A People-pleaser’s Phoniness
By Chuncui, China
I wasn’t able to attend school in 2020 because of the pandemic, so the church arranged for Sister Liu to gather with me to eat and drink. Sister Liu is the gospel deacon at our church. After a couple months, I discovered that she was really responsible in her duties and very loving. If the brothers and sisters had any troubles or difficulties, she always found words of God to fellowship and resolve them, and patiently helped and supported them. She also wrote lots of testimonial articles. I felt she was strong in her pursuit. Plus, I hadn’t been in a very good state, but Sister Liu helped me a lot and was wonderful toward me. She made a good impression on me.
After knowing her for a while, I realized that, at gatherings, she always liked to talk about her own successes of positive entry when things happened to her, but always seemed to gloss over the corrupt dispositions she revealed, the resulting consequences, and how she reflected, gained self-knowledge, and resolved corruption through reading God’s words. It sounded like she had stature, she was dedicated to her pursuit, and she had no corruption or faults. I always felt like there was something off about Sister Liu’s behavior. That kind of fellowship wasn’t true self-knowledge, which isn’t beneficial or edifying for anyone. Considering that she was responsible for several gathering places, I knew brothers and sisters without discernment would look up to her. If that continued, they would be brought before her. Beyond that, gatherings are for reading God’s words and fellowshiping on our personal experiences, for helping each other with our life entry … But Sister Liu monopolized much of the fellowship time in gatherings, which seriously impacted the church life of brothers and sisters. I thought I should mention it to her, that there should be limits on this kind of fellowship. But then I thought, Sister Liu had been in the faith longer than me, so if I criticized her directly, would she say I didn’t know my place and was deliberately taking issue with her? Would that be embarrassing for her? What would she think of me after that? And so, I didn’t say anything.
One day, Sister Liu held a gathering with us, and we read several passages of God’s words about how God would abandon and eliminate us if we didn’t practice the truth or change our corrupt dispositions. This really went straight to the heart for all of us. After reading these passages, Sister Liu once again went into her various experiences, telling us about one thing after another, but at no point did she mention which aspects of her own corruption she revealed or how she reflected and what she learned. I really wanted to directly point out her problem, but I saw Sister Li next to me not saying anything, while Sister Lin was eagerly nodding her head in agreement. I worried that if I said something straightforward about Sister Liu, she might feel that I was just trying to make her look bad. If it had just been the two of us, I could have given her a gentle reminder, but two other sisters were there. “If I say something now,” I thought, “will it humiliate Sister Liu? Will it ruin our relationship? Will she start treating me differently? But God likes honest people with a sense of justice, so if I see a problem but don’t speak up, that goes against God’s will!” Naturally, I felt very conflicted, and that gathering felt unbearable for me. At that moment, I saw a passage of God’s words. “When bearing testimony for God, you should mainly talk more about how God judges and chastises people, what trials He uses to refine people and change their dispositions. You should also talk about how much corruption has been revealed in your experience, how much you have endured and how you were eventually conquered by God; talk about how much real knowledge of God’s work you have, and how you should bear witness for God and repay Him for His love. You should put substance into this kind of language, while putting it in a simple manner. Do not talk about empty theories. Speak more down-to-earth; speak from the heart. This is how you should experience. Do not equip yourselves with profound-seeming, empty theories in an effort to show off; doing so makes you appear quite arrogant and senseless. You should speak more of real things from your actual experience that are genuine and from the heart; this is most beneficial to others, and most appropriate for them to see” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words say that true experience and testimony must be knowledge of which corrupt dispositions you reveal based on God’s words, your understanding of God’s work, and where in God’s words you find a path of practice. This passage directly addressed Sister Liu’s state. So, I highlighted this passage on the computer, hoping to call it to Sister Liu’s attention this way, to make her aware of her misstep in her fellowship on experience. That way, I wouldn’t have to criticize her directly, and I could avoid offending her. But Sister Liu didn’t realize what I meant at all. I wanted to bring it up, but I was concerned she wouldn’t accept it, so I said very tactfully, “We still aren’t able to know ourselves through God’s words, and we aren’t able to discuss in which passages of God’s words we find paths of practice …” But even then, she still didn’t understand what I was getting at. I thought, “I suppose that counts as pointing this out to her. If she still doesn’t see her own problem, it has nothing to do with me.”
