21. Escaping Vanity Isn’t Easy
By Hailey, Japan
In July of 2020, my supervisor arranged for me to take on Sister Iris’s work and make videos. I was very happy, but I also realized I would encounter some problems and difficulties in my new duty, so I would have to learn and ask when I didn’t understand. But as Iris handed over her work to me, she said she had a new duty with a high workload, and wanted to finish with me quickly. I could tell she didn’t plan to wait until I mastered the work to leave. I couldn’t help but worry, “I’m not familiar with this work, can I really take it over all at once?” Iris asked me if I had any difficulties. I was just about to express my concerns, but then I thought, “I’ve just met her, and first impressions are important. She is in a hurry to take over her new duty, so I can’t hold her back. If I ask about difficulties and make demands before I start the work, what will she think of me? Won’t she think I’m taking on her job without understanding anything, and that I’m the wrong person for the job?” So, against my will, I said, “No questions.” To prove I had caliber and could discover problems, I also made some suggestions about the professional processes she introduced to me. At the time, I realized I was deliberately covering up my shortcomings. If she mistakenly thought I had good caliber and shortened the time she taught me, what if my slow mastery of the work delayed things? But then I thought that since I’d already said it, I couldn’t take the words back. I could ask her for help if I had problems in the future.
The next day, Iris told me that in the future, Sister Josie would be my partner. She said Josie started making videos less than a month ago, that she learned quickly, and now she could do her duty independently. Later, when I discussed work with Josie, she explained the workflow to me very skillfully, and discussed with me how to divide labor, cooperate, and so on. She certainly seemed like she knew what she was doing. I knew I was less competent than Josie, but to stop Iris from seeing the gap between me and Josie, I became very cautious around her, and I worried about exposing my shortcomings. When I had problems I couldn’t solve, I tried to read as much information as possible and solve them myself instead of asking her. Although I worked hard, my progress was slow. When our leader came to look into our work, there were many details I couldn’t grasp. Josie answered nearly all of our leader’s questions. This made me depressed, and I felt like I was useless. Soon, more than a week had passed, and because I still couldn’t work independently, Iris hadn’t been able to leave and start her new duty. This made me even more embarrassed and made me feel weak, but I was still totally unwilling to open up to Iris about my state, worrying that if she learned I easily got depressed because I didn’t learn fast, she might think my stature was small, my caliber was low, and that I was incompetent. During that time, I didn’t want to let anyone see my terrible state. I just wanted to get familiar with things and start work as soon as possible, so Iris could finally leave and I didn’t have to embarrass myself in front of her every day. But my growth was still very slow, and I couldn’t feel God’s guidance at all. In pain, I came before God to pray and seek, and asked God to help me know myself.
One day, I read in God’s word, “What disposition is it when people always put up a front, always whitewash themselves, always put on a pretense so that others think highly of them, and cannot see their faults or shortcomings, when they always try to present their best side to people? This is arrogance, fakery, hypocrisy, it is the disposition of Satan, it is something evil” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct). “People themselves are objects of creation. Can objects of creation achieve omnipotence? Can they achieve perfection and flawlessness? Can they achieve proficiency in everything, come to understand everything, see through everything, and be capable of everything? They cannot. However, within humans, there are corrupt dispositions, and a fatal weakness: As soon as they learn a skill or profession, people feel that they are capable, that they are people with status and worth, and that they are professionals. No matter how unexceptional they are, they all want to package themselves as some famous or lofty figure, to turn themselves into some minor celebrity, and make people think they are perfect and flawless, without a single defect; in the eyes of others, they wish to become famous, powerful, some great figure, and they want to become mighty, capable of anything, with nothing they cannot do. They feel that if they sought others’ help, they would appear incapable, weak, and inferior, and that people would look down on them. For this reason, they always want to keep up a front. Some people, when asked to do something, say they know how to do it, when they actually do not. Afterward, in secret, they look it up and try to learn how to do it, but after studying it for several days, they still do not understand how to do it. When asked how they are getting on with it, they say, ‘Soon, soon!’ But in their hearts, they’re thinking, ‘I’m not there yet, I have no idea, I don’t know what to do! I must not give myself away, I must continue putting on a front, I can’t let people see my shortcomings and ignorance, I can’t let them look down on me!’ What problem is this? This is a living hell of trying to save face at all costs. What kind of disposition is this? Such people’s arrogance knows no bounds, they have lost all sense! They do not wish to be like everyone else, they don’t want to be ordinary people, normal people, but superhuman, some lofty individual, some hotshot. This is such a huge problem! With regard to the weaknesses, shortcomings, ignorance, foolishness, and lack of understanding within normal humanity, they will wrap it all up, and not let other people see it, and then keep on disguising themselves” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Five Conditions That Must Be Met to Embark on the Right Track of Belief in God). God’s word precisely revealed my state. After I took over the job, all I thought about was how to master the work as soon as possible, so that everyone could see I had good caliber and was able to work. When I took over, I learned that Iris was in a hurry to leave. I obviously couldn’t master so many professional processes in such a short period, but even something like, “I can’t remember that much, I’d like you to teach me a few more days,” was something I didn’t dare say. I even played tricks and deliberately made suggestions to my sister to prove I had professional caliber. I didn’t want Iris to see that I was inferior to Josie, so I covered up and disguised myself even more, and I was very cautious around Iris because I feared inadvertently exposing my shortcomings. Because this was the moment to take over the job, the leader and my brothers and sisters were all watching how I performed, and I worried that once my caliber and true stature were exposed, people would look down on me. If the leader noticed I had no caliber and wasn’t suitable to make videos and removed me, that would be very embarrassing. So, I didn’t want to ask when I had questions and difficulties. I always covered myself up and disguised myself this way, so how could I make progress? When people start a new duty, everything is unfamiliar, so it’s normal for there to be many things they don’t understand. On top of that, my work abilities were lacking, so I needed to ask questions and seek more, but I was far too arrogant. I wanted to prove that I was fine on my own and could handle the work, so I always pretended to understand things and disguised myself, which hindered my understanding of things, delayed the handing over of work, and made it impossible for Iris to leave. What I did was actually harmful. I delayed our work and didn’t once feel guilty, all the while worrying that people would see my true ability or that I would be looked down on. I was completely unreasonable.
Later, I found a path of practice in God’s word. Almighty God says, “You must seek the truth to resolve any problem that arises, no matter what it is, and by no means disguise yourself or put on a false face for others. Your shortcomings, your deficiencies, your faults, your corrupt dispositions—be completely open about them all, and fellowship about them all. Do not keep them inside. Learning how to open yourself up is the first step toward entering into life, and it is the first hurdle, which is the most difficult to overcome. Once you have overcome it, entering the truth is easy. What does taking this step signify? It means that you are opening your heart and showing everything you have, good or bad, positive or negative; baring yourself for others and for God to see; hiding nothing from God, concealing nothing, disguising nothing, free of deceit and trickery, and being likewise open and honest with other people. In this way, you live in the light, and not only will God scrutinize you, but other people, too, will also be able to see that you act with principle and a degree of transparency. You do not need to use any methods to protect your reputation, image, and status, nor do you need to cover up or disguise your mistakes. You do not need to engage in these useless efforts. If you can let these things go, you will be very relaxed, you will live without shackles or pain, and you will live entirely in the light. Learning how to be open when you fellowship is the first step to entering into life. Next, you need to learn to analyze your thoughts and actions to see which are wrong and which God does not like, and you need to reverse them immediately and rectify them. What is the purpose of rectifying them? It is to accept and take on board the truth, while rejecting the things within you that belong to Satan and replacing them with the truth. Before, you did everything according to your crafty disposition which is mendacious and deceitful; you felt that you could get nothing done without lying. Now that you understand the truth, and despise Satan’s ways of doing things, you no longer act that way, you act with a mentality of honesty, purity, and obedience. If you hold nothing back, if you do not put on a front, a pretense, a facade, if you lay yourself bare to the brothers and sisters, do not hide your innermost ideas and thoughts, but instead allow others to see your honest attitude, then the truth will gradually take root in you, it will blossom and bear fruit, it will yield results, little-by-little. If your heart is increasingly honest, and increasingly oriented toward God, and if you know to protect the interests of God’s house when you perform your duty, and your conscience is troubled when you fail to protect these interests, then this is proof that the truth has had an effect in you, and has become your life” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). After reading God’s words, I realized if you have shortcomings or a corrupt disposition, and always disguise yourself to create an illusion for others, this is cunning and deceitful, and is done out of a satanic nature. If you do this, you will never enter into the truth. I should be bare and open about both my good and bad sides, and I should be honest with other people and God. This way, my heart would become more and more honest, I could live in God’s