96. The Path to an Honest Appearance
By Daisy, South Korea
At the beginning of 2021, I was elected as team leader responsible for several teams’ watering work. At the time I thought that being elected to that position meant I had some caliber and capability, that I was ahead of most of the brothers and sisters in my understanding of the truth and life entry. I felt like I needed to equip myself with the truth and put my heart into doing my duty well, so everyone would see that I was capable of doing that work.
At first I wasn’t familiar with the work, so when things came up that I couldn’t fully grasp, I’d ask the leader or brothers and sisters I worked with about them. I figured that since I was new to that work, everyone would understand that there would be some things I didn’t know, and doing more seeking might help me grow more quickly. That way, I’d leave a good impression on everyone, and they’d think I earnestly sought the truth. But, later, I kept running into lots of problems, and was hesitant to keep asking. By that point I’d been in that duty for quite some time, so what would everyone think of me if I constantly asked so many questions? Would they think my caliber wasn’t very good, that I couldn’t even solve simple problems, and I wasn’t capable in that work as team leader? So when I ran into other problems that I couldn’t fully grasp, I couldn’t stop thinking about whether these questions were worth asking, whether it was reasonable to ask them. I was worried my thinking would seem simplistic. For some problems that didn’t seem complicated, I wouldn’t ask, instead I’d try to figure them out myself. As a result, more and more issues piled up, and quite a few weren’t resolved in time. This made me increasingly anxious that everyone wouldn’t think I was a good fit for team leader. During gatherings, especially when my leader was present, while I fellowshiped on God’s words, I was constantly worrying: “Is my fellowship practical? Is my understanding pure?” After my fellowship, I’d observe everyone’s reactions, and if someone expanded on the basis of what I’d said, that meant my fellowship had struck a chord, that it contained enlightenment, and it also showed I had a pure understanding of God’s words and could handle the work. But if no one responded when I was done, I’d feel really upset. After some time, my duty started to feel really exhausting. In every word I said and every opinion I expressed, I would always put way too much thought into it, and I couldn’t relax. I’d wanted to perform the duty well, but I was always on tenterhooks, and I wasn’t growing or learning anything.
I came before God in prayer and seeking, and read a passage of His words: “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. … Do such people not live with their heads in the clouds? Are they not dreaming? They do not know who they themselves are, nor do they know how to live out normal humanity. They have never once acted like practical human beings. If you pass your days with your head in the clouds, muddling through, not doing anything with your feet on the ground, always living by your own imagination, then this is trouble. The path in life you choose is not right” (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). Thinking this over gave me a little understanding of my state. I had thought too much of myself, feeling like being elected as team leader meant I had a certain caliber and work capability. When I saw myself that way, I started caring about what everyone else thought of me, and I wanted to prove that I was up to the task as soon as possible. So, when more problems and difficulties came up in my duty, I couldn’t simply bring them up, and was always worried people would see through me, saying I lacked caliber and wasn’t up to the job. I started putting up appearances, keeping quiet when problems came up and figuring things out on my own. That led to many problems in my duty not getting taken care of, which both held up our work and impacted my own state. I lost clarity in my thinking, and started getting confused over things I had previously understood. I even kept second-guessing my fellowship in gatherings, afraid everyone would look down on me if it wasn’t any good. I felt constrained at every turn. I realized that all of this was entirely my fault. I was so arrogant and unreasonable, and couldn’t properly face my own flaws and shortcomings. I was always putting on an act so others would think highly of me. In fact, that duty was a chance given to me by the church to train myself, and by no means did it signify that I understood the truth or could do the job well. I just had a little capacity to receive the truth, but there were lots of things I couldn’t understand and didn’t have any personal experience with. There was absolutely nothing special about me, but I’d thought so highly of myself, pretending to be lofty, someone who understands the truth. I overestimated myself so much! I should just keep my feet on the ground and carry out my duty, asking others when I didn’t understand something, which was the realistic and reasonable thing to do.
I read a passage of God’s words that gave some practical approaches. 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” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). Thinking over this helped me realize that to be relaxed and anxiety-free in my duty, the first step was to learn to open up about my faults and stop putting up appearances. I had to practice the truth and be an honest person. I was just a corrupt person who hardly understood the truth, so of course there were many matters I couldn’t fully grasp. That was perfectly normal. There was no need to put on an act and cover anything up for the sake of my own image. If I had questions I should let go of my pride, and openly seek guidance and fellowship about them; this was the only way to relax in my duty. At this realization, my heart brightened and I started focusing on practicing in this way. When I wasn’t sure about something, I proactively asked about it, and when sharing my opinion, I said what I truly thought and only fellowshiped on what I knew. When I practiced in this way, I gradually started understanding some of the things I never had before, and I was able to discover and amend errors in my duty. I also gained a better understanding of my shortcomings. I had finally realized that being seen for what I am is a good thing, that it helps to understand principles of the truth and discover my own flaws. I felt much freer at this point, and later I was able to do my duty normally.
