5. The Struggle to Speak Honestly
By Weniela, the Philippines
I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days in 2017. My time fellowshiping with brothers and sisters was so happy for me because I always got to learn more truths and gain something from each gathering. At first it was all through text chatting, that is, we were typing all of our communication online. So I didn’t hold anything back, and I was really active in talking about my understanding of God’s words. The leaders would often say I had a good understanding and brothers and sisters looked up to me. They said they liked hearing my fellowship and that my English was good. I was thrilled to hear their praise and I felt I was doing okay. Then a sister suggested we start doing voice calls for gatherings, and problems started to come to the fore.
In the first voice call gathering, after we read God’s words, a couple of sisters shared their understanding of the passage first. I was nervous and didn’t really hear their fellowship. It had all been by text before, so I wasn’t really used to direct fellowship by voice. Vocal communication is my weak point. When it was by text I could pick my words and smooth things out. But using live chat, I didn’t have enough time to prepare. Though I had some understanding of God’s words, I was afraid that my fellowship would be chaotic and disorganized, that my English wouldn’t be fluent, and I was afraid of brothers and sisters being disappointed in me. I was preoccupied with these problems for the entire gathering. I was hesitating on whether I should share or not. If I didn’t, the others would be sure to think I wasn’t actively engaged in fellowship, and the leaders would be disappointed in me. But if I did, I’d have to turn on the microphone, and I was afraid that if I did poorly, the brothers and sisters would look down on me. It would ruin my good image with them. These thoughts made me so nervous I couldn’t get anything out. The two sisters who had converted me were in the gathering, and I thought they would be disappointed if I didn’t fellowship well. Then Flora Shi, a leader, said to me, “Sister Weniela, can you share? Everyone else has. Did you forget to share fellowship?” Her tone of voice made me feel like she was disappointed. I felt really awkward and embarrassed. To hide this shortcoming of mine and maintain my image in their eyes, I decided that from then on I’d write out what I wanted to fellowship before the gathering, and then I could just read it out when it was my turn. Then I wouldn’t be so nervous. They’d think I was a fluent speaker and that my fellowship was on point. I thought this was a good idea.
One evening, a couple of sisters from China hosted our gathering. We all used English to communicate out of convenience. Some brothers and sisters were really shy because their English wasn’t very good, but they were still able to fellowship on their understanding of God’s words. When it was my turn, I was really active in my fellowship and I sounded very confident because I’d written out what I wanted to say beforehand. I was the last one to fellowship. I’d done my best to speak totally naturally so they wouldn’t notice I was reading. Afterward, they all complimented my fellowship and said it was helpful for them and that my English was great. I was secretly pleased to hear their praise and felt like I’d won them over. Then I was elected to be group leader and I focused even more on what the others thought of me. But I started to feel guilty and kind of uneasy whenever the others praised me because I wasn’t allowing them to see the real me. I didn’t feel right about it, but I still kept doing the same things. In gatherings I wasn’t truly listening to the others’ fellowship because I was busy writing out my own understanding. I was always focused on writing something that sounded good to satisfy my vanity and safeguard my reputation. It kept me from getting more out of those gatherings and they lost their meaning to me. I knew that acting this way was bad, and I wanted to change, to tell the others the truth, but I didn’t dare take that step. I was afraid that if the others knew I’d been writing my fellowship out in advance, they’d look down on me and they might say I was really disingenuous, that I was lying and being deceitful. I wanted to stop doing that plenty of times because it wasn’t benefitting me at all, and it left me really uneasy, but that anxiety didn’t hold any weight in comparison to my image and others’ admiration because I cared more about my face and reputation. But every time I did these things, I felt incredibly guilty. I even tried to convince myself that I was just doing it so I could share my understanding more clearly and accurately, and then the others would be able to understand what I was saying better. I kept telling myself it was okay, but my uneasiness and guilt kept tormenting me. I thought to myself, “If I can let go of my pride and tell everyone the truth, I’ll be able to escape this. But I’m scared that if they find out that my English really isn’t great, they’ll laugh at me. Then how could I face them?” I struggled with this for a long time, but I still didn’t manage to open my heart up. Not knowing what else to do, I tried working on my language skills. I practiced fellowshiping on my own at home, recording myself and then listening to see how it sounded. I thought, “If I can improve my speaking skills in this way, then I won’t have to keep writing my fellowship out in advance, and could just share directly. Then there’d be no need to tell everyone the truth. As long as I can still fellowship well and my English sounds fluent, I’ll hold on to their respect for me.” But no matter how much I practiced, I got nervous every time when fellowshiping at gatherings, so I’d just read my fellowship like I’d been doing all along. I was very disappointed in myself and because I was trapped in a negative state my duties were impacted. I ended up being dismissed.
