Learning Through Cooperation
By Zan’en, South Korea
says, “If you want to properly fulfill your duties and satisfy God’s will, then you first must learn how to work harmoniously with others. When coordinating with your brothers and sisters, you should consider the following: What is harmony? Is the way I speak to them harmonious? Do my thoughts lead to harmony with them? Does the way I am doing things lead to harmony with them? Consider how to be harmonious. At times, being harmonious involves forbearance and tolerance, but it also includes standing your ground and upholding principles; it does not mean reconciling differences regardless of principles, or trying to be ‘the good guy,’ or sticking to the path of moderation. In particular, it does not mean ingratiating yourself to someone. These are the principles. Once you have grasped these principles, you will, without even realizing it, act in accordance with God’s will, and you also will live out the reality of the truth; in this way, you can achieve unity with your brothers and sisters. In their interactions with each other, when people rely on philosophies for living, their notions, ideas, desires, and selfishness, and their own capabilities, gifts, specialties, and cleverness, then they are utterly incapable of achieving unity before God. Because they are living and doing things from within a corrupt satanic disposition, they cannot unify. What is the ultimate consequence of this? God does not work on them. When He does not work on them, and they continue to rely on their meager abilities, cleverness, and specialties, and the tiny bit of knowledge and skills they have gained, they have a very difficult time being put to full use in God’s house, and they also find it very hard to act in accordance with His will, for if God is not working on you, you can never grasp the principles of putting the truth into practice or of doing things; that is, you can never grasp the essence or the root of the principles behind the duty you are performing, nor can you know how to act in harmony with God’s will or what to do to bring Him joy. You also cannot know how to act in line with the principles of the truth. You are unable to grasp these essential things; you have no idea. Your confused attempts to fulfill your duty are bound to fail, and you are certain to be spurned by God” (“On Harmonious Coordination” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
I remember it was three years ago that we had to choreograph a dance for a show. The song had a really powerful tune to it so the movements and formations in the dance had to have some verve and passion, and we needed more than 10 dancers. Once the dancers had all been chosen, we started rehearsals. At the beginning when we were discussing what the movements should be like, everyone approved of my views and thoughts and accepted them. I started feeling a little self-satisfied, and thought: “Looks like I’m a pretty talented choreographer.” And just like that, I always thought any opinion I expressed was right, and took less and less notice of the opinions of my brothers and sisters. I remember one time we were rehearsing the moves to a lyric from the song. Everyone mentioned their ideas and I told them mine. I thought that since this was the climax to the song we should go for a large, flowing formation, but right after I finished speaking, another sister gave her thoughts. She said: “Given the content of the lyrics, we need to express the longing that believers feel for the coming of the Lord, so I think it’s best if we come together in a prayer formation so we can express the sincerity in their longing for the Lord’s arrival.” Just as she finished speaking, I thought: “What? Right when the music reaches its climax, rather than being fluid and spread out, we’ll just be motionless? Could that achieve the desired effect?” I rejected her opinion right away. I saw she was a bit embarrassed, but I didn’t think too much of it. The way I saw it, if you think something’s wrong, you have to say so. You’ve got to take responsibility for your duty. On the way home at lunchtime, a brother pointed out to me that I shouldn’t just reject others’ opinions out of hand, and that I should explore them. I thought he made a good point, but then I thought: “I just don’t think her proposal could possibly work. Besides, my idea is just based on common sense, so it should be right. We’ll know if it’s right when everyone tries it out.” I was still pretty confident at the time. But to my surprise, when we saw it being rehearsed, my idea turned out to be flat and uninspired, and her idea perfectly conveyed the longing believers feel for the coming of the Lord even though there weren’t any bold movements or anything like that. The scene was very moving and it suited the music perfectly. Everyone went with her proposal. I felt a bit humiliated. I felt like I’d been unreasonable to discard someone else’s idea based on my own imagining, but I still felt like I’d just handled the issue in the wrong way. I didn’t focus on reflecting on my own behavior.
