The Reflections of a “Good Leader”
By Rubylen, the Philippines
Since I was a child, my parents taught me to be friendly with people, and to be an approachable and empathetic person. If those around me had problems or shortcomings, I couldn’t expose it to their face, and I had to think about their dignity. Because of this education, I never had any conflicts or disputes with anyone, and the people around me thought I was a good person and wanted to associate with me. I also thought it was good to treat people this way. After I believed in God, this was still how I got along with my brothers and sisters. Especially after I became a church leader, I thought I should be friendly to others and never lightly accuse others of mistakes. That way, it wouldn’t ruin the good relationship between us, and they wanted to get along with me, and praised me as an amiable and good leader.
Later, I found that a group leader, Sister Joan, did her duty without any burden. I reminded her many times, “As a group leader, you should understand the state of your brothers and sisters and follow up on group work.” But she still didn’t do it, so I had to remind her again and ask her why. She said she only had an hour of free time, but she used it to go on Facebook and watch movies, so she didn’t follow up on anything. After hearing this, I was angry, and I thought, “You are so lazy, and bear no burden at all. When brothers and sisters don’t attend gatherings, you don’t think to support them!” I wanted to deal with her for muddling through her duty and being irresponsible, but if I dealt with her, I thought she might distance herself from me and say I wasn’t a good leader who is approachable. I didn’t want to ruin our harmonious relationship, so instead of dealing with her, I encouraged her. I said, “You can use this hour of free time to try to understand the state of your brothers and sisters, and then you can do your duty well.” She did well for a few days, but the same problem always reappeared. The way she muddled through her duty caused more and more newcomers to attend gatherings irregularly, and some newcomers didn’t bother coming at all. I was so angry. This group leader was so irresponsible! I really wanted to deal with her, but when I thought she would distance herself from me, I didn’t say anything, and I had to water and support these newcomers myself. After I spoke to these newcomers, I found out that they didn’t come to gatherings because there were many difficulties that weren’t resolved, but Joan had told me before that they didn’t reply to messages. After seeing Joan’s attitude toward her duty, I really wanted to deal with her. I wanted to let her know the serious consequences of her irresponsibility. But I also wanted to be a good leader who was amiable and approachable, so I changed my mind, and instead said things to encourage her. And so, she never changed. At one gathering, Joan complained, “I’ve been in the group a long time. Why wasn’t I promoted to a high-status position?” After hearing what Joan said, I thought, “You’re so lazy, you muddle through your duty, and you’re irresponsible. How could you possibly be promoted?” Although I was mad at her, I comforted her, saying, “In any duty we perform, we do so because of God’s sovereign arrangements. Although our duties are different, we are all watering newcomers and experiencing God’s work.” I thought this would make her feel I understood her and cared for her, and that I was a good leader. And so, despite seeing others’ problems, I never exposed or dealt with them. Instead, I said some nice things to comfort and encourage them. I thought this could maintain my good image of being approachable in everyone’s hearts.
Another time, the gospel deacon Edna and a group leader Anne didn’t get along well. Edna said to me angrily, “Anne is too lazy. I asked about the state and difficulties of those in her group, and she responded very late. If I can’t keep up with their state, she doesn’t do her duty well.” I knew Edna had a rather arrogant disposition, and her tone was often that of an order or demand, which was hard for others to accept, and Anne was concerned about her pride. It was likely that she heard Edna’s tone and couldn’t accept it, so she didn’t want to reply. I wanted to point this out to Edna, but I also didn’t want her to feel hurt or that I didn’t understand her, so I told her in a friendly way, “Maybe Anne was busy and didn’t see your message.” After that, I went to Anne, and Anne said unhappily, “Edna is too arrogant, She makes demands about how I do my duty, so I don’t want to reply to her messages.” I saw that she didn’t take advice from others and wanted to remind her about this, but I worried she wouldn’t accept that, and it would destroy the harmony between us, so I said, “Maybe you misunderstood Edna. She just wants you to do your duty well.” I only spoke words of comfort and exhortation to them, and I didn’t point out their problems. Neither of them understood themselves. Edna still couldn’t follow up on Anne’s work, and Anne felt she was wronged and that she couldn’t perform this duty. I knew I wasn’t fulfilling my responsibilities as a leader, which meant that they didn’t realize their own problems. I had caused these results. I prayed to God, asking God to enlighten me so that I could know myself.
