Is "Being Strict With Yourself and Tolerant of Others" Truly a Virtue?

February 9, 2024

By Li Jia, China

Before, I always thought that I should be tolerant and generous to others, be considerate of their feelings and understand their difficulties. I would rather inconvenience myself than inconvenience others because I thought that’s what generous, magnanimous people of good character did. Later on, when I began supervising video production, I felt that as a team leader, I had to set a good example and take a leading role, I had very high standards for myself, and felt I shouldn’t be too exacting and strict with other team members, this was the kind and generous thing to do. Everyone would feel that I had great humanity, was understanding and would have a good impression of me. So I personally did as much work as I could for the group, and if the work assigned to others was too hard and they weren’t willing to do it, I would just do it myself. I tried as much as possible not to pressure others to avoid them saying that my demands were too high and I was too strict. Even though I’d sometimes think I was taking on too much work and it was too demanding, I would still rebel against my flesh and take on the work as much as I could to avoid others developing poor opinions of me.

Later on, some new members joined our group, they were unfamiliar with the work and lacked professional skills, so I had to look over all the videos they produced. Sometimes they would also seek me out to talk through issues they had. Just this work alone filled up my entire schedule, but I had other work to do on top of that. Tasks started piling up in no time, and I was completely overwhelmed with work every day. Sometimes when they would ask me to help them resolve very basic issues, I’d think to myself: “You could easily resolve this issue yourselves through discussion, why do you have to come to me to resolve everything?” But then I would think: “Given they did ask me, if I reject their request, it will seem like I’m being irresponsible! After all, it will take them time to discuss the matter as well. Forget it, I guess I can find time to deal with it myself.” And with that, I’d agree. Afterward, I realized that a sister was just passing her work onto me out of laziness and a fear of responsibility. At first I thought about fellowshiping with her, but then I worried she’d think I was asking too much, so I thought better of it. Sometimes when I’d notice that others didn’t seem to have much work while I had several urgent matters to attend to and was overwhelmed, I’d want to delegate some work so that we could keep ahead of schedule. But after thinking it over, I just couldn’t get myself to ask them. I thought to myself: “If I increase their workload, won’t they think I’m too demanding and don’t allow them any leisure time? Forget it, I better do it myself.” But while doing the work I felt it was a bit unfair. Especially when I saw them relaxing while I worked, I felt even more resentful and blamed them for their lack of burden. They somehow didn’t see how much work there was to be done. But I just whined to myself and didn’t say anything out loud, worried that if I said something I would appear to have bad humanity and be ungenerous. So, no matter how busy I was, I would try to do as much as I could on my own. Sometimes, when I would assign work based upon the group’s schedule, if they responded well it would be fine, but if they looked unhappy or complained, I would feel hesitant to assign work to them and would just work through the night to get everything done myself. In actuality, I would feel like it was unfair while working and would be full of resentment. I felt like that was clearly their work, and yet I had to spend extra time to get it done and would sometimes be so busy I had no time for devotionals. But I didn’t dare express any of these grievances aloud. So I just resignedly comforted myself saying: “It’s best to be generous and considerate, to care for others and not be so petty, otherwise it will seem like I have poor character.” Later on, the brothers and sisters on my team all said I was responsible, able to undergo suffering and pay a price, and was loving and considerate of others. Upon hearing these appraisals, I felt that even though I’d undergone suffering, it was all worth it to get this high praise from everyone. But because I did not act on principle, continually pandered to others’ flesh and assigned work in an unreasonable fashion, work began to pile up and our progress as a team was slow. Some of the brothers and sisters were lazy, unmotivated, and satisfied just to get their own work done. Others didn’t pray to God or seek truth principles when they had issues, preferring to rely on me and wait for me to resolve their issues, which led to them failing to progress in their skills.

