s first take a look at how human beings view so-called villains and fake gentlemen. First of all, humans think that true villains are not bad people, and that those who truly are fake gentlemen are bad people. The kind of people who do bad things behind others’ backs while outwardly pretending to be good are called fake gentlemen. They talk all about benevolence, righteousness, and morality to people’s faces, but get up to all sorts of bad things behind their backs. They do all this bad stuff while at the same time saying all sorts of nice things—people like this are objects of scorn. As for true villains, they are just as bad to people’s faces as they are behind their backs, and yet they have become role models to be championed and studied, rather than becoming objects of people’s scorn. This kind of saying and view tends to confuse people’s concepts of what exactly a good person is and what exactly a bad person is. And so people are not sure and do not know, and their concepts become very vague. When family conditions people in this way, some of them even think, “By being a true villain I am being upstanding. I’m doing things out in the open. If I have something to say I tell it to your face. If I cheat you, or don’t like you, or want to take advantage of you, I must also do it to your face and let you know about it.” Just what kind of logic is this? Just what kind of nature essence is this? When wicked people do bad things and commit evil deeds, they need to find a theoretical basis for it, and this is the logic they come up with. They say: “Look, this thing I’m doing isn’t so good, but it’s better than being a fake gentleman. I do it to people’s faces, and everyone knows about it—that’s called being upstanding!” Thus, villains make themselves out to be upstanding people. With this kind of thinking in people’s minds, their concepts of true integrity and true evil are imperceptibly blurred. They don’t know what it is to be upstanding, and they think, “It doesn’t matter whether what I say hurts others or whether it is right or not, whether it is reasonable or not, or whether it accords with principles and the truth or not. As long as I dare to speak, and don’t care about the consequences, and as long as I have a true disposition, a straightforward nature, and am as straight as a die, and as long as I don’t harbor any insidious aims, then it’s appropriate.” Is this not a case of inverting right and wrong? (Yes.) This way, negative things are turned into positive things. Some people therefore use this as a basis and comport themselves according to this saying, and even assume that justice is on their side, thinking, “In any case, I’m not taking advantage of you, nor playing tricks behind your back. I’m doing things candidly and out in the open. You think what you like. To me this is being upstanding! As the saying goes, ‘One needn’t worry about rumors if one is upright,’ so think whatever you want!” Is this not the logic of Satan? Is it not the logic of robbers? (Yes.) Is it justified for you to do bad things, make trouble for no reason, act like a tyrant, and commit evil? Committing evil is committing evil: If the essence of what you do is committing evil, then evil is what it is. What are your actions measured by? They are not measured by whether you had your motives, or whether you did them out in the open, or whether you have a true disposition. They are measured by the truth and by God’s words. The truth is the criterion for measuring everything, and that sentence applies perfectly in this case. According to the measure of the truth, if something is evil, then it is evil; if something is positive, then it is positive; if something is not positive, then it is not positive. And what are these things that people think of as upstanding, and having a true disposition and a straightforward nature? That’s called twisting words and forcing logic, confusing concepts, and talking nonsense, it’s called misleading people, and if you mislead people then you are committing evil. Regardless of whether it is committed behind people’s backs or to their faces, evil is evil. Evil committed behind someone’s back is wickedness, whereas evil committed in front of someone’s face is truly malicious and vicious, but they all relate to evil. So tell Me, should people accept this saying “Better to be a true villain than a fake gentleman”? (No, they shouldn’t.) Which is positive—the behavioral principles of a fake gentleman, or the behavioral principles of a true villain? (Neither.) That’s right, they are all negative. So, don’t be a