The Consequences of Being a People Pleaser

January 18, 2022

By Bai Hua, China

I took on a duty as a church leader in 2018. I knew that one of the most critical parts of serving as a leader was fellowshiping on the truth and resolving others’ difficulties with their life entry. That way we could have a good church life. But I was too much of a people pleaser and was afraid of offending anyone, so I’d always adopt the tactic of offering kind, gentle advice. During that time, I noticed the watering deacon, Brother Liu, was careless and didn’t take on a burden in his duty and he dragged his feet in helping newcomers with fellowship when they encountered problems, leaving some of them negative and weak. I was aware of how serious this problem was, and that I should fellowship with him and dissect how he was being slipshod and cheating God. If he kept on that way without repenting, it would definitely disgust God. But the moment I saw him in a gathering, I wanted to beat a retreat. He seemed pretty thin-skinned to me, so if I pointed these issues out to him and really hurt his feelings, he certainly wouldn’t think so well of me. If he refused to accept it and lost his temper, aside from how embarrassing that would be for me, it would be hard to get along after that. Then if others thought that I was starting to scold and reprimand people now that I was leader, what would they think of me? I decided to drop it, and not discuss it with him. So, I gently advised him, just skirting around the issue, “We need to put our hearts into our duties, take on a burden …” As a result, Brother Liu didn’t see the essence of his careless approach to his duty and continued on the same as always. Seeing this was unsettling for me. As a church leader, I was watching a brother muddle through his duty and saw its impact on the church’s work, but I wasn’t addressing it through fellowship on the truth. How was that doing practical work? It was a serious dereliction of duty. I felt worse the more I thought about it, but I still just couldn’t open my mouth and say something to him. I was concerned that if I was too harsh with him, he might say I was lacking compassion, and if he just threw in the towel and quit, the other brothers and sisters might think I had dragged him down. Not only would that compromise our general rapport, but it would damage my reputation. Giving it some thought, I decided to let it go. I figured I had already said something to Brother Liu, so I’d let him reflect on it over time. And so, I never ended up exposing and dissecting his problem. There was another time, when I noticed that two other brothers who worked with me were always at odds because they had different ideas about things. Neither of them would give ground and their discussions were never productive. Sometimes after they had stopped arguing, they’d both stay stuck in their corrupt dispositions and that impacted the church’s work. I saw how serious the issue was and I thought I shouldn’t waste any time in revealing the nature and consequences of their arrogance and failure to practice the truth. But again, I turned tail as soon as I saw them. I figured they were both long-time leaders, so wouldn’t they already understand that? Plus, I didn’t really understand the truth, so would they listen to me? And they were both really nice to me, so if I fellowshiped on the nature and grave consequences of their problem, they might think I was just finding fault with them and say I was lacking humanity. Then it would be hard to get along with them. Giving it some thought, I decided to just forget it. Anyway, they were always eating and drinking God’s words, so they could give it some thought with time. So, I just gave them a couple words of advice, urging them to calm down without directly exposing them at all.

One day, a sister saw me and said, “Our church life isn’t going very well. You guys aren’t addressing any practical problems. Wouldn’t that make you false leaders?” It was really upsetting to hear that from her. It was obvious to me that there were all sorts of problems in the church that I was keeping quiet on. I wasn’t fulfilling a leader’s responsibilities at all. Wasn’t that being a false leader? I knew that if I kept failing to practice the truth, God would be disgusted with me and eliminate me. The prospect of this frightened me, and I said a prayer: “God, I was elevated to take on a leadership duty, and I’ve seen some brothers living within their corrupt dispositions, and our church life and various aspects of its work are seriously impacted, but I haven’t put the truth into practice to fix this. God, please help me so I may know myself and practice the truth.”