One day, our supervisor came to check up on our work and found that work was not being assigned reasonably. He said that some of the work could be assigned to team members and that I should spend more time doing my own work as a team leader, including checking on work progress and resolving any issues on skills that cropped up. In this way, everyone could shoulder some responsibility and bear a burden. I knew he was right and that this way of assigning was beneficial for the work. Yet, I thought that practicing in this way was just too difficult, and so I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to gain knowledge of my corrupt disposition. During devotionals, I looked for words of God relevant to my current state. One passage left a deep impression on me: “‘Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others,’ as with sayings about ‘Don’t pocket the money you pick up’ and ‘Derive pleasure from helping others,’ is one of those demands that traditional culture makes regarding people’s moral conduct. By the same token, regardless of whether someone can attain or exercise this moral conduct, it is still not the standard or norm for measuring their humanity. It may be that you really are capable of being strict with yourself and tolerant of others, and that you hold yourself to particularly high standards. You may be squeaky clean and you may always think of others and show consideration for them, without being selfish and seeking after your own interests. You may seem particularly magnanimous and selfless, and have a strong sense of social responsibility and social morals. Your noble personality and qualities may be on display to those close to you, and to those you encounter and interact with. Your behavior may never give others any reason to blame or criticize you, eliciting instead profuse praise and even admiration. People may regard you as someone who is truly strict with themselves and tolerant of others. However, these are nothing more than external behaviors. Are the thoughts and wishes deep in your heart consistent with these external behaviors, with these actions that you live out externally? The answer is no, they are not. The reason you can act in this way is that there is a motive behind it. What is that motive, exactly? Could you bear for that motive to see the light of day? Certainly not. This proves that this motive is something unmentionable, something dark and evil. Now, why is this motive unspeakable and evil? It is because people’s humanity is governed and driven by their corrupt dispositions. All the thoughts of humanity, regardless of whether people put them into words or pour them forth, are undeniably dominated, controlled, and manipulated by their corrupt dispositions. As a result, people’s motives and intents are all sinister and evil. Regardless of whether people are able to be strict with themselves and tolerant of others, or whether or not they outwardly express this moral perfectly, it is inevitable that this moral will have no control or influence over their humanity. So, what does control people’s humanity? It is their corrupt dispositions, it is their humanity essence that lies obscured beneath the moral ‘Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others’—that is their true nature. A person’s true nature is their humanity essence. And what does their humanity essence consist of? It mainly consists of their preferences, what they pursue, their outlook on life and their value system, as well as their attitude toward the truth and God, and so on. Only these things truly represent people’s humanity essence. It can be said with certainty that most of the people who require themselves to fulfill the moral of being ‘strict with yourself and tolerant of others,’ are obsessed with status. Driven by their corrupt dispositions, they cannot help but pursue prestige among men, social prominence, and status in the eyes of others. All of these things are related to their desire for status, and are pursued under the cover of their good moral conduct. And how do these pursuits of theirs come about? They entirely come from and are driven by their corrupt dispositions. So, no matter what, whether someone fulfills the moral of being ‘strict with yourself and tolerant of others’ or not, and whether or not they do so to perfection, this cannot change their humanity essence at all. By implication, this means that it cannot in any way change their outlook on life or their value system, or guide their attitudes and perspectives on all manner of people, events, and things. Isn’t that the case? (It is.) The more that someone is capable of being strict with themselves and tolerant of others, the better they are at putting on an act, disguising themselves, and at beguiling others with good behavior and pleasing words, and the more deceitful and evil they are by nature. The more that they are this type of person, the deeper their love and pursuit of status and power becomes(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. What It Means to Pursue the Truth (6)). I saw how those that are “strict with themselves and tolerant of others” have a deep obsession with status. They always seek to have a place in people’s hearts. Such people have a deceitful and wicked nature and are hypocritical. This characterization really cut to the quick. I thought of how I had taken on much of our team’s work in my tenure as team leader. I was always considering other people’s schedules, their workloads and what difficulties they faced. I was particularly caring and considerate of others, making sure they never felt unhappy. On the surface, I may have seemed quite understanding, but in reality, I just acted that way to bolster my reputation and status. I was always worried that I might say or do something that would upset others and give them a bad impression of me. I carried more of a burden than anyone else, was able to suffer and pay a price, showed tolerance, understanding and an ability to compromise, but the subtext of this was my thinking I was better than others, that I had greater stature than others. I was understanding and tolerant of them, and this led them to look up to me and rely upon me. They waited for me to resolve their issues and were unable to rely upon God and seek the truth to achieve resolution. I realized I had been corrupted by Satan and was full of satanic dispositions. I was by no means unselfish and magnanimous! When the sister passed work off to me, I happily took it on, but inside I was unhappy, and while I worked, I resented her for not bearing a burden. I had a lot of work and was under enormous pressure, and while I didn’t say anything and acted as if I were unselfish, inwardly I felt it was all quite unfair and didn’t want to suffer or put thought into anything else. While assigning work, when a sister pandered to her flesh and didn’t want to work too hard, I didn’t fellowship the truth to resolve her issue and instead took on her work. In actuality, I had my opinions about her, I resented how her laziness had made more work for me. Thinking back on all that, I realized that my tolerance of others was all fake, it was all a pretense, and I wasn’t really happy to help them. I was clearly just selfish, but I acted like I was purely altruistic—I was deceiving everyone. I had only one motive in my actions—I just wanted to win the praise, respect and commendation of others. How hypocritical and fake I was! People only saw my deceptive actions, but couldn’t see my actual thoughts. They all believed I had good humanity and was very tolerant. Was I not deceiving and hoodwinking them? The more I thought about it, the more disgusted I was with myself. I went through life wearing a mask, and not only did I suffer greatly myself, I also delayed the church’s work. I was harming both myself and others. I began to hate myself and wanted to repent and transform as soon as possible.

