Should We Live by Traditional Virtues?
By XiaoXiang, France
When I was in elementary school, there was a text that left a deep impression on me, the story of Kong Rong giving away pears. Kong Rong gave the biggest pears to his older and younger brothers, while he took the smallest, and was praised by his father. His story was written in the Three Character Classic. At that time, I thought his character was excellent, and I told myself to be a child like that as well. So, since childhood, if there was anything especially delicious or fun, although I wanted it, I imitated Kong Rong, gave these things to my older and younger sisters, and never fought for them. My sisters liked me very much for this, while my elders praised me even more, and told other children to learn from me. This made me think even more that this is the type of humanity people should possess. After believing in God, I also got along with my brothers and sisters like this. In both my duty and life, I never fought for things. In everything, I always put others first. Therefore, I was well-received among my brothers and sisters, and everyone said I was easy to get along with, not selfish, and considerate of others. I was very proud of myself for behaving this way, and I always thought my own humanity was good. Later, after being revealed by certain environments, I finally gained some understanding of my fallacious views on things.
In January of this year, due to the needs of gospel work, many new gospel and watering workers had to be found, so I was required to constantly seek and train watering staff. Sometimes, when I found brothers and sisters who were suitable for watering, the gospel staff got to them one step ahead of me. This made me very unhappy, but I was too embarrassed to say it, because I thought everyone would think I was selfish. So, I figured out a method. I deliberately sent a message to the watering deacon, telling him that the people suitable for watering were being taken away by the gospel workers. This caused the watering deacon to be prejudiced against gospel workers and made harmonious cooperation between them impossible. When an upper-level leader learned about this, she dealt with me severely and exposed me for saying things to sow discord and disrupt church work. Being pruned and dealt with made me sad, but I didn’t reflect or know myself in any way.
Then, one day, I heard that a sister named Lyse had good caliber and understanding, so she was very suitable for watering work. I went to the church leader to ask to transfer this sister to water newcomers. But later, people were urgently needed to preach the gospel, and the church leader sent Lyse to spread the gospel. When I heard the news, I felt very aggrieved, and wanted to speak to the church leader about it, but I thought, if I did this, my brothers and sisters would definitely think I was selfish and liked to fight for things. I told myself, “No, I can’t do it. That way, I’ll look generous and good-natured.” So, I suppressed my resentment, I hypocritically said I was happy for Lyse, and that both watering work and gospel work were the work of God’s house. Later, I heard the church leader say, “Brother Jerome has good caliber and fellowships well on the truth to solve problems.” I wanted to ask this brother to come water newcomers, but unexpectedly, the church leader said she had already sent him to be a gospel worker. I couldn’t take it anymore. Last time, she had asked Sister Lyse to preach the gospel. Why did she assign the next person to gospel work too? We desperately needed people to do watering work. So, I told the church leader about the situation. After listening to me, she said, “Since he is needed more to do watering work, I’ll leave Brother Jerome to you.” But I realized that since the church leader had already sent him to do gospel work, if I insisted on taking him, I worried they would say I was selfish and insisted on taking good people. So, I decided to let him preach the gospel. This would show I had good humanity, that I wasn’t selfish, and could consider others. In the group, I messaged that Jerome would be a good gospel worker and sent a series of happy celebratory emojis. Actually, all of it was pretend. I was in a terrible mood, and I was full of complaints. How could the leader think only gospel work needed good personnel? She didn’t see our actual difficulties. The more I thought, the more aggrieved I felt.
A few days later, another environment came to me. The leader asked us to report on recently cultivated personnel. I saw that the gospel workers were cultivating more people than we watering workers, and I couldn’t bear it again. Dissatisfaction and grievance instantly filled my mind. I didn’t expect that they were cultivating so many people. I had even let them have Lyse and Jerome. It was too unfair. Now, there were more gospel workers than watering workers. Thinking of the huge number of newcomers in the future and how few watering staff we had, I felt a lot of pressure, as well as prejudice against my leader. It felt like she only thought about gospel work, and like no one thought about watering work. The more I thought about it, the sadder I felt, and I couldn’t help crying as I sat there. Watching the gospel deacon and church leader enthusiastically speak about our newcomers in the group, I felt like an outsider, and I was so frustrated that I even wanted to leave the group. At noon that day, I was so miserable that I couldn’t eat. I lay in bed alone and sobbing, and I felt that if I went on like this, I was bound to get sick. When a sister I knew saw my state, she said I didn’t speak directly and disguised myself so that others would think I was humble and look up to me. After my sister’s reminder, I finally started to reflect on myself.