In God’s word, I read, “Practicing the truth is not saying empty words and reciting set phrases. No matter what one may encounter in life, as long as it involves the principles of human conduct, perspectives on events, or the matter of performing their duty, they are faced with making a choice, and they should seek the truth, they should search for a basis and principle in, and then they should search for a path to practice; those who can practice in this way are people who pursue the truth. To be able to pursue the truth in this way no matter how great the difficulties one encounters is to walk the path of Peter and the path of pursuing the truth. For example: What principle should be followed when interacting with others? 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. 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 tolerate it than bring it up with the person. Constricted by your viewpoint, you become averse to offending anyone. No matter who you associate with, hindered as you are by thoughts of face, of emotions, or of feelings that have grown over many years of interaction, you will always say nice things to make the person happy. Where there are things you find unsatisfactory, you are also tolerant; you merely let off a little steam in private, cast a few aspersions, but when you meet them in person, you don’t rock the boat and still maintain a relationship with them. What do you think of such conduct? Is it not that of a yes-man? Is this not pretty slippery? It violates the principles of conduct. So 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” (“To Perform One’s Duty Well, One Must at Least Be Possessed of a Conscience and Reason” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). After contemplating God’s words, I understood, to practice the truth is to act according to the principles of truth no matter what happens, and not fear offending people. But when I got along with my brothers and sisters, I only focused on maintaining my image and status and maintaining harmony with others, and I pursued being an approachable and empathetic person to get the praise of brothers and sisters, but I neglected practicing the truth. When I saw Joan doing her duty without bearing a burden and being lazy and cunning, I wanted to deal with her for being irresponsible, but in order to maintain a good relationship with her and make her feel I was a good and approachable leader, I didn’t expose her problem. As a result, because of her irresponsibility, some newcomers couldn’t get their problems resolved, so they didn’t come to gatherings. And with Edna and Anne, I saw that they couldn’t harmoniously cooperate and didn’t know themselves, but rather than point out their problems or help them know themselves, I responded vaguely, trying to ease their conflicts by speaking words of comfort and exhortation between them. As a result, Edna was still unable to follow up, and Anne didn’t do her duty well and wanted to let someone else take her place. I saw that to maintain my image of a good leader who was amiable and approachable, I didn’t protect the interests of God’s house at all. I preferred to let the work suffer to maintain relationships with people. I was so selfish and despicable. I was a people-pleaser and a deceitful person. The way I acted and conducted myself was entirely based on my corrupt disposition. I was not practicing the truth. Even if I was praised by others, I would never be praised by God. In addition, I didn’t expose or point out the problems of my brothers and sisters, and I didn’t fellowship on the truth to resolve them, so they didn’t recognize their own corrupt dispositions or perform their duties well, which affected gospel work. Only when I realized this did I see that I wasn’t a good person at all, because I wasn’t helping brothers and sisters to grow in life entry. Instead, I made everyone defend me, praise me, and look up to me, which is disgusting to God. When I recognized this, I felt very sad, so I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me in resolving my corrupt dispositions.