Later on, I came across another two passages of God’s words that gave me some new perspective on my state. Almighty God says, “Some church leaders, upon seeing their brothers or sisters performing their duties carelessly and perfunctorily, do not rebuke them, though they should. When they see something that is clearly detrimental to the interests of God’s house, they turn a blind eye and make no inquiries, so as not to cause the least offense to others. In fact, they are not really showing consideration for people’s weaknesses; instead, their intention is to win people over. They are fully aware of this, thinking: ‘If I keep this up and don’t cause offense to anyone, they’ll think I’m a good leader. They’ll have a good, high opinion of me. They’ll give me recognition and like me.’ No matter how much damage is done to the interests of God’s house, and no matter how greatly God’s chosen people are impeded in their life entry, or how greatly their church life is disturbed, such leaders persist in their satanic philosophy and cause no offense to anyone. There is never a sense of self-reproach in their hearts. Seeing someone causing disruptions and disturbances, at most, they might make casual mention of this issue in passing, and then be done with it. They do not fellowship on the truth, nor do they point out the essence of the problem to this person, and less still do they dissect their state. They never fellowship what God’s will is. The false leaders never expose or dissect what kind of errors people often make, or the corrupt dispositions people often reveal. They don’t solve any real problems, but instead always tolerate people’s misconduct and revelation of corruption, and remain unconcerned no matter how negative or weak people are, merely preaching some words and doctrines, making a few perfunctory exhortations, trying to avoid conflict. As a result, God’s chosen ones do not know how to reflect on and know themselves, they gain no resolution to the revelation of their corrupt dispositions, and live amid words, doctrines, notions and imaginings, without any life entry. They even believe in their hearts that, ‘Our leader has even more understanding for our weaknesses than God does. Our stature may be too small to live up to God’s requirements, but we need only fulfill the requirements of our leader; by obeying our leader, we are obeying God. If a day comes when the Above replaces our leader, then we will make ourselves heard; to keep our leader and stop them being replaced by the Above, we will negotiate with the Above and force them into agreeing to our demands. This is how we will do right by our leader.’ When people have such thoughts in their hearts, when they have such a relationship with the leader, and in their hearts, they feel dependence, admiration, and veneration toward their leader, then they will come to have ever greater faith in this leader, it is the leader’s words they want to listen to, and they stop seeking the truth in God’s words. Such a leader has almost taken the place of God in people’s hearts. If a leader is willing to maintain such a relationship with God’s chosen people, if they derive a feeling of enjoyment from it in their heart, and believe that God’s chosen people ought to treat them like this, then there is no difference between them and Paul, and they have already set foot on the path of an antichrist. God’s chosen people, completely without discernment, will have already been deceived by an antichrist(The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item One: They Try to Win People Over).