Before long, the groups I was responsible for were doing really well in church life, and the brothers and sisters wanted to fellowship with me on their problems. But without realizing it, I’d started focusing on what people thought of me again. One time at a co-workers’ meeting, my leader brought up some problems that had occurred at our church, and asked us what we thought. I was thinking, “So many brothers and sisters are here, and if I could come up with some unique insights, that would show how capable I am.” But after thinking long and hard, I still couldn’t make sense of it. Just then, my leader asked me what I thought. I stammered for ages, then just gave a vague suggestion. Pretty soon after, two other sisters shared their thinking, and their suggestions were the opposite of mine. What they said was really well-reasoned, and the leader agreed with them. I immediately felt upset, thinking not only had I failed to make myself look good, instead I’d embarrassed myself. What would my leader think of me? Would she think that I didn’t have any insight into such a simple thing, that I hadn’t grown at all? Over the next few days, some issues came up in each of the groups I was responsible for. I didn’t understand them, so I should have sought help right away. But then I wondered, if I asked all those questions, wouldn’t it seem like I wasn’t capable in my work? Wouldn’t it ruin the good image I’d built up? On the other hand, I knew unresolved problems would hinder our work, so I came up with a makeshift strategy: I’d divide up my questions and ask different people, so the problems would get resolved but I wouldn’t look like I was asking too many questions and didn’t know anything. As I put up appearances this way, my state deteriorated more and more. My thinking became more clouded and I started struggling in lots of things. Then I reflected, and saw that since I didn’t have insight into some things I previously did, it must have been a problem with my state. So I came before God and prayed, “God, I clearly have problems, but I don’t dare be honest and open up about my faults. I always want to act big. Why is it so hard to ask when I don’t understand something? It is as if my lips were sealed shut. Doing my duty this way is exhausting. Please guide me to know my corruption and to change.”
After that I read a couple passages of God’s words that exposed my state perfectly. 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. … 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. Fools don’t have spiritual understanding, do they? The matters in which you are stupid and unwise are the matters in which you have no spiritual understanding, and cannot easily understand the truth. This is how it is” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct). “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. Take members of the satanic regime: No matter how much they fight, feud, or kill behind the scenes, no one is allowed to report or expose this. They are afraid that people will see their demonic face, and they do everything they can to cover it up. In public, they do their utmost to whitewash themselves, saying how much they love the people, how great, glorious and correct they are. This is the nature of Satan. The salient feature of Satan’s nature is trickery and deception. And what is the aim of this trickery and deception? To hoodwink people, to stop them from seeing its essence and its true colors, and thus achieve the aim of prolonging its rule. Ordinary people may lack such power and status, but they, too, wish to make others have a good opinion of them, and for people to have a high estimation of them, and give them a high status, in their hearts. This is what a corrupt disposition is, and if people do not understand the truth, they are incapable of recognizing this. Corrupt dispositions are the hardest of all to recognize; recognizing your own faults and shortcomings is easy, but recognizing your own corrupt disposition is not. People who do not know themselves never talk about their corrupt states—they always think they’re okay. And without realizing it, they start to show off: ‘Through all my years of faith, I have undergone so much persecution and suffered so much hardship. Do you know how I overcame it all?’ Is this an arrogant disposition? What is the motivation behind putting themselves on display? (To make people think highly of them.) What is their purpose of making people think highly of them? (To have status in these people’s minds.) When you have status in someone’s mind, then when they are in your company, they are deferential toward you, and especially polite when they talk to you. They are always respectful toward you, they always let you go first in all things, they give way to you, and they flatter and obey you. In all things, they seek you out and have you make decisions. And you get a sense of enjoyment from this—you feel yourself to be stronger and better than anyone else. Everyone likes this feeling. This is the feeling of having status in someone’s heart; people wish to indulge in this. This is why people vie for status, and all wish to have status in others’ hearts, to be esteemed and worshiped by others. If they could not derive such enjoyment from it, they would not pursue status” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct). Pondering God’s words, I could see that between putting up false fronts and making mistakes, putting up false fronts is the more severe of the two. No one is perfect, so running into problems and making mistakes in your duty is totally normal. But what lies behind a false front are the satanic dispositions of arrogance, cunning, and evil. Always hiding your imperfections and shortcomings, and just letting people see your good side so they look up to and admire you are even more loathsome to God. A truly wise person can properly face their shortcomings, equip themselves with the truth, and make up for what they lack. That way, they can grow. But the foolish, ignorant people who lack self-awareness can’t ever accept their own faults, and they even put up appearances, which means some problems never get resolved, and they never grow in life. Thinking back on my behavior, I realized I had been one of the arrogant fools exposed by God. When