Is Amiability an Apt Criterion for Good Humanity?
By Li Xiang, the Philippines
When I was little, people always said I was sensible and well-behaved; in short, a good kid. I rarely got angry at others and never caused any trouble. After entering the faith, I was also quite amiable with the other brothers and sisters. I was tolerant, patient and loving. I remember once when I was teaching some older members how to use computers, I patiently taught them again and again. Even though sometimes they would be slow to learn and I’d get a bit agitated, I would try hard not to show impatience, out of fear that others would say I lacked loving kindness. As a result, brothers and sisters often said I had good humanity, and my leader chose me to water newcomers, saying that only people with kindness and patience could do that duty well. I felt very self-satisfied when I heard that, and was even more sure that being amiable and kind was a sign of good humanity.
Later on, Sister Li Ming and I were partnered as leaders in the church. After working together for some time, I noticed that Li Ming wanted to do things her own way, and she had a bit of a temper. If things didn’t go her way, she would often become angry. Also, she wasn’t transparent in her work and would often be deceptive. She didn’t act according to principles and didn’t protect the church’s work. For a period of time, she kept using her cell phone to contact brothers and sisters. I knew that this could allow the police to monitor them and could make trouble for the church, and I thought about stopping her several times, but just as I was about to speak up, I’d hold back. I felt that if I pointed out her problem directly, she might think that even though I acted like a nice person outwardly, I was rather merciless in my words and actions, and thus hard to get along with. After thinking it over, I decided to compromise and simply ask her if she was or wasn’t using her cell phone. When she wouldn’t admit she was, I knew she was lying, but I didn’t expose her and stop her, fearing that it would drive a rift between us and make her think less of me. Later on, I noticed Li Ming’s problems were getting more and more serious. One time, some brothers and sisters told me that her husband was always taking about doctrine to show off during gatherings, didn’t resolve practical issues, and told others about how much he’d suffered and sacrificed in his duty just to make them admire him. After investigating, it was determined he wasn’t suited to be a leader and should be dismissed. When I told Li Ming about this, she became very irritated, saying that the brothers and sisters’ evaluation was false, and unfair to her husband. She even questioned why we didn’t investigate those who reported the issue, and only investigated her husband. I was shocked—I never imagined Li Ming would have such a poor attitude. To try to smooth things over, I told her: “Quiet your heart and seek God’s will in this matter. Try not to let your emotions get the best of you.” But she didn’t listen to me at all and just wouldn’t let up. Due to Li Ming’s willful obstruction, her husband’s problem was left unsolved. After that, Li Ming reprimanded the brothers and sisters during a gathering and even drove one sister to tears. Li Ming’s problem was getting very serious. The others had objectively and fairly evaluated her husband, only bringing up facts, but because this threatened her interests, she got angry and lashed out at them. She had evil humanity! I wanted to report her problem to our upper leader, but then I thought: “Isn’t that just being a tattletale and stabbing her in the back? Also, that leader will definitely call her in for fellowship if I report her—if she finds out that I was the one that reported her, what will she think of me? Won’t she say that I was disparaging her behind her back and that I have poor humanity?” Realizing this, I refrained from reporting her, but I felt a bit repressed, agonized and like I was being antagonized by a bully.