In God’s word, I read, “Do you know who are actually Pharisees? Are there any Pharisees around you? Why are these people called ‘Pharisees’? How are Pharisees described? They are people who are hypocritical, completely fake, and put on an act in everything they do. What act do they put on? They pretend to be good, kind, and positive. Is this what they are actually like? Absolutely not. Given that they are hypocrites, everything that is manifested and revealed in them is false; it is all pretense—it is not their true face. Where is their true face hidden? It is hidden deep within their hearts, never to be seen by others. Everything on the outside is an act, it is all fake, but they can only fool people; they cannot fool God. … To others, such people seem very devout and humble, but it is actually fake; they seem tolerant, forbearing, and loving, but it is actually a pretense; they say they love God, but it is actually an act. Others think such people holy, but it is actually fake. Where can a person who is truly holy be found? Human holiness is all fake. It is all an act, a pretense. On the outside, they appear loyal to God, but they are actually just performing for others to see. When no one is looking, they are not the slightest bit loyal, and everything they do is perfunctory. Superficially, they expend themselves for God and have given up their families and careers. But what are they doing in secret? They are conducting their own enterprise and running their own operation in the church, profiting from the church and stealing offerings secretly under the guise of working for God…. These people are the modern hypocritical Pharisees” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Six Indicators of Life Growth). “If what you pursue is the truth, and what you practice is the truth, and the basis of your speech and actions is, then others will profit and gain from your principled speech and actions. Would that not be of benefit to both of you? If living constrained by the thinking of traditional culture, you put on an act while others do the same, and you offer mannered niceties while they bow and scrape, each putting on an act for the other, then neither of you is any good. You and they bow and scrape and engage in niceties all day long, without a word of truth, embodying in life only good behavior as promoted by traditional culture. Though such behavior is conventional as seen from the outside, it is all hypocrisy, behavior that tricks and dupes others, behavior that takes people in and tricks them, without a sincere word to be heard. If you make friends with such a person, you are bound to be taken in and tricked in the end. There is nothing that would edify you to be gained from their good behavior. All it has to teach you is falsehood and trickery: You trick them, they trick you. What you will feel, ultimately, is an extreme degradation of your integrity and dignity, which you will just have to endure. You will still have to present yourself with mannered courtesy, with cultured civility, without quibbling with others or demanding too much of them. You will still have to be patient and tolerant, affecting nonchalance and broad-minded magnanimity with a beaming smile. How many years of effortful training must it take to achieve such a condition? If you demand of yourself that you live like this before others, would your life not exhaust you? To pretend to have so much love, knowing full well that you do not—such hypocrisy is no easy thing! You would feel ever more strongly the exhaustion of comporting yourself in this way as a person; you would rather be born as a cow or horse, a pig or dog in your next life than a human being. They are just too false and evil for you” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (3)). God revealed that people live by hypocrisy based on traditional cultural ideas, which only brings pain, depression, and self-isolation. This was deeply stirring, because these ideas had harmed me deeply. Especially when I read, “To pretend to have so much love, knowing full well that you do not—such hypocrisy is no easy thing!” I felt very ashamed. These words described me. Obviously, I wasn’t very generous, but I had to pretend to be generous, and when I didn’t consider church work, I still pretended to consider it. When Lyse and Jerome were asked to preach the gospel, I was obviously unhappy, but I forced a smile, and even sent a message saying I was happy they were preaching the gospel. I was so false and disguised. God’s word reveals that the Pharisees were hypocrites who always disguised themselves. Outwardly, they had good humanity, and were tolerant, humble, and godly, but actually, they used this method to deceive and ensnare people, to protect their status and positions. Their essence was hating the truth and God, which is why the condemned them as snakes and declared woe unto them. As I contemplated these things, I felt afraid. My hypocrisy was exactly like that of the Pharisees. In the matter of staff appointments, I had shown that I wouldn’t fight with others, and I wanted to trade this for the good appraisal of others. I said that all I did was for the interests of the church, but what I actually considered was my own image. I worried the gospel workers would say I was selfish, had poor humanity, and didn’t consider church work, so I had to restrain myself. Although I outwardly seemed generous and magnanimous, I was in great pain and had a great deal of resentment, and I even held a prejudice against the church leader and gospel deacon. But I hid these thoughts away where they couldn’t see, so my brothers and sisters would think I had good humanity and could uphold church work. I reflected on my intentions and what I revealed, and I felt disgusted with my behavior. I deceived and drew people in with my outward good deeds, I established my own image, and all I said and did was disgusting and hateful to God.