I started getting some results in my duty, I felt like I really wasn’t bad, and that I was up to my job as team leader. Plus, I was also able to resolve problems. For these reasons, I really elevated and thought a lot of myself. Consequently, when I encountered things I didn’t know how to handle, I was cautious and indecisive, worried I’d say the wrong thing and ruin my good image. Then I decided to express fewer opinions and ask fewer questions. Even when I did seek help, I’d pick more difficult questions, so as to show my abilities, not wanting everyone to see my shortcomings. I even played mind games, splitting questions between people so that they wouldn’t see through me. I really was arrogant and cunning, and lacked all self-awareness. I put on various acts so people would look up to me. I was such a fool, odious to God, and disgusting to other people. I hid my flaws to protect my name and status, resulting in problems in my duty being unresolved. I was holding up the work of the church. What was I thinking? I was so despicable and evil. I could hold on to my position for the short term by pretending, but God observes all, and sooner or later I would be exposed and cast out by God for cheating Him and for delaying the church’s work. It occurred to me that antichrists particularly treasure status, and won’t even spare the interests of the church for their own status. What was the difference between my disposition and perspectives toward pursuit, and those of an antichrist? Did status benefit me at all? It made me unwilling to acknowledge or face my flaws, and I lost my reason. I didn’t want to seek when I ran into problems, and instead put on an act and became more and more cunning. As a result I would end up on an antichrist’s path, and be despised and cast out by God. That would hurt the work of the church and destroy me. At that point I realized how dangerous going on that way would be. It was a wake-up call that I could no longer do my duty in that way.
I read more of God’s words with a path of practice, and it was even more freeing for me. God says, “Some people are promoted and nurtured by the church, and this is something good, it is a good chance to be trained. It can be said they have been elevated and graced by God. So how, then, should they perform their duty? The first principle they should abide by is to understand the truth. When they do not understand the truth, they must seek the truth, and if they still don’t understand after seeking, they can find someone who does understand the truth to fellowship and seek with, which will make solving the problem faster and more timely. If you focus only on spending more time reading God’s words by yourself, and on spending more time pondering these words, in order to achieve understanding of the truth and solve the problem, this is too slow; as the saying goes, ‘Distant water won’t slake an urgent thirst.’ If, when it comes to the truth, you wish to make quick progress, then you must learn how to work in harmony with others, and to ask more questions, and do more searching. Only then will your life grow quickly, and will you be able to solve problems promptly, without any delay in either. Because you have only just been promoted and are still on probation, and do not truly understand the truth or possess the reality of the truth—because you still lack this stature—do not think that your promotion means you possess the reality of the truth; this is not the case. It is merely because you have a sense of burden toward the work and possess the caliber of a leader that you are selected for promotion and nurturing. You should have this sense” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). I thought this over and saw that the church promotes and cultivates people so as to give them an opportunity to practice. By no means does it signify that they understand the truth, can resolve any problem, or are fit for God’s use. Throughout their practice they’ll encounter all sorts of actual problems, and if they keep seeking and fellowshiping, then they’ll slowly start to understand different aspects of the principles. At this point, they’ll be able to solve problems and do their duty well. I knew I had to face my flaws properly and know who I was, seek more truth, discuss and fellowship with others more when problems came up, and give it my all. Then, even if one day it became clear that my caliber was indeed not sufficient, that I wasn’t up to this job, then at least my conscience would be clear. I felt really relieved once I’d thought that through. I could not go on putting up appearances, instead I had to be honest and squarely face my faults and shortcomings.
In our team discussions after that, I honestly shared my own opinions. I was a little hesitant at first, worried I’d say the wrong thing and appear to have a shallow understanding and poor caliber. Especially when there were problems I couldn’t fully grasp, the opinions I shared weren’t very clear, and after I finished talking my heart would start pounding, wondering if everyone would see through me. But then I’d remind myself that this was my actual level, and it was okay if they looked down on me. What’s important is being an honest person before God, and it’s my duty to express my thoughts and participate in discussions. That’s the only peaceful way to live. When I had questions in my duty after that, I went out and asked for others’ opinions. Every once in a while I still worried about being looked down on, but when I realized that hiding my faults to protect my pride may hurt the work of the church, I made an effort to turn away from that impulse and seek help. When I did so, I started to understand things I hadn’t before, and I felt calmer, more at peace. Sometimes my brothers and sisters had a more accurate understanding than me, and I’d start wondering if everyone was thinking I was no good. But I could see that wasn’t the right way to look at things. I had to learn from others’ strengths to compensate for my weaknesses. Is that not a gift? I wasn’t flustered when I thought about it that way, and with time I started feeling freer and freer. I’m grateful for God’s guidance that let me experience how free being honest is, and now I have more faith to put God’s words into practice.