I read this in God’s words after my prayer: “Practicing the truth is not saying empty words and reciting set phrases. Rather, it means that no matter what you may encounter in life, as long as it involves the principles of human conduct, perspectives on events, matters of belief in God, the principles of the truth, or the attitude with which one performs their duty, everyone must make a choice—everyone must have a path on which to practice. For example, if your original viewpoint is that you should not offend anyone, but maintain the peace and avoid making anyone lose face, so that in the future, everyone can get along, then, constricted by this viewpoint, when you see someone do something bad, make a mistake, or commit an act that goes against the principles, you would rather take it upon yourself to make it right than confront that person. Constricted by your viewpoint, you become averse to offending anyone. No matter whose presence you are in, hindered as you are by thoughts of face, of emotions and relationships, or of feelings that have grown over many years of interaction, you will always say nice things to protect that person’s dignity. Where there are things you find unsatisfactory, you only vent your anger behind their backs and make private assertions, instead of harming their face. What do you think of such conduct? Is it not that of a yes-man who is slippery? (Yes.) It violates the principles; is it not lowly to act in such a manner? Those who act like this are not good people, nor are they noble. No matter how much you have suffered, and no matter the price you have paid, if you conduct yourself without principles, then you have failed and will meet no approval before God, nor be remembered by Him, nor please Him” (“Performing Duty Well Requires a Conscience, at the Very Least” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Reading God’s words exposing people pleasers was really troubling for me. I wasn’t resolving problems in the church not because I didn’t see them, but because I didn’t want to provoke anyone and I was afraid they’d see me poorly. I was trying to protect my own image and status. I saw that God detests people like me who don’t act on principle or practice the truth, who are selfish and cunning. I thought about how I’d been behaving. I saw that Brother Liu was always careless in his duty and was holding up our watering work, so I should have exposed and dissected the nature of his behavior. But afraid of being too hard on him and changing how everyone saw me, that they would say I was lecturing and finding fault with people now that I was a leader, I never broke down the nature of his problem so I could protect the image the others had of me. I just said something briefly that didn’t do anything to help the problem. And even when I saw those two brothers who could never get along, and the impact it had on our church work, I never brought it up and analyzed it to help them understand themselves. The church’s work and the brothers’ and sisters’ life entry suffered as a result. I lived by “Harmoniousness is a treasure,” “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,” and “One more friend means one more path,” those sorts of satanic philosophies. Wanting to protect my face and status and be seen as a nice guy by everyone, I saw things clearly but didn’t fully share what I thought. This not only harmed other church members, but also did a disservice to God’s house. I saw I was totally lacking conscience and reason and didn’t have the slightest devotion to God. How was that being a good person? That was being selfish, despicable, and devoid of humanity. I got along well with everyone on the surface and the others all said I was a good person and had a good impression of me, but I wasn’t remotely fulfilling the duty that God had entrusted me with. In God’s eyes, I was an unfaithful, untrustworthy person. I was just committing one transgression after another, disgusting and outraging God. Realizing this, I quickly repented to God and knew I couldn’t continue on like that, and that I had to seek the truth to fix this problem of mine.

I read this in God’s words after that: “Judging by the various natures of people’s pursuit of fortune and prestige, no matter how unobtrusively people pursue fortune and prestige, and how legitimate such pursuit seems to man, and how great a price they pay, the end result is to dismantle, interrupt, and impair God’s work. The performance of their duty not only disrupts the work of the house of God, it also ruins the life entry of God’s chosen ones. What is the nature of this kind of work? It is dismantlement, interruption and impairment. Can this not be defined as walking the path of an antichrist? When God asks that people put aside their interests, it is not that He is depriving people of the right to freedom, and does not wish for them to share in the interests of God; rather, it is because, 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. Which is to say, the problem with people pursuing their own interests is that the goals they pursue are the goals of Satan—they are goals that are wicked and unjust. When people pursue these interests, they unwittingly become a tool of Satan, they become a channel for Satan, and, moreover, they become an embodiment of Satan. In the house of God, and in the church, they play a negative role; toward the work of the house of God, and toward the normal church life and normal pursuit of brothers and sisters in the church, the effect they have is to disturb and impair; they have a negative effect” (“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). I saw in this passage that the nature and consequences of being a people pleaser who safeguards his own interests and doesn’t practice the truth are disrupting and sabotaging God’s work and being a minion of Satan. If I stayed that way without repenting, not only could I not be saved, but I’d end up rejected and eliminated by God. God had elevated me to a leadership position so that I could learn to fellowship the truth to resolve brothers’ and sisters’ difficulties in their life entry, and look after church life. But instead, when I saw people’s problems, I wasn’t standing on God’s side and stepping in quickly, exposing and dissecting their behavior, but I was protecting my own status and reputation, being a people pleaser, acting as Satan’s helper. This had a negative impact on brothers’ and sisters’ church life and their life entry. I saw that I was playing Satan’s part, inspiring loathing and disgust in God. Thinking over my behavior during that time, I saw that I was firmly under the control of my corrupt disposition, too cowardly to practice the truth and uphold righteousness. I was Satan’s lackey, feeble and incompetent, living so contemptibly, so pathetically. Then I knew that if I didn’t start practicing the truth and forsake myself, I wasn’t worthy to live before God, and I should be punished and cursed. These realizations were hard for me to take, but I knew that God was bringing this to light for my salvation, and without the judgment and revelations of His words, I’d have never seen my own corruption or known the dangerous consequences of being a people pleaser and not practicing the truth. I was grateful for God setting all these things up so I could learn a lesson, and I was willing to forsake my own corrupt disposition, to stop being a “nice guy,” doing evil and opposing God.

