The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person (Part One)

What’s your personal experience of being an honest person? (Being an honest person feels really difficult.) Why does it feel difficult? (I really want to be an honest person. But, when I examine myself each day, I find that I’m disingenuous and that there are lots of adulterations in my speech. Sometimes I insert feelings into my words, or I have certain motives when I speak. Sometimes I play little games, or I beat around the bush, or I say things that go against reality—deceptive things, things that are only half-true, and other kinds of falsehood, all in order to achieve a goal.) All of these behaviors arise from people’s corrupt dispositions; they belong to the part of people that is crooked and deceitful. Why do people play at being deceitful? It’s to accomplish their own objectives, to achieve their own goals, and so they use underhanded means. In doing this they are not open and aboveboard, and they are not honest people. It’s at these times that people reveal their insidiousness and cunning, or their maliciousness and despicableness. This is where the difficulty lies in being honest: With these corrupt dispositions in one’s heart, it will indeed seem especially difficult to be an honest person. But if you are someone who loves the truth, and who is able to accept the truth, then being an honest person will not be too hard. You will feel that it is much easier. Those with personal experience know very well that the greatest barriers to being an honest person are people’s insidiousness, their deceitfulness, their maliciousness, and their despicable intents. As long as these corrupt dispositions remain, being an honest person will be too difficult. All of you are training to be honest people, so you have some experience in this. What have your experiences been like? (Every day I write down all the garbage I’ve said and the lies that I’ve told. Then, I examine and dissect myself. I’ve found that there’s some sort of intent behind most of these lies, and that I’ve told them for the sake of vanity and saving face. Even though I’m aware that what I say doesn’t comport with the truth, I still can’t help but lie and pretend.) This is what’s so hard about being an honest person. Whether or not you’re aware of it is not important; the key thing is that you stubbornly continue to lie, knowing what you do is wrong, in order to achieve your aims, to maintain your own image and face, and any claim of ignorance is a lie. The key to being an honest person is to resolve your motives, your intents, and your corrupt dispositions. This is the only way to resolve the problem of telling lies at its source. To achieve one’s personal goals, that is, to personally benefit, to take advantage of a situation, to make oneself look good, or to gain the approval of others—these are people’s intents and aims when they tell lies. This sort of lying reveals a corrupt disposition, and this is the discernment you need with regard to telling lies. So, how should this corrupt disposition be resolved? That all hinges on whether or not you love the truth. If you can accept the truth and speak without advocating for yourself; if you can stop considering your own interests and instead consider the church’s work, the will of God, and the interests of God’s chosen people, then you will stop telling lies. You will be able to speak truthfully, and straightforwardly. Without this stature, you won’t be able to speak truthfully, proving that your stature is lacking and that you are unable to practice the truth. And so, being an honest person requires a process of understanding the truth, a process of growing in stature. When we look at it this way, it is impossible to be an honest person without eight to ten years of experience. This is the time that must be spent on the process of growing in one’s life, on the process of understanding and gaining the truth. Some people might ask: “Can resolving the issue of lying and becoming an honest person really be that hard?” That depends on who you are talking about. If it’s someone who loves the truth, then they will be able to give up lying when it comes to certain matters. But if it’s someone who doesn’t love the truth, then giving up lying will be all the more difficult.