One time in a gathering, a sister shared this passage of God’s words, they moved me a lot, the words of God say: “If you wish for others to trust you, first you must be honest. To be an honest person, you must first lay your heart bare so that everyone can look into it, see all that you are thinking, and glimpse your true face; you must not try to disguise or package yourself to look good. Only then will others trust you and consider you honest. This is the most fundamental practice, and the prerequisite, of being an honest person. You are always pretending, always feigning holiness, virtuousness, greatness, and feigning high moral qualities. You do not let people see your corruption and your failings. You present a false image to people so that they believe you are upstanding, great, self-sacrificing, impartial, and selfless. Is this not deceitfulness and falsity? Will people not be able to see through you after a while? So, do not put on a disguise, and do not package yourself; instead, lay yourself and your heart bare for others to see. If you can lay your heart bare for others to see, and lay bare all your thoughts and plans—both positive and negative—then are you not being honest? If you can lay yourself bare for others to see, then God, too, will see you and say, ‘You have laid yourself bare for others to see, and so you are surely honest before Me, too.’ If you only lay yourself bare to God when out of view of other people, and always pretend to be great and virtuous or just and selfless when in their company, then what will God think and say? He will say, ‘You are genuinely deceitful; you are purely hypocritical and petty; and you are not an honest person.’ God will condemn you thusly. If you wish to be an honest person, then regardless of when you are before God or other people, you should be able to provide a pure and open account of the states inside you and the words of your heart. Is this easy to achieve? It requires a period of training as well as frequent prayer to God and reliance on Him. You must practice speaking simply and openly from the heart in all things. With this kind of practice, you can make progress. If you encounter a major difficulty, you must pray to God and seek the truth; you need to do battle in your heart and overcome the flesh, until you are putting the truth into practice. In training yourself so, little by little, your heart will gradually open up, and you will grow more ingenuous, and what you say and do will have a different effect from before. Your lies and fraud will grow fewer, and you will be able to live before God. You will then basically have become an honest person” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person). From God’s word I saw that God likes honest people, and He doesn’t like deviousness or dishonesty. Whether it’s something pretty or ugly, we have to open up our hearts in fellowship, speak without lying, and be without deviousness in our hearts. We must not pretend to be something we’re not before others, and we must not mask ourselves. That is being honest. I felt so guilty when I read these words of God because I wasn’t an honest person. I really wanted to open up to everyone, to let go of my vanity and reputation, but even though I’d tried to quite a few times, I never was able to do this. I craved face too much. I was imprisoned by my own vanity. I saw that I really was incredibly corrupt. I felt really guilty and vexed at the same time. I thought to myself: “Why am I always pretending, giving people a false positive impression of me? Why can’t I practice the truth and stop lying? Was my faith in God all for nothing? Were all those gatherings and all that pursuit of the truth in vain?” I felt like I couldn’t escape the bonds of my own vanity. I wanted to leave our group and take some time to readjust myself into the right state, and once I had properly readjusted my state, I could come back to gatherings and stop doing those things. So I dropped out of the group and stopped using my account, wanting to be alone and reflect on myself. I was really upset and frustrated for a while, and lonely, too. I was really disappointed in myself. I’d been a believer for two years, but I was still struggling to be honest and let go of my vanity. I cared too much about others’ opinion of me. Just imagining the others’ reactions after knowing the truth would make me feel really ashamed.