After that, the church leaders asked the brothers and sisters to write evaluations of the church deacons and arranged for me to collect all of them. I wanted to write an honest evaluation of Sister Liu, but I saw that most of brothers and sisters said positive things about her in a number of aspects. Very few people had anything negative to say about her. There was even one sister who had just met her who wrote about nothing but Sister Liu’s merits. I thought, “If I’m the only one criticizing her, will the leaders think there’s some sort of grudge between us, that I’m deliberately targeting her? What if the church leaders visit to find out more about her, and Sister Liu learns I said these things behind her back? Will she hate me then? If so, wouldn’t that put the two of us at an impasse?” After that, although I wrote about some of Sister Liu’s behaviors, I also pointedly said that my own spiritual stature is small, and my perception might be off.
At one gathering, I opened up about my experience during this period of time. One of the sisters there said this was the behavior of a people-pleaser, and said, “People-pleasers are malicious!” Hearing her say the word “malicious” was hurtful and distressing, but I considered that I had long known about Sister Liu’s problem, yet I put off saying anything to protect my relationship with her. I didn’t help my sister come to know her own corruption and resolve her problem, and my brothers and sisters lacked discernment and were misled, so they looked up to her, worshiped her. I had done something deeply harmful. Didn’t this make me a malicious person? I felt some regret, and then later I read this passage of God’s words: “What is it called when you can clearly see that someone has a problem, but don’t tell them outright so as to avoid confrontation? This is a philosophy for living. Another approach is to say, ‘My stature is small now and I don’t understand your problems thoroughly. When I do, I’ll tell you.’ Is this not trying to fool others? Could you really not understand anything thoroughly at all? Could you have no thoughts on the issue at all? You have thoughts; you simply do not say them for fear of causing offense” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Resolve Their Notions and Misunderstandings of God” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Reading God’s words was somewhat distressing and I felt some self-blame. I had long ago discovered that Sister Liu always exalted herself and showed off at gatherings, and that kind of fellowship is no help at all to brothers’ and sisters’ life entry. It also tied up lots of time in gatherings, and had already impacted proper church life. Despite that, I had kept my mouth shut to protect our relationship. As I was writing my evaluation, I wanted to expose how she exalted herself, but when I saw how everyone was saying good things about her, I went along, afraid I’d cause offense. Although I wrote about some of her behaviors, I also said that my own stature was small and I lacked insight. But all along, I could clearly see what was happening and I had my own opinions, but my fear of offending others made me too hesitant to simply utter a single fair word. God’s words exposed my corruption at every turn and revealed my exact thoughts. I felt reproach and shame. Afraid that pointing out Sister Liu’s faults would offend her, I didn’t dare directly state my opinions. My interactions were from an unbeliever’s point of view. What kind of believer was I?
After that, I watched a video of a recitation of God’s words.says, “Most people wish to pursue and practice the truth, but much of the time they merely have a resolution and the desire to do so; the truth has not become their life. As a result, when they come across evil forces or encounter wicked and bad people committing evil deeds, or false leaders and antichrists doing things in a way that violates principles—thus causing the work of God’s house to suffer losses, and harming God’s chosen ones—they lose the courage to stand up and speak out. What does it mean when you have no courage? Does it mean that you are timid or inarticulate? Or is it that you do not understand thoroughly, and therefore do not have the confidence to speak up? It is none of these; it is that you are being controlled by several kinds of corrupt dispositions. One of these dispositions is cunning. You think of yourself first, thinking, ‘If I speak up, how will it benefit me? If I speak up and displease someone, how will we get along in the future?’ This is a cunning mentality, right? Is this not the result of a cunning disposition? Another is a selfish and mean disposition. You think, ‘What does a loss to the interests of God’s house have to do with me? Why should I care? It’s got nothing to do with me. Even if I see it and hear it happen, I don’t need to do anything. It’s not my responsibility—I’m not a leader.’ Such things are inside you, as if they had sprung from your unconscious mind, and as if they occupy permanent positions in your heart—they are the corrupt, satanic dispositions of man. These corrupt dispositions control your thoughts and bind your hands and feet, and they control your mouth. When you want to say something in your heart, the words reach your lips but you do not say them, or, if you do speak, your words are roundabout, leaving you with room to maneuver—you do not speak at all clearly. Others feel nothing after hearing you, and what you have said has not resolved the problem. You think to yourself: ‘Well, I spoke up. My conscience is at ease. I’ve fulfilled my responsibility.’ In truth, you know in your heart that you have not said all you should, that what you have said has had no effect, and that the detriment to the work of God’s house remains. You have not fulfilled your responsibility, yet you say overtly that you have fulfilled your responsibility, or that what was happening was unclear to you. Is this true? And is it what you really think? Are you not then completely under the control of your satanic dispositions? What you think and say may sometimes be close to reality, but at key moments, you still lie and deceive, even concocting fallacious defenses of yourself—which proves that your mouth is controlled by your satanic dispositions. You never say what you really think. It all has to be pre-edited by your brain, in your mind. Everything you say is a lie, at odds with the facts, it is all in your own spurious defense, to your own advantage. Some people are taken in, and it’s good enough for you: Your words and actions have achieved your objectives. This is what is in your heart, these are your dispositions. You are wholly controlled by your own satanic dispositions” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s word described my true state. I saw Sister Liu doing nothing but exalting herself in her fellowship at gatherings, seriously disrupting church life, and I obviously could have said something, but my fear of offending others had me tied up in knots, obsessing over it, and I didn’t dare utter a single true word. I was completely controlled by my corrupt disposition and allowed it to seal my mouth shut, leaving me unable to do a single correct or positive thing. I’d put a different spin on what I really wanted to say, leaving it altered, watered down, so that when I said it to my sister, it was of no help at all. Outwardly, I disguised myself in the image of a good person, but inside, I spent every moment thinking of how to protect my relationships with others so they’d speak well of me. I was willing to see brothers’ and sisters’ lives suffer in order to protect my own status and image. I saw that I was selfish, deceitful, and lacked all humanity and reason.
I felt deeply guilty thinking back on all my people-pleasing behaviors over that time. I’d never expected I would end up making the truth an afterthought to protect my own interests and not practice it at all. I recalled this passage of God’s words: “Can you practice righteousness for God? Can you stand up and speak for Me? Can you steadfastly put the truth into practice?” (“Chapter 13” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in). And then afterward, I read this passage of God’s words: “The young should not be without the truth, nor should they harbor hypocrisy and unrighteousness—they should stand firm in the proper stance. They should not just drift along, but should have the spirit to dare to make sacrifices and to struggle for justice and truth. Young people should have the bravery to not succumb to oppression by the forces of darkness and to transform the significance of their existence. Young people should not resign themselves to adversity, but should be open and frank, with a spirit of forgiveness for their brothers and sisters. Of course, these are My requirements of everyone, and My advice to everyone. But even more, these are My soothing words for all young people. You should practice according to My words. In particular, young people should not be without the resolve to exercise discernment in issues and to seek justice and the truth. You should pursue all things beautiful and good, and you should obtain the reality of all positive things. You should be responsible toward your life, and you must not take it lightly” (“Words for the Young and the Old” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God wants us to be able to discern right from wrong, take the proper stance, not blindly follow the crowd, and dare to uphold justice and principles. As for me, I saw Sister Liu’s problem, but I wasn’t an honest person, frankly pointing out my sister’s problem, nor did I lovingly try to help her. Instead, I was a people pleaser and deceitful, so in the end I still failed to help her know her own issue. Wasn’t I just harming her? My self-reproach grew. I couldn’t let myself be a people-pleaser anymore. I needed to practice the truth and be an honest person.
In a gathering with Sister Liu, I told her about the problem she had, that she only mentioned her good sides in her fellowship but never discussed the process of her corruption being revealed, which was likely to make the others look up to her and follow her, which was resisting God. I also said fellowship on the truth and testimony of God had to be based on the corruption we ourselves expose, and then combined with God’s word to dissect and understand ourselves, and discuss how God’s words changed us. This way we can help people gain knowledge and discernment of these satanic dispositions and see how God’s words truly can change people. Only this is exalting and bearing witness for God. After I finished, Sister Liu admitted to having these problems, talked in detail about how her desire for status was expressed, discussed her corrupt thoughts and ideas, said it was good that I pointed it out and that it was helpful, and asked me to remind her more often. Hearing her say that made me feel ashamed. Pointing it out directly was obviously helpful to her, but I’d been worried about offending her by speaking frankly and that she would think badly of me. It turned out, she wasn’t unable to accept the truth as I had thought. The problem was me being too cowardly, cunning, and deceitful. Only after doing this did I see that practicing the truth is not only helpful for others, but puts my own heart at ease.