Training oneself to be an honest person is mainly a matter of resolving the problem of telling lies, as well as resolving one’s corrupt disposition. Doing this involves a key practice: When you realize that you have lied to someone and tricked them, you should open up to them, lay yourself bare, and make an apology. This practice is of great benefit to the resolution of lying. For instance, if you have tricked someone or if there was some adulteration or personal intent to the words you spoke to them, you should then approach them and dissect yourself. You should tell them: “What I said to you was a lie, designed to protect my own pride. I felt uncomfortable after I said it, so I’m apologizing to you now. Please, forgive me.” That person will feel that this is quite refreshing. They’ll wonder how there could be a person who, having told a lie, will then apologize for it. Courage like that is something they really admire. What benefits does one gain from having engaged in such practice? Its purpose is not to gain the admiration of others, but to more effectively restrain and inhibit oneself from lying. So, after lying, you must practice apologizing for having done so. The more you train yourself to practice dissecting, laying yourself bare, and apologizing to people in this way, the better the results will be—and the number of lies you tell will grow smaller and smaller. Practicing dissecting and laying yourself bare in order to be an honest person and restrain yourself from lying requires courage, and apologizing to someone after lying to them requires even more courage. If you practice this for a year or two—or perhaps for three to five years—you are guaranteed to see clear results, and it will not be difficult to rid yourselves of lies. Ridding oneself of lies is the first step toward becoming an honest person, and it cannot be taken without three or five years of effort. After the problem of lying has been resolved, the second step is to resolve the problem of deceit and trickery. Sometimes, trickery and deceit do not require a person to lie—these things can be accomplished through action alone. A person may not outwardly lie, but they might still harbor deceit and trickery in their heart. They will know this better than anyone else, because they have thought about it deeply and considered it carefully. It will be easy for them to recognize upon later reflection. Once the problem of lying has been resolved, resolving the problems of deceit and trickery will be a little easier by comparison. But one must possess a God-fearing heart, for man is governed by intent when he engages in deceit and trickery. Others cannot perceive this from the outside, nor can they discern it. Only God can scrutinize this, and only He knows about it. Therefore, one can only resolve the problems of deceit and trickery by relying on prayer to God and accepting His scrutiny. If one does not love the truth or fear God in their heart, their deceit and trickery cannot be resolved. You may pray before God and admit your mistakes, you may confess and repent, or you may dissect your corrupt disposition—stating truthfully what you were thinking at the time, what you said, what your intent was, and how you engaged in deceit. This is all relatively easy to do. However, if you are asked to lay yourself bare to another person, you might lose your courage and resolution because you want to save face. It will then be very difficult for you to practice opening up and laying yourself bare. Perhaps you’re able to admit, in a general way, that you occasionally find yourself speaking or acting based on your own personal aims and intent; that there is a level of deceit, adulteration, lies or trickery in the things you do or say. But then, when something happens and you are made to dissect yourself, exposing how things played out from beginning to end, explaining which of the words you spoke were deceptive, what intent was behind them, what you were thinking, and whether or not you were being malicious or sinister, you don’t want to go into specifics or give details. Some people will even gloss over things, saying: “That’s just the way things are. I’m just quite a deceitful, insidious, and unreliable person.” This shows their inability to properly face their corrupt essence, or how deceitful and insidious they are. These people are always in a mode and a state of evasion. They are always forgiving and accommodating themselves, and are unable to suffer or pay a price to practice the truth of being an honest person. Many people have been preaching the words and doctrines for years, always saying: “I’m so deceitful and insidious, there’s often trickery in my actions, and I don’t treat people sincerely at all.” But after shouting that for so many years, they remain just as deceitful as they were before, because one never hears genuine dissection or remorse from them when they reveal this deceitful state. They never lay themselves bare to others or apologize after lying or tricking people, much less do they fellowship about their experiential testimony of self-dissection and self-knowledge in gatherings. Nor do they ever say how they came to know themselves or how they repented with regard to such matters. They do none of these things, which proves that they do not know themselves and have not truly repented. When they say they are deceitful and want to be an honest person, they simply shout slogans and preach doctrine, nothing more. It may be that they do these things because they are trying to swim with the tide and follow the herd. Or, it may be that the environment of church life compels them to go through the motions and put up a front. Either way, such shouters of slogans and preachers of doctrine will never truly repent, and they will definitely not be able to attain God’s salvation.

Every truth that God requires people to practice requires them to pay a price, to practically practice and experience them in their real lives. God does not ask people to pay lip service by merely reciting words and doctrines, talking of self-knowledge, acknowledging that they are deceitful, that they are liars, that they are crooked, deceitful and tricky, or to say these things out loud a few times and then be done with it. If someone admits to all this but then doesn’t change in the slightest after the fact; if they continue lying, cheating, and being deceitful; if they employ the same satanic tricks, the same satanic methods when they encounter something; if their means and methods never change, then is this person capable of entering into the truth reality? Will they ever be able to change their disposition? No—never! You must be able to reflect and know yourself. You must have the courage to open up and lay yourself bare in the presence of the brothers and sisters, and fellowship your true state. If you do not dare to lay bare or dissect your corrupt disposition; if you do not dare to admit your mistakes, then you are not in pursuit of the truth, much less are you someone who knows themselves. If everyone is like those religious people who show off to gain others’ admiration, who bear witness to how much they love God, how much they submit to Him, how loyal they are to Him and how much He loves them, all to gain the respect and admiration of others; and if everyone harbors their own individual plans and maintains a private space within their hearts, then how can anyone