59. The Bitterness of Being a People-pleaser
By Frankie, Greece
Last year, Brother Gabriel, who I was on the road preaching the gospel with, was dismissed. When I asked him about it, he told me that he hadn’t been doing a good job in his duty the last few years; he did things his own way and was willful, which seriously disrupted the church’s work, and so, he was dismissed. I felt bad he’d gotten to this point, and seeing him filled with so much regret and feeling so awful. Thinking back on our work together, I had noticed he muddled through his work and did things his own way. I wanted to point it out to him, to help him reflect and gain self-awareness, but just as I was about to open my mouth, I hesitated. I figured, “The leader has surely exposed and dealt with him plenty when dismissing him, so he must already be pretty miserable. If I say something too, won’t that just be rubbing salt in the wound? Wouldn’t he think I was lacking empathy? Besides, the leader must have already mentioned the issues I noticed, so I’ll just comfort him.” So I said to him, “I’m sure you’ve gained a lot of experience in all these years on the road sharing the gospel, or at least have a lot of insight. Lots of brothers and sisters in the church here are new believers who joined within the last few years; they don’t have much experience spreading the gospel. You’ll be able to help everyone when you are back home.” To my surprise, his response was, “Brother, hearing you say this upsets me. I thought you’d point out my problems and help me so I could reflect on myself and become more self-aware; this would have been beneficial to my life. But instead, you praise me even though I’ve sunk to this level, making me think my dismissal isn’t a big deal and that I’m more capable than the others. You’re being a people-pleaser, acting as Satan’s minion, pushing me closer to hell! These nice-sounding words aren’t edifying for people, so don’t say them anymore. This isn’t love, it’s actually harmful and destructive.” I felt really ashamed when I heard the brother say this, and just wanted to find a hole to crawl into. I was well aware that there hadn’t been much change to Gabriel’s corrupt disposition despite years of faith, and that he’d never had any obvious results in his duty, and that this was a dangerous state. Not only was I not pointing out his problems and helping him, I was just saying nice things. I was being disingenuous, polite, and complimentary in a secular way. Wasn’t that just playing with him and being deceitful? Gabriel’s current dismissal was a good chance for him to reflect and know himself better. If he could seek the truth, self-reflect, and gain true repentance, then this failure could be a turning point in his faith. But I was a stumbling block, spouting some insincere drivel to toy with, disrupt, and mislead him. I was being Satan’s minion. God does His utmost to save people, while Satan plots and schemes to disrupt and obstruct people, and pull people down into hell. That nonsense of mine was just harming my brother. I felt intense fear at this thought, so I found some of God’s words to read, and in God’s words, I began to reflect on and get to know this problem of mine.
I saw that God’s word says: “If you have a good relationship with a brother or a sister, and they ask you to point out what is wrong with them, how should you do it? This relates to what approach you take to the matter. Is your approach based on the principles of the truth, or do you use philosophies for living? If you can clearly see that someone has a problem, but don’t tell them outright so as to avoid confrontation, and you even make excuses, saying, ‘My stature is small now and I don’t understand your problems thoroughly. When I do, I’ll tell you,’ then what is the issue? This involves a philosophy for living. Is this not trying to fool others? You should speak of as much as you can see clearly; and if something is not evident to you, say so. This is saying what’s in your heart. If you have certain thoughts and certain things are evident to you, but you are afraid of offending people, terrified of hurting their feelings, and so choose to say nothing, then this is living by a worldly philosophy. If you discover that someone has a problem or has gone astray, even if you can’t help them with love, at the very least you must point out the problem so that they can reflect on it. If you ignore it, isn’t this doing them harm?” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Resolve Their Notions and Misunderstandings of God). And there was this passage about cunning people: “They have no love for positive things, they do not yearn for the light, and they do not love the way of God or the truth. They like to follow worldly trends, they are enamored with status and prestige, they love excelling among others, they are proponents of status and prestige, they venerate the great and famous, but in actual fact they venerate demons and devils. In their hearts, they do not pursue the truth, or positive things, but advocate learning. … In order to con people out of their personal trust, to make them worship and follow them, they use Satan’s philosophies, its logic, they use its every ploy, every ruse, in every setting. This is not the path that ought to be walked by people who believe in God; not only will such people not be saved, they will also meet with God’s punishment—of this there cannot be