All I could do during that time was read God’s words. One day I saw this passage: “To pursue the truth, one must focus on practicing the truth, but where should one begin to practice the truth? There are no rules for this. You should practice whichever aspects of the truth you understand. If you have just started a duty, then you should start with the performance of your duty. In the performance of your duty, there are many aspects of the truth to practice, so you should practice whichever aspects of the truth you understand. For example, you can start by being an honest person, by speaking honestly, and by opening your heart. If there is something about which you are too embarrassed to speak with your brothers and sisters, then you should kneel down and tell it to God through prayer. What should you say to God? Tell God what is in your heart; do not give empty pleasantries or attempt to deceive Him. Start with being honest. If you have been weak, then say you have been weak; if you have been evil, then say you have been evil; if you have been deceitful, then say you have been deceitful; if you have had vicious and insidious thoughts, tell God about them. If you are always competing for position, tell Him this, too. Let God discipline you; let Him arrange an environment for you. Allow God to help you get through all of your difficulties and resolve all of your problems. You should open up your heart to God; do not keep it shut. Even if you shut Him out, He can still see into you. However, if you open up your heart to Him, you can gain the truth. So which path should you choose? You should open up your heart and speak honestly with God. By no means should you say anything false or disguise yourself. You should start by being an honest person. For years, we have been fellowshiping truths about being honest, and yet today there are still many people who remain indifferent, who speak and act only according to their own intentions, desires, and aims, and to whom it has never occurred to repent. This is not the attitude of people who are honest. Why does God ask people to be honest? Is it to make it easier to understand people? Certainly not. God requires people to be honest because God likes and blesses honest people. Being an honest person means being a person with conscience and reason. It means being someone who is trustworthy, someone who God likes, and someone who can practice the truth and achieve the love of God. Being an honest person is the most fundamental manifestation of possessing normal humanity and living out a true human likeness. If someone has never been honest, or considered being honest, then they cannot understand the truth, much less can they gain the truth. If you don’t believe Me, go and see for yourself, or go and experience this for yourself. Only by being an honest person can your heart be open to God, can you accept the truth, can the truth become your life, and can you understand and gain the truth. If your heart is always closed, if you don’t open up, and if you say nothing to anyone, such that no one can understand you, then your walls are too high, and you are the most deceitful of people. If you believe in God yet can’t open yourself up to God, if you can lie to God or exaggerate to deceive God, if you are incapable of speaking honestly to God, and can still speak in circles and hide your intentions, then you will only harm yourself, and God will ignore you and not work in you. You won’t understand any of the truth, and you won’t gain any of the truth” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Six Indicators of Life Growth). This passage showed me that understanding the truth is more important than anything, more than my face and my vanity. To gain the truth, I had to start with being honest. One is one, and two is two—no more pretending or cheating. For quite a while, I’d been putting on an act, deceiving the others. I’d write out what I wanted to fellowship so they’d think I had a good understanding and I spoke English well, then they’d keep praising me and looking up to me. Although I was riddled with guilt and anxiety, I didn’t have the courage to open up to the brothers and sisters. I didn’t want them to see my inadequacies and look down on me, to say I was a liar. I even preferred leaving our group over telling them the truth. I really was devious. I realized that being so depressed was the harm that Satan was doing to me and that living in this way was holding me back in my life entry. It could even ruin me. I should muster up the courage to tell the others what was really in my heart so I could actually practice some honesty. No matter how awkward it was to tell the truth, I knew I had to get away from doing things the wrong way. God likes honest people and is disgusted by devious people. If I kept putting on an act, giving the others a false impression and not being forthright, I’d keep living in darkness and I’d never be able to gain the Holy Spirit’s work. I’d never gain the truth. I had to open myself wide to God so that He could help me resolve this deceptiveness within me. So I said a prayer, asking God to guide me to practice the truth and be an honest person.
Later on, I finally opened up and fellowshiped with our leader, Sister Connie. I told her why I’d left our group and disabled my account. After hearing me out, Sister Connie said, “I’d never look down on you for that, and I really appreciate your honesty.” I was incredibly relieved to open up and fellowship with her. I truly experienced how wonderful it is to be honest, because practicing the truth freed me from all of my anxiety. Sister Connie also gave me some advice, that when I’m sharing my understanding of God’s words, I don’t need to speak really eloquently or to share any sort of high-level theories. It’s enough for it to come from the heart, for it to be what I really feel and know. I took her suggestion and felt ready to put it into practice.