talk of real experiences? How could anyone have true experiences to communicate with each other? Sharing and fellowshipping your experiences means fellowshipping your experience and knowledge of God’s words. It is about giving voice to every thought in your heart, to your state, and to the corrupt disposition that is revealed in you. It is about letting others discern these things, and then solving the problem by fellowshipping the truth. Only when experiences are fellowshipped in this way does everyone benefit and reap the rewards. Only this is the true church life. If it’s just empty talk on your insights into God’s words or a hymn, and then you fellowship as you please without taking it any further, without bringing in your actual states or problems, that kind of fellowship brings no benefit. If everyone talks about doctrinal or theoretical knowledge, but says nothing about the knowledge they have gained from actual experiences; and if, when fellowshipping the truth, they avoid talking about their personal lives, their real-life problems, and their own inner worlds, then how can genuine communication occur? How can there be any real trust? There cannot be any! If a wife never voices the words in her heart to her husband, does that count as intimacy? Can they possibly know what’s on each other’s mind? (No, they can’t.) Suppose, then, that they are constantly saying, “I love you.” They say only this, but they never lay bare or tell each other what they are actually thinking deep down, what they expect from their partner, or what problems they are having. They never confide in each other, and when together, they have nothing but superficial niceties for each other. Are they then truly husband and wife? Certainly not! Likewise, if brothers and sisters are to be capable of confiding in each other, helping each other out, and providing for one another, then each person must speak of their own true experiences. If you say nothing about your own true experiences—if you only preach the words and doctrines that man understands, if you only preach a bit of doctrine about belief in God and give banal platitudes, and do not open up about what’s in your heart—then you are not an honest person, and you are incapable of being an honest person. To use the same example: while living together for several years, a husband and wife try to get used to each other, occasionally locking horns. But if you are both of a normal humanity, and you always speak to him from the heart, and he to you, concerning whatever difficulties you encounter in life or at work, whatever you are thinking deep down and however you plan to sort things out, or what ideas or plans you have for your children’s future, and you tell your partner all these things, then will the two of you not feel especially intimate with each other? But if he never tells you his innermost thoughts and simply brings home a paycheck; if you never speak to him of your own thoughts and you never confide in each other, then will there not be an emotional distance between the two of you? There surely will be, for you do not understand each other’s thoughts or plans. Ultimately, you will not be able to tell what kind of person your partner is, nor will he be able to tell what kind of person you are. You will not understand his needs, nor will he understand yours. If people have no verbal or spiritual communication, then there is no possibility of intimacy between them, and they cannot provide for each other or help one another. You have experienced this, have you not? If your friend confides everything to you, giving voice to all that they are thinking and whatever suffering or happiness they harbor, then will you not feel especially close to them? The reason they are willing to tell you these things is because you have confided your innermost thoughts to them as well. You are particularly close, and it is because of this that you are able to get along so well and help each other out. Without this kind of communication and exchange between the brothers and sisters in the church, they would be unable to get along harmoniously, and would find it impossible to work well together while performing their duties. That’s why fellowshipping the truth requires spiritual communication, and the ability to speak from the heart. This is one of the principles one must have in order to be an honest person.

When some people hear that, to be an honest person, one must tell the truth and speak from the heart, and if they lie or deceive they must open up, lay themselves bare, and admit their mistakes, they say: “It’s hard being honest. Do I have to say everything I think to others? Isn’t it enough to fellowship the positive things? I don’t need to tell others of my dark or corrupt side, do I?” If you do not lay yourself bare to others, and do not dissect yourself, then you will never know yourself. You will never recognize what kind of thing you are, and other people will never be able to trust you. This is a fact. 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 look upon your true face. You must not try to disguise yourself, or cover yourself up. Only then will others trust you and consider you to be an honest person. This is the most fundamental practice, and a prerequisite to being an honest person. If you are always pretending, always feigning holiness, nobility, greatness, and high character; if you do not let people see your corruption and your flaws; if you present a false image to people so that they believe you have integrity, that you’re great, self-denying, just, and selfless—is this not deceitfulness and falsity? Will people not be able to see through you, given time? So, do not put on a disguise or cover yourself up. Instead, lay yourself and your heart bare for others to see. If you can lay your heart bare for others to see, if you can lay bare all your thoughts and plans—both positive and negative—isn’t that honesty? If you can lay yourself bare for others to see, then God, too, will see you. He will say: “If you have laid yourself bare for others to see, then you are surely honest before Me.” But if you only lay yourself bare to God when out of view of other people, and always pretend to be great and noble or selfless when in their company, then what will God think of you? What will He say? He will say: “You are a thoroughly deceitful person. You are thoroughly hypocritical and vile, and you are not an honest person.” God will thus condemn you. If you wish to be an honest person, then regardless of whether you are before God or other people, you should be able to provide a pure and open account of your inner state and the words in your heart. Is this easy to achieve? It requires a period of training, as well as frequent prayer and reliance on God. You must train yourself to speak the words in your heart simply and openly on all matters. With this kind of training, you can make progress. If you encounter a major difficulty, you must pray to God and seek the truth; you need to fight in your heart and overcome the flesh, until you can practice the truth. In training yourself this way, little by little, your heart will gradually open up. You will become more and more pure, and the effects of your words and actions will be different than before. Your lies and tricks will become fewer and fewer, and you will be able to live before God. You will then, essentially, have become an honest person.