Later on, after other people reported her, Li Ming was finally dismissed. In the aftermath, the upper leader exposed me, saying: “While on the surface it seems like you get along well with everyone, you have no real loyalty towards God. Why didn’t you expose and stop Li Ming when you noticed her problem? How could you not report such a crucial issue? Do you want to protect the church’s work or not?” Only after being dealt with by my leader did I wake up and start praying to God and reflecting. I came across a passage of God’s words that says: “There must be a standard for having good humanity. It does not involve taking the path of moderation, not sticking to principles, endeavoring not to offend anyone, currying favor everywhere you go, being smooth and slick with everyone you meet, and making everyone speak well of you. This is not the standard. So, what is the standard? It is being able to submit to God and the truth. It is approaching one’s duty and all manner of people, events, and things with principles and a sense of responsibility. This is plain for all to see; everyone is clear about this in their heart. Moreover, God searches people’s hearts and knows their situation, each and every one; no matter who they are, no one can fool God. Some people always boast that they possess good humanity, that they never speak ill of others, never harm anyone else’s interests, and they claim never to have coveted other people’s property. When there is a dispute over interests, they even prefer to suffer loss than take advantage of others, and everyone else thinks they are good people. However, when performing their duties in God’s house, they are wily and slippery, always scheming for themselves. Never do they think of the interests of God’s house, never do they treat as urgent the things God treats as urgent or think as God thinks, and never can they set aside their own interests so as to perform their duties. They never forsake their own interests. Even when they see evildoers committing evil, they do not expose them; they have no principles whatsoever. What kind of humanity is this? It is not good humanity. Pay no attention to what such people say; you must see what they live out, what they reveal, and what their attitude is when they perform their duties, as well as what their internal state is and what they love. If their love of their own fame and gain exceeds their loyalty to God, if their love of their own fame and gain exceeds the interests of God’s house, or if their love of their own fame and gain exceeds the consideration they show for God, then are such people possessed of humanity? They are not people with humanity” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. In Giving One’s Heart to God, One Can Obtain the Truth). Through God’s words, I realized that a person’s humanity cannot be judged based on outward characteristics like whether they have a mild temper, if they talk behind people’s backs or whether they can get along with others harmoniously, but rather on their attitude towards God and the truth, whether they are responsible in their duty, and whether they stand with God and act according to truth and principles when facing issues. In the past, I thought I had decent humanity. I was outwardly kind and had a nice personality, but when I noticed Li Ming using her cell phone to contact brothers and sisters, which compromised the church’s safety, I worried that calling her out directly might ruin our relationship, and so I just gave her a tactful, subtle reminder. When she didn’t admit to her behavior, I didn’t expose or stop her. I thought to myself: “If something goes wrong, she can’t say I didn’t remind her.” This way of doing things didn’t affect my image and absolved me of responsibility if something went wrong. I was only thinking about my own interests, status and image, while paying no mind to the church’s work or the brothers’ and sisters’ safety. I was so selfish and treacherous! When I saw how Li Ming got emotional and lashed out at the others over the issue with her husband, I should have reported this to our upper leader right away, but I worried she’d think I was backstabbing her, so I remained silent. This had a negative influence on the church’s work, and was damaging to the brothers and sisters. Where was my humanity? Considering my actions in light of God’s words of judgment and exposure, I felt very guilty. I always thought I had good humanity, but through the revelation of God’s words and being exposed through facts, my self-perception completely changed. Outwardly, I was kind, but behind that kindness was a despicable intention. I only cared about my personal interests and didn’t protect the church’s work at all. I dealt in fake kindness and tried to please everyone. I was a falsely pious and treacherous person. After that, I didn’t dare portray myself as someone with good humanity.
Later on, I came across another passage of God’s words. “The essence behind ‘good’ behavior such as being approachable and amiable can be described in one word: pretense. Such ‘good’ behavior is not born of the words of God, nor as a result of practicing the truth or acting according to principle. What is it produced by? It comes from people’s motives, schemes, from them pretending, putting on an act, being deceitful. When people cling to these ‘good’ behaviors, the aim is to get the things they want; if not, they would never aggrieve themselves in this way, and live contrary to their own desires. What does it mean, to live contrary to their own desires? It is that their true nature is not as well-behaved, guileless, gentle, kind, and virtuous as people imagine. They do not live by conscience and sense; instead, they live in order to achieve a certain aim or demand. What is man’s true nature? It is muddle-headed and ignorant. Without the laws and commandments bestowed by God, people would have no idea what sin is. Is this not what mankind used to be like? Only when God issued the laws and commandments did people have some concept of sin. But still they had no concept of right and wrong, or of positive and negative things. And how, with this being the case, could they be aware