Later on, another sister sent me a passage of God’s words that was very enlightening. The words of God say: “Instead of searching for the truth, most people have their own petty agendas. Their own interests, face, and the place or standing they hold in other people’s eyes are of great importance to them. These are the only things they cherish. They cling to for dear life. And how they are viewed or treated by God is of secondary importance; for the moment, they ignore that; for the moment, they only consider whether they are the boss of the group, whether other people look up to them, and whether their words carry weight. Their first concern is with occupying that position. When they are in a group, almost all people look for this kind of standing, these kinds of opportunities. When they’re highly talented, of course they want to be top dog; if they are of middling ability, they’ll still want to hold a higher position in the group; and if they hold a low position in the group, being of average caliber and abilities, they, too, will want others to look up to them, they won’t want others to look down on them. These people’s face and dignity are where they draw the line: They have to hold on to these things. They could have no integrity, and be possessed of neither God’s approval nor assent, but in a group, they never miss the chance to jockey for face, status, and the admiration of others—which is the disposition of Satan. But people have no awareness of this. It is their belief that they must cling to this scrap of face to the very end. They are not aware that only when these vain and superficial things are completely relinquished and put aside will they become a real person. If a person guards these things that should be discarded as their life, their fate is lost. They do not know what is at stake. And so, when they act, they always hold something back, they always try to protect their own face and status, they put these first, speaking only for their own ends, to their own spurious defense. Everything they do is for themselves. They rush to anything that shines, letting everyone know they were a part of it. It didn’t actually have anything to do with them, but they never want to be left in the background, they’re always afraid of other people looking down on them, they’re always fearful of other people saying they’re nothing, that they are incapable of anything, that they have no skills. Is this all not directed by their satanic dispositions? When you are able to let go of things like face and status, you will be much more relaxed and freer; you will have set foot on the path to being honest. But for many, this is not easy to achieve. When the camera appears, for example, people scramble to the front; they like having their face on camera, the more coverage the better; they’re afraid of not getting enough coverage, and will pay any price for the chance to get it. And is this not all directed by their satanic dispositions? These are their satanic dispositions. So you get coverage—what then? People think highly of you—so what? They idolize you—so what? Does any of this prove you have the reality of the truth? None of this has any value. When you can overcome these things—when you become indifferent to them, and no longer feel them important, when face, vanity, status, and people’s admiration no longer control your thoughts and behavior, much less how you perform your duty—then your performance of your duty will become ever more effective, and ever more pure” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). God exposes how people value their face and status more than their lives, and the first thing they think of when faced with something is their reputation, vanity, and position, and not God’s will at all. God doesn’t want us to put on an act, and He doesn’t want us to put our reputation first or pursue our status among people. These things aren’t what help us gain God’s approval, and they can’t make us change our dispositions or be saved. Name and status are methods that Satan uses to corrupt and bind us, and pursuing these things makes us more and more vain and devious. That way we ultimately lose God’s salvation. God doesn’t like devious people and He doesn’t want people to play games to gain others’ praise or admiration. He wants us to let go of our reputation and status, to pursue the truth and be honest people. Whether it’s before God or before others, we can’t be deceitful or disingenuous. I’d consistently failed to open up and share my struggles with the others because I was too concerned with my face and vanity. Firmly in the clutches of my satanic disposition, I was unable to practice the truth. My desire for face and status was too strong.
Later on I read another passage of God’s words: “Would you say that using small favors to buy people off and draw people in, or showing off, or deceiving people with illusions is the right path to take, despite how many benefits and how much satisfaction a person using such means might outwardly seem to obtain? Is it a path of pursuing the truth? Is it a path that can bring about one’s salvation? Very clearly not. These methods and tricks, regardless of how brilliantly they might have been conceived, could not fool God, and are all ultimately condemned and loathed by God, because hidden behind such behaviors is personal ambition and a sort of attitude and essence of wishing to put oneself against Him. Deep down, God would absolutely never recognize such a person as one who is fulfilling their duty, and would instead define them as an evildoer. What is God’s conclusion when dealing with evildoers? ‘Depart from Me, you that work iniquity!’ When God says, ‘Depart from Me,’ where does He want such people to go? He is handing them over to Satan, to the places inhabited by throngs of Satans. What is the ultimate consequence for them? They are tormented to death by evil spirits, which is to say they are swallowed by Satan. God no longer wants this kind of person. Not wanting them means He would not save them. They are not one of God’s flock, let alone one of His followers, so they are not among the ones He will save. This is how such a person is defined” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item One). From God’s words I saw that people are hypocritical and fake to steal a place in other people’s hearts. Though they gain others’ respect and their ambitions and desires are satisfied, what do they get in the end? By acting in this way they can fool people for a moment, but they can’t fool God. In the end they will be spurned and cast out by God. Because God is holy, He hates those who don’t pursue the truth and harbor their own intentions, who want to occupy a place in others’ hearts. He sees them as evildoers and He doesn’t acknowledge the duties they do. I reflected on my behavior and realized that I had truly taken the path of opposing God, because all of my thoughts and actions were for the sake of being praised and admired by others. If I kept on this way, ultimately I’d just be ruined. At this thought I had several fears, I was afraid that I would be abandoned by God, I was afraid that God would hand me over to Satan, and I was afraid that I would lose the salvation of God. I genuinely wanted to change and escape that state, to be my true self, and to never again lie or be deceitful.