Whenever we discussed ideas after that, I would still often think that my opinions were right and my ideas were good. Sometimes I’d hear a proposal from someone else that I didn’t agree with, and I’d just discard it straight away. Sometimes others would choose ideas different from the ones I chose, but I wouldn’t accept them. I would think: “What on earth are you guys thinking? The idea I chose is clearly the kind of energy we want. You all have no taste!” So I would keep stressing to them that my proposal was the right one. I’d find problems with the proposals others chose, and I’d try to pick them apart: “This is no good.” “That’s no good.” Over time, some brothers and sisters started to feel like I was controlling and stopped expressing their views. Fewer and fewer people attended the discussions and progress with rehearsals got slower and slower. Sometimes we wouldn’t even get anywhere for hours. It was like we’d come to a dead end. When the people in charge found out, they got us together for a meeting. I remember clearly the two passages ofthat we read. “These days, many people do not pay attention to what lessons should be learned while coordinating with others. I have discovered that many of you cannot learn lessons at all while coordinating with others; most of you stick to your own views. When working in the church, you say your piece and someone else says theirs, and the one has no relation to the other; you do not actually cooperate at all. You are all so absorbed in merely communicating your own insights or in releasing the ‘burdens’ you bear inside you, without seeking life in even the smallest way. You appear to only be doing the work perfunctorily, always believing that you should walk your own path regardless of what anyone else says or does; you think you should fellowship as the Holy Spirit guides you, no matter what the circumstances of others may be. You are not able to discover the strengths of others, and nor are you capable of examining yourselves. Your acceptance of things is really deviant and erroneous. It can be said that even now you still exhibit a lot of self-righteousness, as if you have relapsed into that old illness” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Serve As the Israelites Did). “Whenever you encounter anything, you should fellowship with each other so that your lives can benefit. Moreover, you should carefully fellowship about things of any sort before making any decisions. Only by doing so are you taking responsibility for the church rather than simply acting perfunctorily” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Serve As the Israelites Did). When I read God’s words: “You are all so absorbed … in releasing the ‘burdens’ you bear inside you,” and “stick to your own views,” I felt a pain in my heart. I always felt that by proactively expressing my views, and speaking out when I felt others were wrong, I was being responsible for my duty. Reflecting on my behavior in light of God’s words, I realized it was not in line with God’s requirements. God’s words say that when we work with others, we should search for the principles of the truth together, and make up for our own shortcomings by learning from others, and only then are we fulfilling our duty. Thinking back, I only cared about expressing my own views and proving that I was right. I didn’t quiet myself and listen to the views of others, nor did I judge their suitability according to the principles. I would just discard them if I thought they were wrong. By doing that, I wasn’t working harmoniously with my brothers and sisters at all. That was not being responsible to my duty.
Later, I read God’s words: “Do not be self-righteous; take the strengths of others to offset your own deficiencies, watch how others live by God’s words; and see whether their lives, actions, and speech are worth emulating. If you regard others as less than you, you are self-righteous, conceited, and of benefit to no one” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 22). Then I reflected on my behavior and compared it to God’s words. I always felt like my ideas were better than others’, that I was right about everything. Whenever someone else came up with a different proposal I wouldn’t even consider whether the end result would be better or not or whether it would be better able to express the meaning of God’s words, I would just discard it without more than a fleeting thought, and I would even end up arguing with people, and find faults with their ideas. Only then did I see that I wasn’t really carrying a burden, I was just exuding an arrogant disposition. I was relying on my arrogant disposition to fulfill my duty and bolstering my own opinions. I wasn’t accepting or taking in the advice others gave me and I wasn’t thinking about how to benefit the work of God’s house, which made everyone feel controlled so that they no longer wanted to express their opinions. Choreography ground to a halt and that affected the filming progress. Was I not playing the role of Satan, interrupting the work of God’s house? When that thought crossed my mind, I felt terrible. It’s just a fact that everyone’s way of thinking and their ideas are different and everyone considers things in their own way. I should’ve at least listened to their ideas and explored them to see if there was anything to them and whether or not they came from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If I could listen to other people’s suggestions, I could learn from the good points in their proposals to make up for my own deficiencies. Besides, an idea is never going to be perfect and fleshed out the moment someone proposes it. So long as the principles and the direction are right, everyone can chip in and