of the correct principles for speaking and acting? Could they know which ways of acting, which good behaviors, ought to be found in normal humanity? Could they know what produces truly good behavior, what kind of way they should follow to live out a human likeness? They could not. Because of people’s satanic nature, because of their instincts, they could only pretend and put on an act to live decently, and with dignity—which is what gave rise to deceits such as being refined and sensible, mild-mannered, courteous, respecting the old and caring for the young, and being amiable and approachable; thus emerged these tricks and techniques of deception. And once they emerged, people selectively clung to one or two of these deceits. Some chose to be amiable and approachable, some chose to be refined and sensible and mild-mannered, some chose to be courteous, to respect the old and care for the young, some chose to be all of these things. And yet I define people with such ‘good’ behaviors with one term. What is that term? ‘Smooth stones.’ What are smooth stones? It is those smooth stones at the river’s edge that have been scoured and polished of any sharp edges by years and years of passing water. And though they may not hurt to step on, without care people can slip on them. In appearance and shape, these stones are very beautiful, but once you have taken them home, they are quite useless. You can’t bear to throw them away, but there is no point in keeping them, either—which is what a ‘smooth stone’ is. To Me, people with these apparently good behaviors are tepid. They pretend to be good on the outside, but do not accept the truth at all, they say nice-sounding things, but don’t do anything real. They are nothing but smooth stones. If you fellowship with them on the truth and the principles, they’ll talk to you about being mild-mannered and courteous. If you speak to them about discerning antichrists, they’ll talk to you about respecting the old and caring for the young, and being refined and sensible. If you tell them that there must be principles to one’s conduct, that one must seek the principles in their duty and not act willfully, what will their attitude be? They’ll say, ‘Acting in accordance with the principles of the truth is another matter. I just want to be refined and sensible, and for others to approve of my actions. As long as I respect the old and care for the young, and have other people’s approval, that’s enough.’ They only care about good behaviors, they do not focus on the truth” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (3)). Through God’s words, I realized that being amiable and approachable, behaviors deemed good by traditional culture, are in essence just a pretense. Those who act like this are just putting on a false front to gain people’s admiration and deceive them into respecting and praising them. It’s all conspiracy and treachery, and acting this way makes you a fraud. I also realized that the reason I was still so selfish and treacherous, despite trying to be a good person all these years, was because there were evil intentions behind all of this. I wanted to make a good impression on people so they would respect and praise me. I had been conditioned and educated by traditional culture from an early age to value good conduct. I thought that having good conduct would earn me the praise of people around me. After entering the faith, I continued to try to be an amiable and approachable person and maintain a good image and status among the brothers and sisters, especially when I was partnered with Li Ming. I noticed that she used her phone several times, violating principles, endangering brothers and sisters, and ignoring the church’s interests, so I should have exposed and stopped her, but I worried that she’d form a bad impression of me so I just let it slide. I clearly saw that Li Ming was protecting her husband and even suppressed the brothers and sisters, and that this was not just a simple case of corruption. Her humanity was evil, she wasn’t a suitable leader, and she should have been reported right away. But instead I chose to remain silent once again to protect my status and image. To protect my image, I bit the hand that fed me. I didn’t protect the church’s interests at all. I became profoundly aware of how seeking to be amiable and approachable not only didn’t help me change my corrupt disposition, it actually made me more and more treacherous. I aimed for good behavior instead of practicing the truth, projecting a false image to hide my despicable intentions and make everyone think that I had the reality of truth and that I was loving and kind, fooling them into trusting me and giving me their respect and approval. I was on the path of the falsely pious Pharisees and was resisting God. I would be condemned and cast out by God if I continued on like that.
Later on, I read another two passages of God’s words. “And what is the consequence when people always think of their own self-interest, when they are always trying to protect their own pride and vanity, when they betray a corrupt disposition yet do not seek the truth to fix it? It is that they have no entry into life, it is that they lack true experiences and testimony. And this is dangerous, is it not? If you never practice the truth, if you lack any experiences and testimony, then in due course you will be exposed and cast out. What use do people without experiences and testimony have in the house of God? They are bound to do any duty poorly; they can’t do anything properly. Are they not just garbage? If people never practice the truth after years of believing in God, they are one of the nonbelievers, they are evil. If you never practice the truth, if your transgressions grow ever more numerous, then your end is set. It is clear to see that all your transgressions, the mistaken path you walk, and your refusal to repent—all of this combines into a multitude of evil deeds; and so your end is that you will go to hell, you will be punished. Do you think this is a trivial matter? If you have not been punished, you will have no sense of how terrifying this is. When the day comes and you really do face