the slightest doubt” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. One Cannot Be Saved by Faith in Religion or Engaging in Religious Ceremony). God’s words exposed the truth of my intent and corruption entirely. I was clear on Gabriel’s problems, he had been slipshod in his duty and didn’t put his heart into it. He wasn’t tenacious or principled in his work. He did whatever he pleased, and had disrupted the work of the church. I had been a people-pleaser and was afraid of offending him, so I never pointed these things out. Now that he had been dismissed and was opening up to me in fellowship about his failures, I should have talked about his problems and fellowshiped on God’s will to help him know himself and repent to God. That would have been truly loving, beneficial, and edifying for him. But I was a people-pleaser, saying a bunch of fake garbage. Wasn’t I just trying to fool him into liking me? I wanted him to feel that when he experienced failure, it was the leader who dealt with and exposed him, but that I was the one who warmed his heart and comforted him. Then he’d be grateful and have a good impression of me. I was using unbelievers’ secular philosophies when interacting with my brother, like “Never hit people below the belt,” “Speak good words in harmony with others’ feelings and reason, as being frank annoys others,” “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,” and so on. These are all evil, worldly words to live by, and they are entirely satanic philosophies. Unbelievers’ interactions always uphold Satan’s way of the world, and their words are always ingratiating and hypocritical. They put on an act, feel others out, have trickery in everything they say, and don’t say a single true or genuine word. I was a long-time believer who’d eaten and drunk so much of God’s word, but I still couldn’t say a single thing that was true. Instead, I used satanic philosophies just like an unbeliever, and was a vessel for Satan, becoming increasingly slippery and devious. I was truly pathetic! It reminded me of God’s words: “If believers are just as casual and unrestrained in their speech and conduct as unbelievers are, then they are even more evil than unbelievers; they are archetypal demons” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth). “The more you are in the presence of God, the more experiences you will have. If you still live in the world like a beast—your mouth professing belief in God but your heart somewhere else—and if you still study the worldly philosophies for living, then will all your previous labors not have been for nothing?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. On Experience). Thinking back on my years of faith, I hadn’t gained the truth or become a simple, honest person, but still clung to secular ways of living. I was not a person who loves or accepts the truth. I came before God and prayed, “God, I’m so devious! I want to repent and stop living by satanic, worldly philosophies.”
After that experience and lesson, I was able to be more vigilant when interacting with others, and practiced speaking in ways that would benefit people, rather than side-stepping issues to be a people-pleaser. But because I was so deeply corrupted by Satan, when something involved my personal interests, I couldn’t help but be a people-pleaser again.
I was working with Brother Hudson on video production at the time. He had fairly strong opinions and was a lot better at the work than I was. I felt I should be modest so he didn’t get the impression that I was an arrogant know-nothing. So in the course of our duties, whenever our opinions differed, I tried to stick to “Harmoniousness is a treasure; forbearance is brilliance” to avoid damaging our relationship and get along with him. Sometimes, I’d see some mistakes in the videos he worked on, and suggested fixing them, but he didn’t think the things I mentioned were problems. He’d just give some excuse or personal opinion. Although I didn’t entirely agree with him, I was afraid further discussion would leave us at an impasse or start an argument, and that everyone would call me arrogant, self-righteous, and stubborn, so I let it go. We worked together this way for a few months, but when our videos came out there were always issues here and there, and most of the issues were ones I had raised at the beginning. As a result, we had to redo the videos. Hudson ended up being dismissed for being arrogant, self-righteous and stubborn. Even though the videos were finished in the end, I didn’t feel settled or at peace about it. Rather, I was uneasy and guilty. I was always a people-pleaser in my duty, maintaining superficial harmony, afraid of offending others, and didn’t uphold principles. I hadn’t truly fulfilled my function as a partner and was obstructing the video work. I felt absolutely awful. Then the leader came to talk to me and exposed me, saying, “You haven’t upheld the principles of the truth in your work with your brothers and sisters. You clearly knew Hudson’s opinion during production was wrong, but still blindly followed him in order to prevent conflict and maintain your image. That meant the videos had to be redone and it’s delayed our progress.” Then she said, “You tend to bend with the wind. You need to seek the truth and resolve this right away.” This was hard for me to hear. I prayed and reflected on this over the next few days, and read the word of God.