Later, I listened to God’s fellowship analyzing traditional culture and virtue several times, and I started to reflect. What kind of traditional cultural ideas controlled me so that I lived so hypocritically and so painfully? I read some of God’s words. “There is a story in traditional culture of Kong Rong giving up larger pears. What do you think: Is anyone who cannot be like Kong Rong not a good person? People used to think that whoever could be like Kong Rong was noble of character and firm of integrity, selflessly altruistic—a good person. Is the Kong Rong of this historic story a role model whom everyone has followed? Does the character have a certain place in people’s hearts? (Yes.) It is not his name, but his thoughts and practices, his morality and behavior, that occupy a place in people’s hearts. People esteem such practices and approve of them, and they inwardly admire Kong Rong’s virtue” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (10)). “Intellectuals are profoundly influenced by traditional culture. They do not merely accept it—they accept many thoughts and views of traditional culture deep in their hearts, where they treat them as positive things. They even treat some famous sayings as maxims. In doing these things, they have gone astray in life. Traditional culture is embodied in the teachings of Confucianism, which contain a body of ideology and theories that mainly promote traditional morals and culture. Down through the dynasties, these teachings have been held in esteem by the ruling classes, who revered Confucius and Mencius as sages. The teachings of Confucianism hold that as a person, one must see to it that they uphold benevolence, justice, courtesy, wisdom, and sincerity, meaning that one must learn to be calm and serene first when things occur, to be indulgent, to say well what they have to say, not to compete or strive, and they must learn to be courteous, in order to gain the respect of others—only such a person is exemplary in their comportment. Such a person positions themselves above the common folk; to them, everyone else is someone to be indulged and tolerated. The ‘effect’ of knowledge is quite enormous! Do such people not seem very much like hypocrites? With enough knowledge, people become hypocrites. The phrase that captures this bunch of learned and refined academics is ‘scholarly elegance.’ … They set out especially to study and imitate the refined manner those gentlefolk of theirs have adopted. What is their tone when they talk to each other, when they discuss things? They wear very tender expressions, and their words are polished and subtle, expressing only their own opinion. They will not say another’s opinion is wrong, even when they know it is—none would wound another like that. And their speech is all so gentle, it is like cotton brushing against cotton: painless pleasantries that nauseate those who hear them, and make them anxious and angry. Such people really are pretentious. They apply their pretension to even the smallest thing, wrapping it up neatly, without anyone calling it what it is. When in front of common folk, what sort of posture do they want to show? What sort of image are they wanting to project? They try to make common folk see them as humble gentlemen. Gentlemen are a cut above everyone else; they are people to be admired. People think their opinions count for more than those of the average person, and that they understand things better, so they consult such intellectuals about all their affairs. This is the sort of result those intellectuals wish to achieve. All of them wish to be revered as sages” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part One)). God’s word precisely described my problem. Why could I view these hypocritical good deeds as positive things to emulate? It was because I was influenced by the traditional cultural idea of Kong Rong giving away pears. I had lived by this idea since I was a child. To make people think I was a good child, I gave a lot of my favorite toys and snacks to my sisters. When I grew up, I was also humble and showed generosity in all things. Although I did so reluctantly, I thought only by doing so could it show that I had good humanity and understood manners, and that this was the only way to gain the respect of others, so I reluctantly endured. After I believed in God, I still practiced this traditional notion as the truth. In the matter of these two staff appointments, I had been forbearing. There was clearly a shortage of watering staff, but I put on a mask of selfless devotion and allowed two people suitable for watering to preach the gospel instead. This made me appear very noble and generous, but actually, I was so negative that I cried several times in secret because of the lack of staff. I harbored a prejudice against the church leader, and ultimately, the watering work was affected. What was the point of “giving” like this? For the sake of my good image, I adopted a noble posture like Kong Rong, and I didn’t care if it affected church work. I was an authentic hypocrite. If I was really concerned with church work, I would have evaluated our need for staff by the actual demands of watering work, but to protect my image, I didn’t follow principles at all. Even when watering work was affected by the lack of staff, I still insisted on generously letting people go. I earned the praise of others at the cost of delaying watering work. No wonder God says such people are hypocrites. I realized my behavior really was false.