Later, after learning about my state, a sister sent me a 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. Their true nature is desultory 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” (“What It Is to Pursue the Truth (3)” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Before, I always felt that people who are approachable and amiable are good people. I never thought that behind such good deeds lie satanic corrupt dispositions and personal goals and intentions. I pursued being an approachable and amiable person since I was a child, and my friends, brothers, and sisters all praised me for being considerate and amiable, but deep in my heart, all I did was to make others look up to me and praise me. I used the appearance of being approachable and amiable to blind and deceive my brothers and sisters. I saw that God characterizes people with this kind of good behavior as “smooth stones.” These stones look good on the outside, and it doesn’t hurt to step on them, but it’s very easy to slip on them and fall. It’s fine to look at them, but they have no practical use. I realized that’s who I was, someone who appeared to be approachable and amiable, but offered no practical help for my brothers and sisters. My heart was full of deceit and cunning. I was kind to everyone and didn’t offend anyone. I was just a “smooth stone,” a people-pleaser who sticks to a happy medium, and a cunning hypocrite. It’s just as God’s word reveals, “All those who stick to a happy medium are the most sinister. They try not to offend anyone, they are people-pleasers, they go along with things, and no one can see through them. A person like that is a living Satan!” (“Only by Practicing the Truth Can One Cast Off the Shackles of a Corrupt Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I used to think God and other people like and approve of those who are approachable, but now I knew my actions weren’t at all in line with the principles of truth and God’s word. I was only showing my deceitful disposition. Such people have no dignity or character, and God hates them. I knew, if I didn’t repent and change, one day I would be revealed and cast out by God. I didn’t want to be such a person. So, I prayed to God and repented and asked God to help me change my disposition, give me the strength to practice the truth, and help me have a sincere heart toward God and my brothers and sisters.
One day, a sister sent me two passages of God’s words: “What is the standard by which a person’s deeds are judged to be good or evil? It depends on whether or not they, in their thoughts, expressions, and actions, possess the testimony of putting the truth into practice and of living out the reality of the truth. If you do not have this reality or do not live this out, then without doubt, you are an evildoer” (“Freedom and Liberation Can Be Gained Only by Casting Off One’s Corrupt Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “The responsibilities of leaders and workers: 1. Lead people to eat and drink of God’s words and understand them, and to enter the reality of God’s words. 2. Be familiar with the states of each sort of person, and resolve the various difficulties relating to life entry they encounter in their lives. 3. Fellowship the principles of the truth that should be understood in order to perform each duty properly. 4. Keep abreast of the circumstances of supervisors of different work and personnel responsible for various important jobs, and promptly reallocate or replace them as necessary, so as to prevent or mitigate losses due to putting people to unsuitable use, and guarantee the efficiency and smooth progress of the work. 5. Maintain an up-to-date grasp and understanding of the status and progress of each project of the work, and be able promptly to resolve problems, correct deviations, and remedy oversights in the work so that it will progress smoothly” (Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). After reading God’s words, I understood, God’s standard for evaluating our humanity is not how many outward good deeds we do or how many people think highly of us. Instead, it is whether we can obey God and whether our thoughts and deeds testify the practice of the truth. Only people like this have good humanity. I saw Joan muddling through her duty and being irresponsible, as well as Edna and Anne living in their corrupt dispositions and ignoring each other. All these things took a toll on the work of the church. As a church leader, I should have fellowshiped, exposed, and analyzed the nature of what they did, but instead I spoke good words to them and tried to be a peacemaker. Even as I saw the work of God’s house suffer, I had to maintain my good image. Not only did I not have testimony of practicing the truth, I failed to fulfill my responsibilities as a church leader and didn’t help the life entry of my brothers and sisters in the slightest. I used to think that if I could live in harmony with my brothers and sisters and make them feel I was approachable and amiable, I was a good leader. Thinking about it now, this understanding is incorrect. A truly good leader can fellowship on the truth to solve problems, act in line with principles, not fear offending others, and be responsible for the lives of brothers and sisters. Faced with the problems of my brothers and sisters, instead of pointing these out and helping them enter into the realities of truth, I played tricks to protect my own image, gave them comfort and encouragement, and didn’t solve the actual problems. Wasn’t I just fooling and deceiving my brothers and sisters? I realized that my previous understanding of being a good leader was wrong, and was not in line with God’s requirements at all. All my words and deeds should be based on the principles of God’s word. If I don’t practice the truth, I’m walking the road of resisting God. God wants people who can speak and act according to God’s words and requirements instead of adhering to traditional cultural virtues, pursuing praise, speaking and acting dishonestly, and not practicing the truth. Thinking of this, I realized I had to change the way I got along with others. As a church leader, I could no longer perform my duty according to my own wishes. Instead, I had to act according to God’s will and help my brothers and sisters resolve difficulties according to God’s word, so that they could perform their duties according to the truth and principles. This was my responsibility. In God’s word, I found a path of practice. So, I prayed to God, and asked Him to guide me in practicing the truth to resolve my corruption.