presence, my problems and deviations could be reversed in time, and it could prevent me from taking the mistaken path of pursuing fame and status. After I had the path of practice, I opened up and talked to Iris about my state. Unexpectedly, Iris said, after I opened up, she also realized she hadn’t fulfilled her responsibilities. She was only thinking about taking over her new duty, so she hadn’t properly handed over the work. She also said she would leave only after I understood things. I was very moved when I heard this. I experienced how, by opening up and showing others your own shortcomings and deficiencies, you can get their help and support, you can partner with them in your duties, and more importantly, you can do things with an honest and obedient attitude. This is living in God’s presence and being responsible with my duty, which can earn God’s approval. After that, I truthfully told my sister about my grasp of the work, and she helped me in a targeted manner, which taught me a lot. I also realized the reason why it was so hard for me to do my duty, which was that I wanted to get familiar with and master the work all at once to prove I had the ability to do the work, which made me lose the ability to prioritize tasks and delayed my progress. After that, I categorized the work in order of importance and urgency, so I could do things in a targeted and organized manner, and I quickly became familiar with the work. Through this experience, I tasted the sweetness of practicing the truth. I also saw the importance of having the right intentions and an honest attitude in my duty. Only in this way can I gain God’s guidance and blessings. After that, when I encountered problems I didn’t understand, I proactively sought with my brothers and sisters to find solutions. After practicing this way for a while, I thought my desire for reputation and status had lessened, and in my practice of opening up and being an honest person, I achieved some entry. But soon, I denied my view of myself.
About a month later, because I wasn’t up to the job, and the workload was less, my leader arranged for me to go back to my previous job of watering newcomers. This felt very embarrassing, and I didn’t want to face the brothers and sisters I used to water newcomers with. I wanted to escape and preach the gospel instead, but returning to my job of watering newcomers was set in stone. I felt like a deflated ball, with my head slumped, unable to lift myself up. A sister near me saw that my state wasn’t right, sent me a passage of God’s word about obedience, and said she wanted to chat with me. I was immediately on alert, “Did my sister see I was in a bad state? Would she look down on me if she knew I was cut from my previous group? If she knew I was negative because I couldn’t let go of my image, would she think I believed in God for years without gaining any of the realities of truth? Would she think I was someone who didn’t pursue the truth?” So, I politely defended myself, “Now that video work no longer needs so many people, I would have been transferred sooner or later. Sister Melanie was also transferred back.” I mentioned Melanie because she originally supervised watering work, and if she was back, it was normal that I was back too. After my sister heard this, she didn’t ask anything more. I told myself that at this juncture, I couldn’t be weak. I had to be strong and actively perform my duty, so that everyone could see I didn’t mind being transferred, and that I could submit to it. I tried my best to disguise myself and pretend to be strong, but I actually felt miserable and depressed. Sometimes I thought of how I rejected my sister’s help and I regretted it, “She kindly offered me help, so why did I reject her to protect my image? Why couldn’t I simply open up to her?”
Later, a passage of God’s word sent by a sister gave me some insight into my state. Almighty God says, “Corrupt human beings are good at disguising themselves. No matter what they do or what corruption they display, they always have to disguise themselves. If something goes wrong or they do something wrong, they want to put the blame on others. They want credit for good things to go to themselves, and blame for bad things to go to others. Isn’t there a lot of disguise like this that goes on in real life? There is too much. Making mistakes or disguise: which of these relates to disposition? Disguise is a matter of disposition, it involves an arrogant disposition, evil, and treachery; it is especially disdained by God. In fact, when you disguise yourself, everyone understands what is happening, but you think others don’t see it, and you try your best to argue and justify yourself in an effort to save face and make everyone think you did nothing wrong. Isn’t this stupid? What do others think about this? How do they feel? Sick and disgusted. If, having made a mistake, you can treat it correctly, and can allow everyone else to talk about it, permitting their commentary and discernment about it, and you can open up about it and analyze it, what will everyone’s opinion of it be? They will say you are an honest person, for your heart is open to God. Through your actions and behavior, they will be able to see your heart. But if you try to disguise yourself and deceive everyone, people will think little of you, and say you are a fool and an unwise person. If you do not try and put on a pretense or make excuses, if you can admit your mistakes, everyone will say you are honest and wise. And what makes you wise? Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has faults and flaws. And actually, everyone has the same corrupt disposition. Do not think yourself more noble, perfect, and kind than others; that is being utterly unreasonable. Once people’s corrupt dispositions and the essence and true face of man’s corruption are clear to you, you will not try to cover up your own mistakes, nor will you turn the screws on others when they make a mistake, but will face both correctly. Only then will you be insightful and not do stupid things, which will make you someone wise. Those who are not wise are foolish people, and they always dwell on their minor mistakes while being sneaky behind the scenes. It is disgusting to see. In fact, what you’re doing is immediately obvious to other people, yet you are still blatantly putting on an act. To others, it looks like a clown performance. Isn’t this stupid? It really is. Stupid people don’t have any wisdom. No matter how many sermons they hear, they still don’t understand the truth or see anything for what it really is. They are always on their high horse, thinking they are different from everyone else and they are more respectable; this is arrogance and self-righteousness, this is foolishness” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct). I was the fool revealed in God’s word, always performing in front of others, just like a clown. During those days, due to my transfer, I thought I lost fame and status, and developed misunderstandings and negativity. My sister wanted to help me, but I didn’t open up to seek the truth with her to solve my problems and difficulties. Instead, I immediately put my guard up. I was suspicious that she saw I was negative and disobedient, so I tried to figure out how to cover up my weakness and smooth things over for myself. I was so deceitful! Although I deceived my sister by doing this, and my image was preserved, I couldn’t get support and help from her. My negative state couldn’t be resolved in a timely manner, and I lived in darkness and pain. Wasn’t this foolish? I did it to myself, and I deserved to suffer! In all my years of believing in God, my corrupt disposition hadn’t changed much, and whenever my image or status was involved, I would always involuntarily cover myself up and disguise myself. I never confided in my brothers and sisters, and I passed every day in darkness like a prisoner in bondage to Satan. I was miserable and weak, and I couldn’t escape. I was truly pitiful! I prayed to God over and over, “God, I always disguise myself in order to be admired, and I live in misery. Please help me and lead me so that I can understand and hate myself and genuinely repent and change.”
One day, I read a passage of God’s word revealing antichrists. Almighty God says, “Regardless of the context, no matter what duty they perform, the antichrist will try and give the impression that they aren’t weak, that they are always strong, full of confidence, never negative. They never reveal their real stature or real attitude toward God. In fact, in the depths of their heart, do they really believe there is nothing they cannot do? Do they genuinely believe that they are without weakness, negativity, or outpourings of corruption? Absolutely not. They are good at putting on an act, adept at hiding things. They like showing people their strong and honorable side; they don’t want them to see the side of them that is weak and true. Their purpose is obvious: It is, quite simply, to keep face, to protect the place they have in people’s hearts. They think that if they open up before others about their own negativity and weakness, if they reveal the side of them that is rebellious and corrupt, this will be grievous damage to their status and reputation—more trouble than it’s worth. So they would rather keep their weakness, rebelliousness, and negativity strictly to themselves. And if a day does come when everyone sees the side of them that is weak and rebellious, when they see that they are corrupt, and have not changed at all, they will still keep putting on an act. They think that if they admit to having a corrupt disposition, to being an ordinary person, someone who is small and insignificant, then they will lose their place in people’s hearts, will lose everyone’s veneration and adoration, and thus will have utterly failed. And so, whatever happens, they will not simply open up to people; whatever happens, they will not give their power and status to anyone else; instead, they try as hard as they can to compete, and will never give up. … They never reveal their weaknesses to the brothers and sisters, nor do they ever recognize their own deficiencies and shortcomings; instead, they do their utmost to cover them up. People ask them, ‘You’ve believed in God for so many years, have you ever had any doubts about God?’ They reply, ‘No.’ They are asked, ‘Have you ever regretted giving up everything in expenditure for God?’ They reply, ‘No.’ ‘When you were ill and miserable, did you miss home?’ And they reply, ‘Never.’ So you see, antichrists portray themselves as staunch, strong-willed, and able to forsake and suffer, as someone who is simply flawless and without any faults or problems. If someone points out their corruption and shortcomings, treats them equally, as a normal brother or sister, and opens up and fellowships with them, how do they treat the matter? They do their utmost to vindicate and justify themselves, to prove they are correct, and ultimately to make people see that they have no problems, and that they are a perfect, spiritual person. Is it not all a pretense? Any who think themselves flawless and holy are, all of them, imposters. Why do I say all of them are imposters? Tell Me, is there anyone flawless amid corrupt humanity? Is there anyone who is truly holy? (No.) Of course not. How can man achieve flawlessness when they are so deeply corrupted by Satan and, besides, not innately possessed of the truth? Only God is holy; all