Later, during my devotionals, I watched two recitations of God’s words. Almighty God says, “Whilst pursuing their own interests, people harm the work of God’s house, they interrupt the brothers’ and sisters’ normal entry, and even stop people from having a normal church life and a normal spiritual life. What’s even more serious is that, when people pursue their own fame, fortune, and status, such behavior can be characterized as cooperating with Satan in harming and obstructing, to the utmost extent, the normal progress of God’s work, and stopping God’s will from being normally carried out among people. This is the nature of people’s pursuit of their own interests. … When someone pursues the truth, they are able to be considerate of God’s will, and are mindful of God’s burden. Everything about the performance of their duty upholds the work of the house of God. They are able to exalt God and testify to God, they bring benefit to the brothers and sisters, and God gains glory and testimony, and shame is brought unto Satan. As a result of their pursuit, God gains a creature that is truly capable of fearing God and shunning evil, that is able to. As a result of their pursuit, too, the way for God’s will becomes clear, and the work of God is able to progress. In the eyes of God, such pursuit is positive, it is upright, and it is of the greatest benefit to the house of God and to the church” (“They Do Their Duty Only to Distinguish Themselves and Feed Their Own Interests and Ambitions; They Never Consider the Interests of God’s House, and Even Sell Those Interests Out in Exchange for Personal Glory (Part One)” in Exposing Antichrists). “If you are incapable of doing whatever God asks, of obeying whatever God arranges or requires of you, then you do not follow God—you follow Satan. And where is Satan? In people’s hearts. The philosophies, laws, and venoms of Satan are in people’s hearts; they have taken root there and made their hearts their home. You must often hold a mirror to yourself and dissect the things in your own thoughts. You must know which of the things within you are philosophies for living, which are popular adages, which are traditional culture, and which have come from intellectual knowledge. You must know which of these you always believe to be right and in accordance with the truth, which you abide by as if they were the truth, and which you allow to take the place of the truth. These are the things you must dissect. In particular, you treat the things you believe are right and precious as the truth; such things are not easy to identify. But once you do, you will have broken through a major obstacle. These things stop people from practicing the truth, from understanding God’s words, and from obeying God. If you spend all day bewildered and at a loose end, if you do not give any consideration to these things, and pay no attention to solving these problems, then this is the root of your malaise, this is the poison. If they are not removed, you will be incapable of truly following God, and unable to practice the truth, obey God, and attain salvation” (“Belief in Religion Will Never Lead to Salvation” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). As I contemplated God’s words here, I realized that I became a people-pleaser because deep inside of me, ideas like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,” “Speak good words in harmony with others’ feelings and reason, as being frank annoys others” and similar satanic philosophies had taken over. Living by these things had made me incredibly selfish, self-interested, cunning, and treacherous. In everything I said and did, I considered whether it would further my own interests. I saw Sister Liu’s problem and wanted to point it out, I wanted to do as God requires and be a person with a sense of justice, but wanting to save face and afraid of ruining our relationship, I watched with eyes wide open as church life suffered, lacking the courage to directly point out her faults. Even though I struggled within myself and felt guilty, I was still bound and constrained by these philosophies for living and wouldn’t take any kind of stance. I saw that if I lived by these satanic poisons, I would never be able to practice the truth, because my approach was wrong at its very core. God’s will is that we are honest people, that we are able to help our brothers and sisters, point out each other’s flaws, that we all can pursue the truth and achieve change and purification in our life disposition. But I was living by these satanic perspectives and views, and always believed “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship” and “Speak good words in harmony with others’ feelings and reason, as being frank annoys others” were correct, and upheld them as if they were the truth. I thought I could get along well with others if I didn’t point out or talk about other people’s problems when I saw them, that I was a good person. I was utterly absurd. If I had pursued the truth, practiced being an honest person according to God’s words, and pointed out my sister’s problem earlier, she might have become aware of it sooner and changed it, which would have been helpful for her life and beneficial for church life. So why did I try to protect my own interests and not practice the truth? Didn’t this make me an accomplice of Satan, complicit in its sabotage of church life? Protecting my own interests was just wickedness! I finally realized, the consequence of being a people-pleaser is disrupting and disturbing church work. Only pursuing the truth and practicing being an honest person is positive pursuit and allows our brothers and sisters to have proper relationships, and conforms to God’s will.
I am grateful for God’s enlightenment and guidance helping me understand that people-pleasers aren’t truly good people, and giving me some understanding of my own satanic dispositions of selfishness and treachery. I personally experienced that practicing the truth and being an honest person is the only way to be at peace, at ease. In the future, I will focus on practicing the truth and being an honest person that delights God. Thank Almighty God!