But when the time to truly practice came, at the thought of opening up to the brothers and sisters about my corruption and shortcomings, I really hesitated. Then I saw another passage of God’s words that gave me courage. The word of 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). From God’s word I understood that God’s words really can change people. When we learn how to open up about our true corruption and seek the truth, our mistaken ideas and corrupt dispositions can gradually be changed. God exposed my wrong thinking and revealed my mistaken pursuit of name and status, then guided me through His words to find the correct path of practice. I had to take the first step to open up to the others, to stop thinking of my name and face, to stop being devious, deceitful, and disingenuous. I had to practice God’s words and allow them to lead the way within me.
That Sunday morning, I joined the gathering like usual and told myself I had to be genuine. I prayed, “Dear God, this time I want to practice the truth, to escape the bonds of Satan and reveal my hypocrisy and deceit. Even if they look down on me, I just want to be an honest person to satisfy You. Please help me so that I can be open and honest.” I felt more relaxed after this prayer. During our gathering, I really gave thought to God’s words and diligently listened to the others’ fellowship on their experience and understanding, and I wasn’t using that time to write out my own fellowship, and I didn’t think about what sort of fellowship everyone else would like. When I did that, I gained new enlightenment from the others’ fellowship of their experiences. When I was about to fellowship, although I was quite nervous, I wasn’t thinking about how good or eloquent my fellowship was, and I didn’t mind what they would say after they knew. I talked about a passage of God’s words that had really moved me. “Honesty means giving your heart to God, being genuine with God in all things, being open with Him in all things, never hiding the facts, not trying to deceive those above and below you, and not doing things only to curry favor with God. In short, to be honest is to be pure in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man. … If you have many confidences that you are reluctant to share, if you are highly averse to laying bare your secrets—your difficulties—before others to seek the way of the light, then I say that you are someone who will not attain salvation easily, and who will not easily emerge from the darkness” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Three Admonitions). I related this passage of God’s words to my own experience, revealing to my brothers and sisters my absolute truest face. I told them, “All this time, I’ve been putting on a great act, pretending to speak fluent English. The truth is that I was writing out all of my fellowship beforehand and even recording it to practice so it would sound natural, so you’d all think I could fellowship well. It was just to gain your praise, and admiration. I’ve been deceiving you. …” I thought they’d be disappointed in me, but this wasn’t the case, they told me I didn’t need to worry about not fellowshiping well. God wants us to be genuine, not flowery and impractical. If I didn’t fellowship from the heart, and it was just literal doctrine, what good was that? I was so moved by this. They didn’t look down on me at all, and some of them said they could understand where I was coming from, and that my experience helped them. This was a pleasant surprise for me. After opening up to everyone about my corruption, I felt released. Satan uses vanity and reputation to bind me and keep me from practicing the truth, but when I learned about myself through God’s words, practicing being an honest person and opening up honestly, I felt I’d taken a step closer to God and removed these doubts and barriers between me and my brothers and sisters. For so long, I’d chosen to disguise myself in order to satisfy my vanity and revel in others’ praise, but that wasn’t what God wanted. In fact, I’d been hurting God for so long. But God was always forgiving and patient, waiting for me to turn around. I’m incredibly grateful for God’s love.
This experience taught me the paramount importance of pursuing the truth. The only way to escape the shackles of a satanic disposition is to be an honest person and practice the truth. The only way to gain true happiness and peace is to practice the truth. I used to be so sly, so hypocritical, but now I decide to practice the truth and be honest. This is what’s most important to me. All I want is for God to keep guiding me so that I can put more truth into practice.