I saw that God’s word says, “To all appearances, the antichrists’ words seem especially kind, cultured, and distinguished. Anyone who violates principle, who is meddlesome and intrusive in church work, is not exposed or criticized no matter who they are; the antichrist turns a blind eye, letting people think they are magnanimous in all matters. People’s every corruption and evil deed is met with beneficence and toleration. They do not grow angry, or fly into a rage, they will not get cross and blame people when they do something wrong and harm the interests of God’s house. No matter who commits evil and disturbs the work of the church, they pay no heed, as if this has nothing to do with them, and they will never offend people because of it. What are the antichrists most concerned with? With how many people look up to them, and with how many people see them when they suffer, and admire them for it. The antichrists believe that suffering must never be for nothing; no matter what hardship they endure, what price they pay, what good deeds they do, how caring, considerate, and loving they are toward others, this must all be carried out in front of others, more people must see it. And what is their aim in acting thus? To win people over, to make more people feel admiration and approval toward their actions, toward their behavior, toward their character. There are even antichrists that try to establish an image of themselves as someone good through this outwardly good behavior, so that more people come to them looking for help. … Their actions don’t simply inspire veneration in people’s hearts—they also give them a place there. The antichrists wish to take the place of God. This is what they are aiming for when they do these things. Evidently, their actions have already yielded early results: In the hearts of these people who lack discernment, the antichrists now have a place, and there are now people who venerate and admire them, which was precisely the antichrists’ aim” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Ten)). God shows that antichrists are particularly evil and despicable. They are good at acting nice and saying nice things to disguise themselves and win others’ hearts, making people think that they alone are tolerant and understanding, so others will seek them out for comfort. That takes people farther and farther from God, and the antichrists take God’s place in their hearts. I was just like that. Brothers and sisters need to point things out to each other and help each other during their duties, but I was avoiding doing anything offensive just to protect my own reputation. I saw problems with Hudson’s videos, and yet I didn’t uphold the principles of truth; I just went with the flow. I was a people-pleaser and didn’t practice the truth. I didn’t want everyone to think I was arrogant, but rather that I was tolerant, understanding, and cared about others’ feelings. I wanted to make all the people I interacted with happy so they’d like me and have a good impression of me. To achieve my vile aim, I didn’t even spare the church’s work in my attempt to maintain a positive image. I was so selfish! From God’s judgment and revelation, I saw that by being a people-pleaser, I was on the path of an antichrist. I felt so guilty when I realized this. I continued reflecting on myself after that. Thinking back on all my time as a believer, I had always put on a nice face with other people. Whenever I saw someone who seemed benevolent, cultivated and refined in their speech and actions, I tried to emulate and copy them. I wanted to seem more easygoing and approachable to safeguard my image in my brothers’ and sisters’ minds. I hardly ever spoke up when I saw others’ problems or when they revealed their corrupt disposition, afraid of embarrassing them by exposing them. I remember when I was a gospel deacon before, I was always trying hard to be low-key and speak with humility. When I saw others being slipshod in their duty and unprincipled, I was afraid everyone would think I was unsympathetic if I brought it up, and that it would break my “nice guy” image. So out of a so-called love, when I tried to help others, I was careful with my words, and was gentle and indirect. I never exposed anyone directly or helped them see the severity of what they’d done. I’d just give them an indirect hint. When I had to dismiss someone, I felt that this would offend the person, and didn’t know what to say. I did my best to get others to offer fellowship in my stead, avoiding it whenever I could. … In this way, I did my utmost to manage and protect my status and image, and the brothers and sisters said I never put on airs, and that I was easy to get along with. They even recommended me for a leadership position, because I “had good humanity” and wouldn’t oppress others. I felt so self-satisfied. Antichrists use superficial good behavior to mislead and draw people in. Didn’t I have the same intent and goals at heart? I’d never reflected on my despicable intent or corrupt nature, and felt there was nothing wrong with being a people-pleaser. I could gain others’ approval and support, and make people think well of me: It felt like a great way to live. But now I saw that by being a people-pleaser, I was establishing myself in the most secretive, covert way, to mislead others and draw them in. I was walking the path of antichrists!
One day, I read a passage of God’s words in my devotionals that really stirred me: “What is the consequence when people always think of their own self-interest, when they are always trying to protect their own pride and vanity, when they betray a corrupt disposition yet do not seek the truth to fix it? It is that they have no entry into life, it is that they lack true experiences and testimony. And this is dangerous, is it not? If you never practice the truth, if you lack any experiences and testimony, then in due course you will be exposed and cast out. What use do people without experiences and testimony have in the house of God? They are bound to do any duty poorly; they can’t do anything properly. Are they not just garbage? If people never practice the truth after years of believing in God, they are one of the nonbelievers, they are evil. If you never practice the truth, if your transgressions grow ever more numerous, then your end is set. It is clear to see that all your transgressions, the mistaken path you walk, and your refusal to repent—all of this combines into a multitude of evil deeds; and so your end is that you will go to hell, you will be punished. Do you think this is a trivial matter? If you have not been punished, you will have no sense of how terrifying this is. When the day comes and you really do face calamity, and you are faced with death, it will be too late for regrets. If, in your faith in God, you do not accept the truth, if you have believed in God for years but there has been no change in you, the ultimate consequence is that you will be cast out, you will be abandoned” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). I was always being a nice guy and not practicing the truth. When I cooperated with others, it was always at the expense of the interests of the church that I achieved the evil aim of luring and winning others’ hearts. Everything I did was evil. If I carried on this way, I would end up being cast out and punished by God! From God’s words, I could feel His righteous disposition and how He’s disgusted by those who don’t practice the truth. I wanted to repent right away, to seek a path of practice, and resolve my people-pleasing disposition.