make the idea better and better in the end. But I was always trying to find the bad points in other people’s ideas, and that’s not working with others harmoniously and fulfilling my duty. Now I understood a bit better. I couldn’t bolster my opinions with my own arrogance anymore. I had to learn to seek the truth and accept it while fulfilling my duty. Whoever has a thought or an idea that can bear witness for God, we should go with their idea. Learning to forsake ourselves, work with others and strengthen their proposals—only in this way can we receive the Holy Spirit’s guidance and achieve good results. After that, I started learning how to forsake myself and seriously listen to everyone’s thoughts during rehearsals. Only then did I realize that other people most often considered things more fully than I did and my own ideas were far from perfect. Before, when others were expressing their opinions, I would just act like I was listening when I was actually absorbed in my own thoughts. Sometimes I would think of an idea I thought was pretty good and then interrupt someone else to give a long-winded speech. I was just so arrogant. I had no sense at all. After that, I began learning how to deny myself. Whenever I wanted to persist with my own idea and reject others’ proposals, I would think: “Is my idea definitely right? Can I learn anything from their proposals?” When I thought back on how my proposals weren’t always right I consciously forsook myself and prayed to God. I put myself to one side and prayed for God’s guidance and for Him to make things clear. Over those few days, I expressed my viewpoints less. I listened to and thought about others’ opinions more. By working together with everyone else, my own deficiencies were made up. I also thought over the others’ ideas and helped improve them. I felt that by performing my duty in this way, I would be of one mind with others. I felt a great sense of ease and enjoyment in my heart. During that time, more than 10 of us entered the truth of working together harmoniously and we progressed faster with the choreography. Soon enough, we had all the dance moves choreographed.
With the choreography taken care of, we began focusing on rehearsing. To make sure the moves were neat and looked beautiful we had to rehearse each one over and over until everyone had mastered it and there were no mistakes, and only then could we move on to the next one. I remember there was one time when we were rehearsing, I thought that I danced well and could move on to the next dance move. But the sister who was instructing us said to someone, “Hey you, that was wrong again. Let’s go from the top.” I felt so unwilling to accept it. I’d look at the brother or sister who made the mistake with a contemptuous, annoyed look on my face, and think, “We’ve practiced this move so many times already. How are you still messing this up? Are you not taking this seriously or just being lazy?” When I would see a brother or sister move out of time with the beat, whether it was before or after the beat, I would be even more annoyed and think to myself, “We’ve been rehearsing this for months now. We’ve heard this music countless times already. You should be able to do this by now, right? Why are you still messing up? You’re of a poor caliber.” Some of them didn’t have a sense of positioning, and they would stand in the wrong place. The sister instructing would say to one of them, “Hey, you there! You’re out of place again.” I would get even more annoyed and think, “Just look around yourself so you’re in the right place. This isn’t hard.” Though I would sometimes be aware that I shouldn’t look down on the others, I couldn’t help having a look of annoyance on my face each time one of them made a mistake or didn’t perform well.
One day one of the sisters said to me: “I’ve felt so constrained by you in rehearsals recently. Each time I don’t perform a move well or one of the others makes a mistake, you always have this look of annoyance or contempt, like you’re really good at this and no one can do it better than you can. Every time I see you looking like that I feel really bad.” When she pointed this out to me, I instinctively retorted and said she was wrong, but afterwards I felt very upset. I kept thinking about what she said. She was absolutely right. Recently I’d been showing my annoyance during rehearsals. I might not have said anything, but my expressions betrayed my arrogant disposition and made others feel constrained. I felt sad when I thought of that. I thought, “How has my arrogant disposition still not changed?” In a meeting a few days after, everyone opened up about problems in rehearsals and the states they were in. One brother said he’d never learned this kind of dance before and that even though he wanted to do it well, his body was holding him back. Every time he saw the others having to practice again because of his mistake, he would get upset and blame himself. Some sisters said that they didn’t have an ear for music and when a dance started, they’d be thinking of the movements and couldn’t stay in time. Some others said they’d only ever danced on the same spot and this was the first time they’d had to move in formation so they would get confused. When I heard everyone say what they were feeling, I felt so ashamed and I blamed myself. I thought of the looks of contempt I’d given when others made mistakes and felt even worse. They felt anxious about these problems and were trying their hardest. But not only did I not show any understanding or help them overcome these difficulties, I gave them the cold shoulder and got annoyed at them. I made them feel constrained and hurt. Where was my humanity? How could I work well together with them like that?