fake gentleman, nor a true villain, and don’t listen to your parents’ nonsense. Why do parents always spout nonsense? Because this is exactly how your parents comport themselves. They constantly feel that “I have a true disposition, I’m a true person, I’m forthright, I’m honest about my feelings, I’m a chivalrous person, I am upright and needn’t worry about rumors, I behave decently and walk the right path, what do I have to fear? I don’t do anything wrong, so I’m not afraid of demons knocking on my door!” Demons aren’t knocking on your door right now, but you have committed no shortage of evil deeds and will be punished sooner or later. You are upright and fear no rumors, but what does being upright represent? Is it the truth? Does being upright mean conforming to the truth? Do you understand the truth? Don’t think up excuses and pretexts for your own evildoing, it’s pointless! As long as it doesn’t conform to the truth, it is evil! You even feel that you have a true disposition. Just because you have a true disposition, does it mean that you can take advantage of others? Or that you can harm others? What logic is this? (The logic of Satan.) This is called the logic of robbers and devils! You commit evil and yet you make out that it is something right and proper, and make excuses for it and seek to justify it. Is this not shameless? (Yes.) I tell you again that in God’s words, there is never any mention of letting people be a true villain or a fake gentleman, nor any such requirement to be a true villain or a fake gentleman. These sayings are all blatant lies to deceive and confuse people. They can confuse people who do not understand the truth, but if you understand the truth today, you should no longer hold fast to such sayings or be influenced by them. Whether people are fake gentlemen or true villains, they are all devils, beasts, and scoundrels, they are all no good, they are all wicked, and they are all associated with evil. If they’re not evil then they are vicious, and the only difference between a fake gentleman and a true villain lies in the manner of their performance: One performs in public, and the other in secret. Also, they have different ways of conducting themselves. One does evil openly, while the other plays dirty tricks behind people’s backs; one is more insidious and treacherous, while the other is more overbearing, domineering, and bares their fangs; one is more sordid and stealthy, while the other is more despicable and arrogant. They happen to be two satanic ways of doing things, one open and one covert. If you act openly you are a true villain, and if you act covertly you are a fake gentleman. What is there to brag about? If you regard this saying as your motto, are you not foolish? So, if you have been deeply harmed by the things that your family has conditioned or instilled into you in this regard, or if you are holding fast to such things, I hope you can let go of them, discern and see through them as soon as possible. Stop clinging to this saying, and thinking that it is protecting you, or making you into a genuine person or someone with character and humanity. This saying is not a standard for how one should comport oneself. From where I stand, I strongly condemn this saying, which disgusts Me more than anything. I am disgusted not only by fake gentlemen, but also by true villains—both kinds of people are objects of disgust to Me. So, if you are a fake gentleman, then from My perspective you are no good, and you are beyond remedy. But if you are a true villain then you are even worse off. You are well aware of the true way and yet deliberately sin, you clearly know the truth yet blatantly violate it. You do not practice the truth, but openly oppose it, and so you will die faster. Don’t think, “I have a straightforward nature, I am not a fake gentleman. Although I am a villain, I am a true villain.” How are you true? Your “trueness” is not the truth, nor is it a positive thing. Your “trueness” is the manifestation of the essence of your arrogant and vicious disposition. You are “true” as in true Satan, true devils, and true evil, rather than true as in the truth or something that is truly real. So, when it comes to this saying “Better to be a true villain than a fake gentleman” that your family conditions into you, you should also let go of it, because it has no connection whatsoever with the principles of comportment that God teaches people, nor does it even come anywhere close to them. Therefore, you should let go of it as soon as possible, rather than continuing to cling onto it.