calamity, and you are faced with death, it will be too late for regrets. If, in your faith in God, you do not accept the truth, if you have believed in God for years but there has been no change in you, the ultimate consequence is that you will be cast out, you will be abandoned” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). “Only when people act and conduct themselves according to God’s words do they have a true foundation. If they do not conduct themselves according to God’s words, and only focus on pretending to behave well, can they become good people as a result? Absolutely not. Good behavior cannot change people’s essence. Only the truth and the words of God can change people’s dispositions, thoughts, and opinions, and become their life. … What should the basis of people’s speech and actions be? God’s words. So, what are the requirements and standards God has for people’s speech and actions? (That they be constructive to people.) That is right. Most fundamentally, you must tell the truth, speak honestly, and benefit others. At the very least, speech must edify people, and not trick, make fun of, mislead, satirize, insult, constrict, hurt, expose people’s weaknesses, or mock people. This is the expression of normal humanity. It is humanity’s virtue. … Also, sometimes it is necessary to point out and criticize others’ shortcomings, deficiencies, and faults directly. This is of great benefit to people. It is a real help to them, and it is constructive for them, is it not?” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (3)). I was alarmed by God’s words. If someone chooses to uphold their own interests in situation after situation and never practices the truth, they will accumulate more and more transgressions, and will eventually be thoroughly exposed and cast out by God. Even when I saw my brothers’ and sisters’ safety threatened and the church’s work being affected, I didn’t uphold principles and protect the church’s work, instead always seeking to be a so-called good person. Even if I earned the respect and approval of others, in God’s eyes I was an evildoer and would ultimately be despised and punished by Him. I was terrified when I realized these consequences and was ready to rectify my misguided pursuit. God’s words also showed me the correct path of practice. Only by acting and speaking according to God’s words can we benefit and edify others. It doesn’t matter how we speak, whether we speak in a strong or soft voice, or how tactful we are with our words. What matters most is to speak in a way that is edifying for the brothers and sisters. As long as it’s the right person, someone who can accept the truth, we should help them with love. If they don’t understand the truth and harm the work, we can fellowship with them to provide guidance and support. If there is still no real improvement after fellowship, we can deal with and prune them, exposing the essence of their problem. Even if it sounds harsh or seems to ignore people’s feelings, this way of acting can truly benefit and support them. If they are antichrists or evildoers who are disrupting the church’s work, we should make a stand to expose and stop them or report them to our superiors to uphold the church’s work and protect the brothers and sisters from being disturbed and deceived. Only by doing so are we really practicing the truth, demonstrating true humanity and kindness. I also rectified a fallacious view I had. I thought that reporting someone for violating principles was tattling, backstabbing or being disloyal. This was a mistaken view. Doing so actually protects the church’s work and is a good deed. In reality, when I saw that Li Ming had a serious problem that was constraining and damaging the brothers and sisters, this was an issue of principle that concerned the church’s work and I should have mentioned it to the upper leadership right away or even reported her. This wouldn’t have been backstabbing; it would’ve been protecting the church’s work. After I realized this, many of my concerns vanished and I felt much more at ease.
Later on, someone reported that a brother was continually slacking off and shying away from any hardship, and after others pointed this out, and dealt with him several times, he still wouldn’t accept it at all. Based on principles, we decided that he needed to be dismissed, and that we should clearly dissect his issues so he could self-reflect. At the time, I thought: “It can be offensive to dissect someone’s problems for them. Maybe I’ll let my partner fellowship with him and I can stay out of it. Otherwise I might give him a bad impression.” But then, I suddenly realized I was trying to protect my status and image again. I recalled God’s words, which say: “For all who fulfill their duty, however profound or shallow their understanding of the truth, the simplest way of practice by which to enter the reality of the truth is to think of the interests of God’s house in everything, and to let go of selfish desires, individual intentions, motives, pride, and status. Put the interests of God’s house first—this is the least one should do” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Freedom and Liberation Can Be Gained Only by Casting Off One’s Corrupt Disposition). God’s words showed me a path of practice. When faced with problems, we must put aside our desires and reputation, prioritize the church’s interests and heed God’s will. This is the only forthright way to act and will be commended by God. Once I understood God’s demands, I felt motivated, and so I dissected the brother’s behavior in detail according to God’s words. I felt very much at ease after practicing this way. I realized that only by practicing the truth can we attain true peace and happiness.
After this experience, I was filled with gratitude to God. It was God’s word that helped me see how absurd traditional culture’s emphasis on being amiable and approachable is and what damage it inflicts on people. It also allowed me to experience the liberation and release that comes from breaking free of the fetters of traditional culture. Thanks be to God for His salvation!
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