Having been corrupted by Satan, all mankind lives in a satanic disposition. Like Satan, people disguise and package themselves in every aspect, and they resort to deceit and game-playing in all matters. There is nothing in which they do not resort to deceit and game-playing. Some people even play deceitful games in activities so common as shopping. For instance, they may have bought a most fashionable outfit, but—though they really love it—they do not dare wear it in church, for fear that their brothers and sisters will talk about them and call them shallow. So, they just wear it behind the others’ backs. What sort of behavior is this? It is the revelation of a deceitful and cheating disposition. Why would someone buy a fashionable outfit, but not dare to wear it in front of their brothers and sisters? In their heart, they like fashionable things, and they follow the trends of the world as unbelievers do. They are afraid of the brothers and sisters seeing through them, seeing how shallow they are, seeing that they are not a respectable and upstanding person. In their heart, they pursue fashionable things and have trouble letting go of them, so they can only wear them at home and are afraid to let their brothers and sisters see them. If the things they like cannot see the light of day, then why can they not give them up? Is there not a satanic disposition controlling them? They constantly speak the words and doctrines, and they seem to understand the truth, yet they are unable to put the truth into practice. This is a person who lives by a satanic disposition. If someone is always fraudulent in speech and in action, if they do not let others see them for what they are, and if they always affect the image of a pious person in front of others, then what is the difference between them and a Pharisee? They want to lead the life of a whore, but also have a monument built to their chastity. They knew full well that they couldn’t wear their exotic outfit in public, so why did they buy it? Was it not a waste of money? It’s just because they like that sort of thing and had their heart set on that outfit, so they felt that they had to buy it. But once they have bought it, they cannot wear it out. After a few years have passed, they regret buying it, and have a sudden realization: “How could I have been so foolish, so disgusting as to do that?” Even they are disgusted by what they did. But they cannot control their actions, because they’re unable to let go of the things they like and pursue. So they adopt two-faced tactics and trickery to satisfy themselves. If they reveal a deceitful disposition in such a trifling matter, will they be able to practice the truth when it comes to something bigger? It would be impossible. Evidently, it is their nature to be deceitful, and deceitfulness is their Achilles’ heel. There was a six- or seven-year-old child, who ate something nice once with his family. When the other children asked what it was, the child blinked his eyes and said, “I forgot,” when in fact he just did not want to tell them. Could he have really forgotten what he just ate? This six- or seven-year-old child was capable of telling lies. Was that something adults taught him to do? Was it an effect of his home environment? No—this is man’s nature, his heritage; man is born with a deceitful disposition. In fact, whatever nice thing the child ate, this was a normal thing to do. His parents made it for him; he did not steal someone else’s food. If this child could tell a lie in such circumstances, when it was not necessary to do so at all, then would he not be even more likely to lie in other matters? What problem does this illustrate? Is this not a problem with his nature? That child is all grown up now, and lying has become their nature. He is indeed a deceitful person; one could see that in him from quite a young age. Deceitful people cannot help but lie and trick others, and their lies and trickery can show themselves at any time and place. They do not need to learn how to do these things, or be instigated to do them—they are born with the ability to do so. If that child could make up lies to trick people at such a young age, could his lying really be a one-off transgression? Certainly not. This shows that he is, by nature essence, a deceitful person. Is such a simple thing not easy to discern? If someone has been telling lies since childhood, lies often, even lies and tricks people with regard to simple matters that do not require them to do so, and if lying has become their nature, then it will not be easy for them to change. They are an authentically deceitful person. Why say that deceitful people cannot be saved? Because they are unlikely to accept the truth, so they cannot possibly be purified and transformed. Those who can receive God’s salvation are different. They are relatively guileless from the get-go, and if they tell a little lie they’ll likely blush and feel unsettled. It’s easier for someone like that to become an honest person: If you asked them to lie or cheat, they would find it difficult. When they do lie they can’t get all the words out, and everyone can tell right away. These are relatively simple people, and they are more likely to achieve salvation if they can accept the truth. This kind of person only lies under special circumstances, when their back is up against a wall. In general, they are always able to tell the truth. As long as they pursue the truth, they’ll be able to cast off this aspect of corruption with a few years of efforts, and then it won’t be hard for them to become an honest person.