Family exerts another kind of conditioning effect. For example, your family members always tell you: “Don’t be someone who stands out too much from the crowd, you must rein yourself in and exercise a little restraint in your words and actions, as well as in your personal talents, abilities, IQ, and so on. Don’t be that person who stands out. It’s like the sayings go, ‘The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot,’ and ‘The rafter that sticks out is the first to rot.’ If you want to protect yourself, and have a long-term and stable place in the group you belong to, don’t be the bird that sticks its neck out, you should rein yourself in and not aspire to rise above everyone. Think about the lightning rod, which is the first thing to be struck in a storm, because lightning strikes the highest point; and when the wind is blowing a gale, the tallest tree is the first to take its brunt and get blown over; and when the weather is cold, the tallest mountain is the first to freeze over. It’s the same with people—if you always stick out among others and draw attention, and the Party notices you, it will seriously consider punishing you. Don’t be the bird that sticks its neck out, don’t fly solo. You should stay inside the flock. Otherwise, if any social protest movement formed around you, you would be the one who gets punished first, because you are the bird that sticks out. Don’t be a leader or a group head in the church. Otherwise, in the event of any work-related losses or problems in God’s house, as the leader or supervisor, you will be the first to be singled out. So, don’t be the bird that sticks its neck out, because the bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot. You must learn to tuck in your head and cower like a tortoise.” You remember these words from your parents, and when the time comes to choose a leader, you decline the position, saying, “Oh, I cannot do it! I have a family and children, I’m too tied up with them. I can’t be a leader. You guys should do it, don’t choose me.” Supposing you are elected as leader anyway, you are still reluctant to do it. “I’m afraid I must resign,” you say. “You guys be the leader, I’m giving you all the opportunity. I’m letting you take the position, I’m stepping aside.” You ponder in your heart, “Huh! The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot. The higher you climb, the harder you fall, and it’s lonely at the top. I’ll let you be the leader, and after you get chosen, a day will come when you will make a spectacle of yourself. I never want to be a leader, I don’t want to climb the ladder, which means that I won’t fall from a great height. Think about it, wasn’t so-and-so dismissed as leader? After being dismissed he was expelled—he didn’t even get the chance to be an ordinary believer. It’s a perfect example of those sayings ‘The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot’ and ‘The rafter that sticks out is the first to rot.’ Am I not right? Was he not punished? People must learn to protect themselves, otherwise what do people have brains for? If you have a brain in your head, you must use it to protect yourself. Some people can’t see this issue clearly, but that’s how it is in society and in any group of people—‘The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot.’ You’ll be very well-regarded while you are sticking your neck out, right up until the moment you get shot. Then you’ll realize that people who put themselves in the firing line get their comeuppance sooner or later.” These are the earnest teachings of your parents and family, and also the voice of experience, the distilled wisdom of their lifetime, which they whisper into your ear without reservation. What do I mean by “whisper into your ear”? I mean that one day, your mother says in your ear, “Let me tell you, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s that ‘The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot,’ which means that if someone sticks out too much or draws too much attention, they’re likely to be punished for it. See how subdued and guileless your dad is now, it’s because he was punished in some campaign of suppression. Your dad has literary talent, he can write and give speeches, he has leadership skills, but he stood out from the crowd too much, and ended up being punished in the campaign. How come, ever since then, your dad never talks about being a government official and a high-profile figure? It’s because of that. I’m speaking to you from the heart and telling you the truth. You must listen and remember it well. Don’t forget, you must keep it in mind wherever you go. This is the best thing I can give you as your mother.” Thereafter you remember her words, and whenever you recall the saying “The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot,” it reminds you of your father, and whenever you think of him, you think of this saying. Your father was once the bird that stuck its neck out and got shot, and now his downbeat and dispirited look has left a deep impression on your mind. So, whenever you want to stick your neck out, whenever you want to speak your mind, whenever you want to sincerely perform your duty in God’s house, your mother’s heartfelt advice in your ear—“The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot”—comes to mind again. So, once again you shrink back, thinking, “I cannot show any talents or special abilities, I must restrain myself and stifle them. And as for God’s exhortation for people to put all their heart, mind, and strength into performing their duty, I must practice these words in moderation, and not stand out by trying too hard. If I stand out by trying too hard, and stick my neck out by leading the church’s work, what if something goes wrong with the work of God’s house and I am held responsible? How should I bear this responsibility? Will I be cleared out? Will I become the scapegoat, the bird that stuck its neck out? In God’s house, it’s hard to say how these matters will turn out. So, regardless of what I do, I absolutely must leave myself an escape route, I absolutely must learn to protect myself, and ensure that I cover all my bases before I speak and act. This is the wisest course of action, because as my mother says, ‘The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot.’” This saying is deeply implanted in your heart and also has a profound influence on your daily life. More seriously of course, it affects your attitude toward performing your duty. Are there not serious problems here? Therefore, whenever you perform your duty and want to expend yourself sincerely, and to wholeheartedly utilize all your strength, this saying—“The bird that sticks its neck out is the one that gets shot”—always stops you in your tracks, and in the end you always choose to leave yourself some leeway and room for maneuver, and only do your duty in a measured way after leaving an escape route for yourself. Am I not right? Does your family’s conditioning in this regard protect you to the greatest extent from being exposed and dealt with? For you it is another talisman, is it not? (Yes.)