Later, I read some of God’s words that stirred me.says, “You must know clearly that any sort of claim about virtue is not the truth, much less can it stand in for the truth. They are not even positive things. It may be said with certainty that these claims on virtue are heretical fallacies with which Satan beguiles people. They are not in themselves the reality of the truth that people should possess, nor are they positive things that normal humanity ought to live out. These claims about virtue constitute counterfeits, pretenses, falsifications, and tricks—they are factitious behaviors, and do not at all originate in man’s conscience and reason or in their normal thinking. Therefore, all of traditional culture’s claims regarding virtue are preposterous, absurd heresies and fallacies. With these few fellowships, the claims Satan puts forth about virtue have on this day been condemned, in their entirety, to death. If they are not even positive things, how is it that people can accept them? How can people live by these ideas and views? The reason is that these claims about virtue align so well with people’s notions and imaginings. They evoke admiration and approval, so people accept these claims about virtue into their hearts, and though they cannot put them into practice, inwardly, they embrace and worship them with gusto. And thus, Satan uses various claims about virtue to beguile people, to control their hearts and their behavior, for in their hearts, people worship and have a blind belief in all sorts of claims about virtue, and they would all like to use these claims to affect greater dignity, nobility, and kindness, thereby achieving their goal of being highly regarded and praised. All the various claims about virtue, in brief, ask that people should demonstrate some sort of behavior or human quality in the realm of virtue. These behaviors and human qualities seem quite noble, and they are revered, so all people, in their hearts, very much aspire toward them. But what they have not considered is that these claims about virtue are not at all the principles of comportment that a normal person should follow; instead, they are a variety of hypocritical behaviors that one may affect. They are deviations from the standards of conscience and reason, departures from the will of normal humanity. Satan uses false and pretended claims about virtue to beguile people, to make them worship it and those hypocritical so-called sages, thereby causing people to see normal humanity and the criteria for human comportment as ordinary, simple, and even lowly things. People despise those things and think them beneath contempt. This is because the claims of virtue espoused by Satan are so pleasing to the eye and so aligned with man’s notions and imaginings. The fact, though, is that no claim about virtue, whichever it may be, is a principle that people should follow in their comportment or their dealings in the world. Mull it over—is this not so? In essence, claims of virtue are just demands that people superficially live more dignified, noble lives, enabling them to have others worship or praise them, rather than look down on them. The essence of these claims shows that they are just demands that people demonstrate virtue through good behavior, thus covering and restraining the ambitions and extravagant desires of corrupt humanity, covering up man’s evil and hideous nature and essence. They are meant to enhance a person’s personality through superficially good behavior and practices, to enhance the image others have of them and the wider world’s estimation of them. These points show that claims of virtue are about covering up man’s inner thoughts and views, their hideous countenance, and their nature and essence with superficial behavior and practices. Can these things be covered up successfully? Does trying to cover them up not make them all the more apparent? But Satan does not care about that. Its purpose is to cover up the hideous countenance of corrupt humanity, to cover up the truth of man’s corruption. So, Satan has people adopt the behavioral manifestations of virtue to disguise themselves, which means that it uses the rules and behaviors of virtuousness to make a neat package of man’s appearance, enhancing a person’s human qualities and personality so that they can have others esteem and praise them. Basically, these claims about virtue determine whether a person is noble or lowly on the basis of their behavior” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (10)). Only after reading God’s words did I understand I had always held a fallacious view, which was that I treated the virtues of traditional culture as a standard to measure whether a person’s humanity was good or bad. I mistakenly viewed virtue as truth, thinking people with virtue had good humanity. Actually, virtue is not the life principle people should follow. It is an act of hypocrisy, and in essence it is a method Satan uses to deceive and corrupt people. Satan uses traditional culture to instill moral standards for people to live by, so that they use outward good deeds to disguise themselves and hide their inner corruption as a means to win others’ high regard, and as a result, people become ever more hypocritical and deceitful. I saw that I was also this way. I considered the virtues of traditional culture as the criterion for my actions. Although it looked like I didn’t fight for things, and could get along with others, actually, I was forcing myself to do good deeds to make people say I was good, and to maintain my image in their hearts. But I said I was considering church work. I was so deceitful!