Afterwards, I read the words of God. “If you really possess the truth within you, the path you walk will naturally be the correct path. Without the truth, it is easy to do evil, and you will do it despite yourself. For example, if arrogance and conceit existed within you, you would find it impossible to keep from defying God; you would feel compelled to defy Him. You would not do it on purpose; you would do it under the domination of your arrogant and conceited nature. Your arrogance and conceit would make you look down on God and see Him as being of no account; they would cause you to exalt yourself, constantly put yourself on display, and, finally, sit in God’s place and bear testimony for yourself. In the end, you would turn your own ideas, your own thinking, and your own notions into truths to be worshiped. See how much evil is done by people under the dominance of their arrogant and conceited nature!” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Only after reading God’s words did I gain some knowledge of my own arrogant nature. Controlled by my arrogant nature, I always thought highly of myself, as though I was better than everyone else. When others came up with different proposals, I only thought of my own ideas, believing myself to be right. I clung firmly to my own views and rejected others’ proposals, and even got into arguments with them. This slowed down our progress and interrupted the work of God’s house. Afterwards, even though I wasn’t rejecting others’ views out of hand, every time I saw someone make a small mistake, or they weren’t perfect, I still couldn’t help but show my annoyance and look down on them, making them feel stifled and restrained. I was so arrogant. Where was my humanity? Thinking about living with this arrogant nature, making the others feel constrained, and disrupting the work of God’s house, I felt hugely regretful. I knew then that if I didn’t solve my arrogant nature, I really would do evil in spite of myself and I wouldn’t be able to work well with my brothers and sisters.
When rehearsing after that, I would not be fixating on others’ faults. Gradually, I realized there were a lot of problems with my own movements as well. Often I couldn’t stand steady or I wasn’t moving right, and I had to practice them over and over. I had nothing to brag about either. I didn’t understand the truth before and was caught up in my arrogance. I didn’t know myself. I always thought I was better than others. I was so senseless! Then I read God’s words: “Do you think anyone is perfect? No matter how strong people are, or how capable and talented, they still are not perfect. People must recognize this; it is a fact. This is also the most appropriate attitude of any who are correctly looking at their strengths and advantages or faults; this is the rationality that people should possess. With such rationality, you can properly deal with your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of others, and this will enable you to work alongside them harmoniously. If you are armed with this aspect of the truth and can enter its reality, then you can get along harmoniously with your brothers and sisters, drawing on each other’s strong points to offset any weaknesses you have. In this way, no matter what duty you are performing or what you are doing, you will always get better at it and have God’s blessing” (“Only by Practicing the Truth Can One Possess Normal Humanity” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “In everything you do, you must be of one mind. And how can you be of one mind? You must practice the truth; only then will you be able to become strong like a bundle of sticks—all together, and all of one mind” (“Having a Human Likeness Requires Fulfilling Your Duty Properly With All Your Heart, Mind, and Soul” in Records of Christ’s Talks). then understood that if we want to work well with others, we have to deal with people in the right way. When we see shortcomings in someone else, we shouldn’t put them down, but help each other. That way, we’ll have God’s guidance and blessing, and achieve good results. I was always showing off and looking down on others, when in reality, there’s no way I could’ve carried this dance off on my own anyway. Rather, the 10 or so of us brothers and sisters had to do it together. To reach our objective of bringing everyone’s level up to the same standard in a short space of time and get all our movements in sync, we had to work well together and make up for each other’s shortcomings.
We began sharing our experiences with each other, like what to focus on and problems to avoid to get certain movements right. When we saw someone having problems with a movement, we would point it out and talk about the right way to practice it. When in a formation, we began to consider each other and not just worry about our own position but think of ourselves as one part of the whole. If someone stepped out of place, I would adjust my own position to correct their error to keep the whole formation in line. Slowly, our movements became more and more uniform and the formations looked better and better. Filming day came, and after we’d finished, we all watched the edited video and everyone was amazed at how good it was. We would never have been able to do so well with our dance skills alone. It was all down to the guidance of God. We did it by working well together and receiving the work of the Holy Spirit.
When I think back to the three or so months we spent rehearsing the dance, it was God’s word and the situations He arranged that helped us understand the truth of working together harmoniously. As I practiced the truth, I learned how to put myself aside and treat others’ strengths and weaknesses properly, and I started to know more about my arrogant nature. I truly came to appreciate that carrying out our duty cannot be done without working well with others with one common goal. Thanks to God!