corrupt humanity is defiled. If a person were to present themselves as holy, saying they were flawless, what would that person be? They would be a devil, Satan, the archangel—they would be a bona fide antichrist. Only an antichrist would claim to be a flawless and holy person” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Ten)). After reading God’s word, I felt very distressed. To maintain their position and image among people, antichrists use disguise and falsity to deceive and mislead people, and make themselves appear to be perfect and spiritual people that never feel weakness or expose corruption. They do this to occupy a position among people and make people look up to them. I looked at my behavior and saw that it was the same as an antichrist. I always pretended and disguised myself when I spoke and acted. When I made a video, I didn’t open up to seek about my questions and difficulties, and I preferred to delay work to maintain my status and image. When I was transferred, I feared my sister would find out I had been cut, and that she would look down on me, so I made an excuse to cover up the facts, and I tried to make others think I had returned because of work needs. My method was despicable! I also reflected on the fact that no matter whether I was having difficulties or negativity, I rarely opened up for fear of being looked down upon, and even if I did, it was only perfunctory. Most of the time, I only talked about my positive practice to make people think I had stature and could practice the truth once I understood it. I worked so hard to manage my own image and status, all I said and did were disguise and pretense. When I faced failures and setbacks, I tried to show greater stature than others to make people look up to me. I thought of the antichrists expelled from the church. There were many of them who often spoke words of doctrine, shouted slogans, and disguised themselves as devoted pursuers of truth, as if they hadn’t been corrupted by Satan. Even though they were admired and worshiped for a while, their nature was of disliking and despising the truth, and eventually, because of their doing much evil, they were revealed and cast out by God. God tolerates no offense to His disposition. God condemns such hypocrites, and He doesn’t save such people at all. If I refused to pursue the truth, and always disguised myself based on my satanic disposition, it wasn’t just a matter of harming my life. I would be condemned and cast out by God! I realized my state was very dangerous. I didn’t want to be hypocritical anymore. I just wanted to repent and change.
In the days that followed, I consciously searched for parts of God’s word related to being an honest person. One passage I found said, “No matter what happens, if you are to not lie, if you are to be someone honest, then you must put aside your own pride and vanity. If you don’t understand something, say so; if something is not clear to you, say so. Do not be afraid of people underestimating you or looking down on you. If you always speak from the heart and are genuine, there will be joy and peace in your heart, and freedom and liberty, and you will no longer be controlled by your own vanity and pride. An honest attitude means that no matter who you are interacting with, you are able to express what’s in your heart, you are able to lay your heart bare, and never pretend when you don’t understand something. And what should you do if there are times when people look down on you, and say you’re stupid, because everything you say is genuine? Say, ‘Even if you all say I’m stupid, I’m going to be honest, and not crafty, I’m going to speak truthfully. And although I’m filthy and corrupt, and I’m nothing before God, still I am not going to lie, or put on a pretense, or be fake.’ When you speak thus, in your heart you will be at peace and steadfast. Being honest requires putting aside your vanity and pride, being unafraid of being ridiculed or looked down upon by others because your words are genuine and spoken from the heart; it means not arguing with or trying to justify yourself when people treat you like an idiot. If you can practice the truth in this way, you will be able to become someone honest” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Being Honest Can One Live as a True Human Being). God’s word gave me a path of practice. No matter what corruption or weakness we have, or if there are things we don’t understand, and no matter what others think, only by opening up about ourselves, seeking the truth, and pursuing being an honest person can we gradually escape the bondage and control of our corrupt dispositions, and live with freedom and release. I swore to myself that I was ready to practice according to God’s word and pursue being a simple and open person. After returning to watering newcomers, I no longer disguised myself the way I used to. At gatherings, I opened up to my brothers and sisters about my real state during this period. Although I exposed the ugly fact of how I maintained my image and status to everyone, at least they knew about my real state. By doing this, it was as if a heavy burden had been lifted from my heart, and I felt a great sense of release and ease. Also, my brothers and sisters didn’t look down on me, and they were able to learn some lessons from my experience. My leader fellowshiped, helped, and supported me after learning about my state, which gave me some awareness of the dangers and consequences of my pursuit of fame and status.
Through this experience, I realized that being honest instead of disguising myself represents an attitude of true repentance before God. Only by practicing the truth and being an honest person can the road become ever wider and brighter.