Later, I read in God’s word, “A person who is intelligent and wise should promptly analyze the various behaviors and demands that arise from traditional culture’s tenets of benevolence, justice, courtesy, wisdom, and sincerity. See which of them you cherish most, the one you constantly observe, the one that is the constant basis and guideline for how you view people and events, how you comport yourself and act. Then, you should hold those things you observe up against God’s words and requirements for comparison, and look at whether these things of traditional culture are contradictory and in opposition with the truths that God expresses. If you truly do find a problem, you must analyze at once where it is, exactly, that traditional culture has erred and is absurd. When you have clarified these issues, you will know what is truth and what is fallacy. You will have a path for practice, and you will choose the path you should walk. Seek the truth in this way, and you will be able to mend your ways” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (5)). From God’s word, I understood, if you don’t want to live by these traditional ideas, first, you need to discern and analyze these things, and find out where they are wrong, why they are absurd, how they violate the truth, and what consequences living by them brings about. Only when you see these things clearly can you give them up and accept the truth. I started to wonder: Does the “giving” in Kong Rong giving away pears conform to the principles of truth? Is this “giving” one of God’s requirements for normal humanity? Are those who forbear in everything really good people? My own blind forbearance had caused a serious staff shortage in watering work. To show generosity and forbear in all things, I told many hypocritical lies. Being educated with these traditional ideas, instead of making me a good person, had made me hypocritical and deceitful. When I gained the high regard of others, I wasn’t happy, instead I became more and more depressed and miserable. These were the bitter fruits of worshiping traditional culture for me. Without God to reveal the essence of traditional culture, I would have been blinded all my life. I couldn’t stop thanking God for expressing the truth and analyzing traditional ideas, enabling me to awaken.
After that, I thought, “Since Kong Rong’s virtue of giving away pears was only outward good behavior, and it didn’t mean he had good humanity, what is genuinely good humanity?” In God’s word, I read, “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 having principles and taking responsibility in one’s treatment of God, the truth, the performance of duty, and of every manner of people, events, and things. 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 a person says; 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 his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds his loyalty to God, if his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds the interests of God’s house, or if his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds the consideration he shows for God, then is such a person possessed of humanity? This is not someone with humanity. His behavior can be seen by others and by God. It is very difficult for such a person to gain the truth” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. In Giving One’s Heart to God, One Can Obtain the Truth). From God’s word, I understood a person with truly good humanity loves the truth and positive things, is responsible in their duties, sticks to the principles of truth, and upholds the work of the church. Those who outwardly offend no one, forbear blindly and without principle, and who would rather suffer loss themselves than take advantage of others, although they outwardly have good character, in their duties, they always seek to protect their own interests, never practice the truth, and never consider the work of the church. Such people do not have good humanity. I didn’t want to live by traditional culture and be a false good person anymore. I wanted to live out a human likeness according to God’s requirements.
As I read God’s word, I found a path of practice. “You must seek the truth to resolve any problem that arises, no matter what it is, and by no means disguise yourself or put on a false face for others. Your shortcomings, your deficiencies, your faults, your corrupt dispositions—be completely open about them all, and fellowship about them all. Do not keep them inside. Learning how to open yourself up is the first step toward entering into life, and it is the first hurdle, which is the most difficult to overcome. Once you have overcome it, entering the truth is easy. What does taking this step signify? It means that you are opening your heart and showing everything you have, good or bad, positive or negative; baring yourself for others and for God to see; hiding nothing from God, concealing nothing, disguising nothing, free of deceit and trickery, and being likewise open and honest with other people. In this way, you live in the light, and not only will God scrutinize you, but other people, too, will also be able to see that you act with principle and a degree of transparency. You do not need to use any methods to protect your reputation, image, and status, nor do you need to cover up or disguise your mistakes. You do not need to engage in these useless efforts. If you can let these things go, you will be very relaxed, you will live without shackles or pain, and you will live entirely in the light” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only Those Who Truly Submit to God Have Hearts of Fear for Him). From God’s word, I understood I shouldn’t disguise myself to give others a false image. Instead, I should be an honest, simple, and open person, and I should open up and communicate about any problems I had, so that my brothers and sisters can better help me. When I didn’t say it, when I just blindly bore things and disguised myself, everyone believed there was no shortage of watering staff and thought the work was going well, but actually, I was suffering, and church work was being harmed. So, I consciously practiced according to God’s word and communicated clearly with my brothers and sisters. After that, they all provided some personnel to do the watering work. This made me see how easy and enjoyable it is to practice according to God’s word. Living by traditional culture, we only become more and more corrupted, more and more false and deceitful, and more and more miserable. Only practicing the truth lets us live out a human likeness, become genuinely good people, and experience real peace and joy! Thank God!