What is God’s standard for the honest people that He requires? How are God’s requirements given in Three Admonitions, this chapter of God’s words? (“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 your words are riddled with excuses and valueless justifications, then I say that you are someone who is loath to put the truth into practice. 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).) There is one particularly important sentence in here. Do you see what it is? (God says: “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.”) Right, that’s it. God says: “If you have many confidences that you are reluctant to share.” People have done many things that they don’t dare speak of, and have too many dark sides. None of their day-to-day actions are in accordance with the word of God, and they do not rebel against the flesh. They do whatever they want, and even after believing in God for so many years, they have not entered into the truth reality. “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.” Here, God has pointed humans toward a path of practice. If you do not practice in this way, and merely shout slogans and doctrines, then you are someone who will not receive salvation easily. This is indeed linked to salvation. Being saved is very important to each and every person. Has God mentioned “not attaining salvation easily” anywhere else? Elsewhere, He seldom refers to how difficult it is to be saved, but He does speak of it when talking about being honest. If you are not an honest person, then you are someone who is very difficult to save. “Not attaining salvation easily” means that if you do not accept the truth, it will be difficult for you to be saved. You will be incapable of taking the right track to salvation, and so it will be impossible for you to be saved. God uses this phrasing in order to give people some leeway. Which is to say: you are not easy to save, but if you put God’s words into practice, then you have a hope of attaining salvation. That’s its obverse meaning. If you do not practice according to God’s words, and never dissect your secrets and your challenges, and never open yourself in fellowship to others, neither fellowshipping nor dissecting nor bringing to light your corruption and fatal flaws with them, then you cannot be saved. And why is that? If you do not lay yourself bare or dissect yourself in this way, you will not hate your own corrupt disposition, and so your corrupt disposition will never change. And if you are unable to change, how can you even think about being saved? God’s words clearly show this, and these words demonstrate God’s will. Why does God always stress that people should be honest? Because being honest is very important—it has a direct bearing on whether or not a person can submit to God and whether or not they can attain salvation. Some people say: “I’m arrogant and self-righteous, and I often get angry and reveal corruption.” Others say: “I’m very shallow, and vain, and I love it when people flatter me.” These are all things that are visible to people from the outside, and they are not big problems. You should not keep going on about them. No matter what your disposition or character is, as long as you are able to be an honest person as God requires, you can be saved. So, what do you say? Is it important to be honest? This is the most important thing, which is why God talks about being honest in the chapter of His words, Three Admonitions. In other chapters, He mentions frequently that believers should have a normal spiritual life and a proper church life, and He describes how they should live out a normal humanity. His words on these matters are general; they are not discussed too specifically or in too much detail. However, when God speaks about being honest, He points out the path for people to follow. He tells people how to practice, and He speaks with ample detail and clarity. God says: “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.” Being honest relates to attaining salvation. So, what do you say, why does God demand that people be honest? This touches on the truth of human comportment. God saves honest people, and those He wants for His kingdom are honest people. If you are capable of lies and trickery, you are a deceitful, crooked, and insidious person; you are not an honest person. If you are not an honest person, then there is no chance that God will save you, nor can you possibly be saved. You say that you are very pious now, that you are not arrogant or self-righteous, that you are able to pay a price when performing your duty, or that you can spread the gospel and convert many people. But you are not honest, you are still deceitful, and you have not changed at all, so can you be saved? Absolutely not. And so these words of God remind everyone that, to be saved, they must first be honest in accordance with the words and requirements of God. They must open themselves up, lay bare their corrupt dispositions, their intents and secrets, and seek the way of the light. What does it mean to “seek the way of the light”? It means seeking the truth in order to resolve your corrupt disposition. When you lay bare your corruption, the goals and intents that lie behind your actions, you also dissect yourself, after which you seek: “Why did I do that thing? Is there a basis for God’s words in this? Is this in line with the truth? By doing this, am I knowingly doing something wrong? Am I deceiving God? If I am deceiving God, then I shouldn’t do this; I should look at what God requires, and at what God says, and find out what the truth principles are.” This is what it means to seek the truth; this is what it means to walk in the light. When people are able to practice this regularly, they are able to truly change, and thus they are able to attain salvation.

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