I read some words from God later that gave me some paths of practice. God’s words say, “In essence, God is faithful, and so His words can always be trusted; His actions, furthermore, are faultless and unquestionable, which is why God likes those who are absolutely honest with Him” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “If you have the motivations and perspective of a ‘nice person,’ you will always fall down and fail in such matters. What, then, should you do in those situations? When faced with such things, you must pray to God. Ask Him to grant you strength and enable you to abide by principle, do what you should do, handle things according to principle, stand your ground, and prevent any harm from coming to the work of God’s house. If you are able to forsake your self-interests, reputation, and the standpoint of a ‘nice person,’ and if you do what you should do with an honest, undivided heart, then you will have defeated Satan, and will have gained this aspect of the truth. However, if you insist on maintaining your own point of view and relationships with people, you will never be able to overcome these things in the end. Will you be able to overcome other things? You will still lack the strength and lack confidence, then can you obtain the truth? You cannot obtain the truth in this way, and if not, can you be saved? (No.) You cannot be saved. Obtaining the truth is a necessary condition for salvation. How, then, does one obtain the truth? (Through practicing the truth.) When you practice and enter a facet of the truth, and it becomes the root of your life, and you live in accordance with it, then you can obtain that facet of the truth and achieve that part of salvation” (“Only When You Know Yourself Can You Pursue the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). By reading this, I saw that God likes honest people, and honest people aren’t focused on protecting their relationships with others or care how they’re seen, but God has a place in their hearts. They uphold the principles in all things, have a sense of righteousness, and are faithful to God. But looking at myself, I saw that I was really selfish and cunning, caring too much about my interpersonal relationships, how others felt about me, and my image. When things happened that required protecting the interests of God’s house and practicing the truth, I consistently took Satan’s side, not daring to uphold the truth principles; I rebelled against and resisted God, hurting and disappointing Him. I prayed to God after that, asking Him to help me turn my back on those kinds of thoughts and perspectives, and to stand for the principles no matter what others may think. That’s the only way to stand on God’s side and uphold the church’s work. In fact, telling the truth and pointing out someone’s problem isn’t making them look bad. Doing that is really beneficial, whether it’s about a brother or sister, or about the church’s work. If we notice someone revealing corruption but we don’t call attention to its nature and consequences, they’ll never realize how serious their problem is. That not only hinders their life entry, but it impacts the church’s work, and it’s disgusting to God because we’re also living within corruption. I always used to be so preoccupied with my reputation and status, always concerned with others’ opinions without prioritizing God’s. I wasn’t considering how to conform to the truth, how to withstand God’s scrutiny. I was reined in by my corrupt disposition—I was such a fool. I couldn’t keep letting my corruption take the lead and I didn’t want to be a spineless laughingstock of Satan. I had to be an honest person with a sense of righteousness who pleased God. Understanding this, I gained the resolve to practice the truth and forsake the flesh, and I decided to go talk to those two brothers and reveal the essence of their arrogance and constant conflict, and the ways it harmed and disrupted the church’s work.

I saw them the next day and just as I was getting ready to say something, I started to feel a little worried. “What if they can’t accept it and take it out on me? How can I show my face then?” I realized I was being held back by my corrupt disposition, so I said a prayer, asking God to help me practice the truth. Then I thought of something God said: “Being unable to uphold My testimonies and interests is betrayal. Offering false smiles when far from Me in heart is betrayal” (“A Very Serious Problem: Betrayal (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Then I understood that if I kept being a people pleaser and not practicing the truth or protecting the interests of God’s house, that was a betrayal of God. I knew I had to stop protecting interpersonal relationships, and no matter what they thought of me after I spoke up about their problem, I had to face God, practice the truth, and shame Satan! And so, I exposed their arrogance and uncooperative behavior, and the essence and consequences of these things. I also found some words of God to read to them. To my surprise, after listening, they were able to reflect on themselves in light of God’s words and wanted to repent and change. I was so happy to see that they were able to learn about themselves, but I also felt kind of guilty. If I had practiced the truth earlier, they could have seen how serious their problem was and turned things around before that. They wouldn’t have kept living in corruption, being harmed and toyed with by Satan, and especially wouldn’t have held up God’s work. I always used to be afraid of pointing out others’ faults, afraid they’d be annoyed and would have something against me. But in fact, that was all in my head. As long as someone can accept the truth, they won’t develop any prejudices, but will be able to handle it appropriately and learn a lesson. This approach is good for others and for ourselves.

I had more confidence in practicing the truth and being an honest person after that. I wasn’t as held back by thoughts of status and reputation. When I saw my brothers’ and sisters’ problems, I could share fellowship and help them right away, exposing and dissecting the issue. Our church life also improved. I really felt God’s love and salvation through these experiences. God arranged these kinds of situations to cleanse and transform me so I could be freed from my selfishness and craftiness. I felt that practicing the truth was so relaxing and gave real peace of mind, so much better than always bending over backward, afraid of causing offense. This is the way to live with a bit of a human likeness! I also saw that only God’s words are the truth, and they can give us a direction and a path for what we do and who we are. Living as an honest person according to God’s words is the only way to be a good person.

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