Based on all that we have fellowshiped on thus far, how many talismans do people have as a result of their family’s conditioning? (Seven.) With so many talismans, is it true that no ordinary devils and demons dare encroach on you? All these talismans make you feel so safe, so comforted, and so happy living in this human world. At the same time, they make you feel how important family is to you, and how timely and important the protection and talismans that your family gives to you are. Whenever you obtain tangible benefits and protection as a result of these talismans, you feel more than ever that family is important, and that you will always depend on it. Whenever you encounter difficulties and are wracked by indecision and bewilderment, you collect yourself for a moment and think, “What did my mother and father tell me? What skills did my elders teach me? What was the motto they passed on to me?” You quickly, instinctively, and subconsciously fall back on the various ideas and environments instilled into you by your family, seeking and demanding their protection. At such times, family becomes your safe haven, an anchor, a support and a driving force that is always strong, unshakable, and unchanging, a psychological crutch that enables you to keep on living and stops you from being bewildered and indecisive. At times like these, you are filled with deep feeling: “Family is so very important to me, it gives me such immense mental strength, as well as being a source of spiritual support.” You often congratulate yourself by thinking, “It’s fortunate that I listened to what my parents told me, otherwise I would have ended up in a very embarrassing situation by now, being either bullied or hurt. Fortunately, I have this trump card, I have a talisman. So, even in God’s house and in the church, even during the course of performing my duties, I will not be bullied by anyone, and I will not run the risk of being cleared out or handled by the church. These things might never happen to me, thanks to the protection that the conditioning of my family gives me.” But you have forgotten something. You have been living in what you imagine to be an environment with talismans and in which you can protect yourself, but you don’t know whether you have fulfilled God’s commission or not. You have ignored God’s commission to you, and ignored your identity as a created being, and the duty you should fulfill as a created being. You have also ignored the attitude you should adopt and all that you should offer up in performing your duty, while the true outlook on life and values that you ought to cherish have been replaced with the views that your family has conditioned into you, and your chances of salvation are also impacted and influenced by your family’s conditioning. Therefore, it is very important for everyone to let go of the various conditioning effects of their family. This is one aspect of the truth that must be practiced, and it is also a reality that should be entered into without delay. Because if society tells you something, you are likely to make a rational or subconscious decision to reject it; if a stranger or someone unrelated to you tells you something, you tend to make a rational or measured decision to accept it or not; but if your family tells you something, you tend to accept it entirely without hesitation or discernment, and this is inevitably a dangerous thing for you. Because you think that the family can never do any harm to a person, and that everything your family does for you is for your own good, to protect you, and for your own sake. Based on this assumed principle, people are easily disturbed and influenced by these intangible and tangible things that are one’s family. The tangible things are one’s family members and all the family’s affairs, while the intangible things are the various ideas and education that come from family, as well as some conditioning to do with how you should comport yourself and conduct your own affairs. Is it not so? (Yes.)
There is a lot to discuss as regards the conditioning effects of family. After we finish fellowshiping on these things today, you should contemplate them all and summarize them, thinking about which ideas and views—besides those that I mentioned today—might afflict you in your daily life. Most of what we have fellowshiped on just now relates to people’s principles and ways of dealing with the world, and there are a small number of topics that relate to how people view others and things. The scope of the conditioning effects that family exerts on people basically encompasses these things. There are also some issues that don’t relate to people’s outlook on life or ways of dealing with the world, so we won’t say any more about those. Here ends our fellowship for today, then. Until next time!
February 11, 2023