I read that God’s word says: “When your relationship with God has become normal, then you will also have normal relationships with people. To build a normal relationship with God, all must be built on the foundation of God’s words, you must be able to perform your duty according to God’s words and what God asks, you must set your views straight, and must seek the truth in all things. You must practice the truth when you understand it, and regardless of what happens to you, you must pray to God and seek with a heart of obedience to God. Practicing thus, you will be able to maintain a normal relationship with God. At the same time as performing your duty properly, you must also ensure that you do nothing that does not benefit the life entry of God’s chosen ones, and say nothing that is unhelpful to the brothers and sisters. At the very least, you must do nothing that goes against your conscience and must absolutely not do anything shameful. That which rebels against or resists God, in particular, you absolutely must not do, and you must not do anything that disturbs the work or life of the church. Be just and honorable in everything you do and ensure that your every action is presentable before God. Although the flesh may sometimes be weak, you must be able to put the interests of God’s family first, without greed for personal profit, without doing anything selfish or despicable, often reflecting on yourself. In this way, you will be able to often live before God, and your relationship with God will become completely normal” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. How Is Your Relationship With God?). “For all who fulfill their duty, however profound or shallow their understanding of the truth, the simplest way of practice by which to enter the reality of the truth is to think of the interests of God’s house in everything, and to let go of selfish desires, individual intentions, motives, pride, and status. Put the interests of God’s house first—this is the least one should do. If a person performing their duty cannot do even this much, then how can they be said to be performing their duty? This is not performing one’s duty. You should first consider the interests of God’s house, be considerate of God’s will, and consider the work of the church, and put these things first and foremost; only after that can you think about the stability of your status or how others see you. Do you not feel that it gets a little easier when you divide it into these steps and make some compromises? If you practice like this for a while, you will come to feel that satisfying God is not difficult. In addition, you should be able to fulfill your responsibilities, perform your obligations and duties, set aside your selfish desires, set aside your own intents and motives, have consideration for God’s will, and put first the interests of God’s house, the work of the church, and the duty you should perform. After experiencing this for a while, you will feel that this is a good way to conduct yourself. It is living straightforwardly and honestly, without being a base person or a good-for-nothing, and living justly and honorably rather than being despicable and mean. You will feel that this is how a person should live and act” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Freedom and Liberation Can Be Gained Only by Casting Off One’s Corrupt Disposition). From reading God’s word, I understood that only those who seek the truth in everything and stand on God’s side, who let go of their personal desires, and uphold the church’s work, are living out a human likeness and can have normal relationships with others. After that, I started to practice giving first consideration in every situation to protecting the interests of the church, and tried to satisfy God’s will through my speech and actions. After doing this for a while, I saw I had many chances to practice the truth in daily life and in my duty. For example, in gatherings, I saw some people liked to share stale doctrines or went off topic. Or there would be someone who rambled on during fellowship, prolonging the length of our gathering. This harmed our church life, but the team leader didn’t point it out or correct it. At first, I didn’t want to say anything, but I felt kind of guilty—why did I want to be a people-pleaser again? I said a prayer to God right away, forsaking my wrongful intent. Toward the end of the gathering, I brought up the issues I’d seen and suggested solutions. I felt how forsaking myself and upholding the work of the church like this brought me a great deal of peace. Also, a brother I knew really well was dismissed. He told me it was because he’d been craving comfort, was cunning and slippery, and ineffective during his duty. At first, I wanted to comfort him and make him think well of me, but then I realized I had to practice the truth this time. So, I calmed my heart and considered what I should say to help edify this brother. I thought about our prior interactions. His craving for comfort had been pretty obvious during his duty. Not sparing any words, I pointed out the attitude problems he displayed during his duty, and sent him some words of God that were relevant. He thanked me and said telling him all this had helped him. After doing this, I felt very calm, and very much at peace.
Through the judgment and revelation of God’s words, I saw that if I continued to live by Satan’s worldly philosophies, I’d only become more slippery and devious; I’d miss the lowest bar of what it meant to be human, and end up hurting others and myself. I also learned that living by God’s words and conducting myself according to the principles of truth is the only way to have humanity and be a truly good person.