Later, I read God’s word. “What people should strive to achieve most is to make the words of God their basis, and the truth their criterion; only then can they live in the light and live out the normal image of man. You act as you conduct yourself. How you conduct yourself determines your actions and behavior; your behavior is inseparable from your conduct. And only with principles is there a basis to your conduct; once people lose the basis of their conduct, and focus only on good behavior, this inevitably gives rise to fakery and pretense. If there is no principle to people’s conduct, then no matter how good their behavior is, they are hypocrites; they may be able to dupe others for a time, but they will never be trustworthy. Only when people act and conduct themselves according to God’s words do they have a true foundation. Can they become good people without a basis to how they conduct themselves, but only focusing on ‘good’ behavior? 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 allow them to gain the true life. … Sometimes, it is necessary to point out and criticize people’s shortcomings, deficiencies, and faults directly. This is of great benefit to people. And is it a real help to them? Is it constructive for them?” (“What It Is to Pursue the Truth (3)” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words pointed out the path of dispositional change to me, which is to act according to God’s words, use the truth as my criterion, not disguise myself with outward good deeds, practice the truth, be an honest person. When I see things happening that go against the principles of truth, or when I see brothers and sisters performing their duties from corrupt dispositions, I need to be honest with them, treat them according to principles, and fellowship, point things out, or deal with them as required. Only in this way can the brothers and sisters realize the deviations in their fulfillment of their duties and turn things around in time. This is truly helping my brothers and sisters, and having relationships with them on the basis of God’s word. This is what normal relationship between people means. After I understood how to practice the truth, I told myself, “Don’t fear speaking about the mistakes of others, and don’t always say good things. God hates those who pretend and deceive. My words and deeds must accord with God’s words and the principles of truth.” Later, when I saw Joan being lazy again, I wanted to point it out to her, but when it came time to practice, it felt very difficult to do. I was still worried I would lose my good image in her heart. I thought of God’s word I had read before and realized I was still relying on the idea of being approachable and amiable in how I behaved and conducted myself. I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me in practicing the truth. After that, I went to Joan and said to her, “Sister, I don’t know if you realize, but because you muddle through your duty and are irresponsible, many newcomers don’t come to gatherings. Doing your duty like this causes too much of a delay in watering newcomers.…” After pointing out her problem, I also shared my experience with her. I thought she would get angry and ignore me, but what happened surprised me. She not only wasn’t angry, she also reflected on herself and said, “This is my shortcoming, and I need to change it.” After that, Sister Joan started to perform her duty sincerely, and the newcomers she watered attended gatherings more regularly. The relationship between us didn’t break down because of my guidance and help, it got better. Later, when I saw her corruption again, I pointed it out to her directly, and she could accept it and know herself. Now, her attitude toward her duty has changed a lot, and she was later promoted to church leader. I also pointed out Edna’s and Anne’s problems. Edna realized her arrogance and said she had to change the way she talked to others, and Anne recognized her corrupt disposition, and she said she was willing to change. This made me very happy. Thank God! Only God’s word can change people!
Experiencing these things allowed me to see that a truly good person is not someone who outwardly behaves as people think is good. It means acting by God’s word, practicing the truth, and being an honest person. This is the kind of person God loves. I also saw that when I see problems in others, I need to fellowship and help them quickly, and expose and deal with them when required. Only in this way can they realize their own corruption and shortcomings and be able to seek the truth and do their duties according to principles. This is the best way to help them. Now, I no longer fear pointing out the problems of my brothers and sisters. No matter what they think of me, I want to practice being an honest person, follow principles, and safeguard the work of God’s house. Thank God!