You can compare this to some of the antichrists and evil people in the church. In order to solidify their status and power within the church, and to gain a better reputation among other members, they are able to undergo suffering and pay a price while performing their duties, and they may even renounce their work and families and sell off everything they have to expend themselves for God. In some cases, the prices that they pay and the suffering they undergo in expending themselves for God exceed what an average person can withstand; they are able to embody a spirit of extreme self-denial in order to maintain their status. Yet, no matter how much they suffer or what prices they pay, none of them safeguard God’s testimony or the interests of God’s house, nor do they practice according to God’s words. The goal that they pursue is just to attain status, power, and God’s rewards. Nothing that they do has the slightest relation to the truth. Regardless of how strict they are with themselves and how tolerant they are of others, what will their ultimate outcome be? What will God think of them? Will He determine their outcome based on the external good behaviors that they live out? He certainly will not. People view and judge others based on these behaviors and manifestations, and because they cannot see through to the essence of other people, they end up being deceived by them. God, however, is never deceived by man. He absolutely will not commend and remember people’s moral conduct because they were able to be strict with themselves and tolerant of others. Instead, He will condemn them for their ambitions and for the paths they have taken in pursuit of status(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. What It Means to Pursue the Truth (6)). Pondering over God’s words, I became more clear about the nature and consequences of my actions. In order to protect my reputation and status, I always considered others’ difficulties and did everything myself. As a result, the brothers and sisters couldn’t fulfill their duties normally. Some pandered to their flesh and didn’t bear a burden, others were stuck admiring and relying upon me, would seek me out whenever they had problems, and were unable to rely upon God and seek the truth to resolve issues. God had no place in their hearts. I had done evil! When the sister wasn’t willing to bear a burden in her work and pushed her work onto me, if I had just fellowshiped with her a bit and allowed her to see the nature and consequences of her current state, perhaps she could have rebelled against her flesh and relied upon God to resolve her issue. This would lead to progress in her life and her professional skills would improve. But I only considered my own reputation and status, and didn’t fellowship or give advice to my brothers and sisters mired in corrupt dispositions. Outwardly, this way of acting agreed with people’s fleshly concerns, but they made no life progress and became increasingly decadent. By continually indulging people, I was harming them! Everyone failed to discern my behavior and was deceived by me into thinking I was a good and caring person. How fake I was, I was deceiving all of them! Outwardly, it seemed like I bore a great burden in my duty and could suffer and pay a price. People saw me as a good person, but I had actually been condemned by God, because my every action was not done to satisfy God, but rather to protect my status in people’s hearts. I hadn’t done any obvious evil, but I hadn’t brought people into the reality of God’s words, instead bringing them into their flesh and before me. I was trying to win people over and was revealing an antichrist disposition. Realizing this, I saw that I was in quite a precarious state. I was doing my duty based on traditional cultural values and was walking the path of an antichrist.

Later on, I came across another passage of God’s words that gave me more clarity regarding my issues: “No matter to which group such statements about moral conduct are put forth, all require people to exercise self-restraint—restraint over their own desires and immoral conduct—and to hold favorable ideological and moral viewpoints. No matter how much these statements influence humankind, and no matter whether that influence is positive or negative, the aim of these so-called moralists was, put succinctly, to restrict and regulate people’s moral conduct by putting forward such statements, so that people would have a basic code for how they should comport themselves and act, how they should view people and things, and how they should perceive their society and country. To look at the positive, the invention of these statements on moral conduct has, to a certain extent, played a role in restricting and regulating the moral conduct of humanity. But to look at the objective facts, it has led people into embracing some false and pretentious thoughts and viewpoints, making people who are influenced and inculcated by traditional culture more insidious, more treacherous, better at pretending, and more confined in their thinking. Because of the influence and inculcation of traditional culture, people have gradually adopted those mistaken views and statements of traditional culture as positive things, and worship as saints these luminaries and great figures who mislead people. When people have been misled, their minds become muddled, numb, and dulled. They don’t know what normal humanity is, or what people with normal humanity should pursue and adhere to. They don’t know how people should live in this world or what kind of mode or rules of existence they should adopt, much less what the proper aim of human existence is. Due to the influence, inculcation, and even confinement of traditional culture, the positive things, requirements and rules from God, have been suppressed. In this sense, the various statements on moral conduct in traditional culture have, to a large extent, deeply misled and influenced people’s thinking, confining their thoughts and leading them astray, away from the correct path in life, and further and further away from God’s requirements. This means that the deeper you are influenced by the various ideas and viewpoints on moral conduct in traditional culture, and the longer you are inculcated by them, the further you stray from the thoughts, aspirations, goal to be pursued, and rules of existence that people with normal humanity should have, and the further you stray from the standard that God requires of people. … God’s chosen people must see through one fact: God’s word is God’s word, the truth is the truth, and human words are human words. Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and trustworthiness are human words, and traditional culture is human words. Human words are never the truth, nor will they ever become the truth. This is a fact(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. What It Means to Pursue the Truth (8)). Through God’s words I realized that the views and ideas that traditional culture instills in us are ridiculous and absurd and they are at odds with the conscience and reason of normal people and the normal humanity that God demands man live out. Deceived and influenced by this traditional idea of “being strict with myself and tolerant of others,” I became muddle-headed, mistaken and undiscerning. I thought that only by being tolerant of people, considerate of them in every way, and troubling myself instead of others, would I be displaying good character, broad-mindedness and magnanimity. I shouldn’t ask too much of anyone or be too strict and should refrain from being petty. These ideas were deeply rooted in my mind, controlled my every word and action and influenced how I interacted with others. Thinking it over, I saw that my tolerance of others was not the leniency of normal humanity, but rather an indulgence that lacked principles or standards. As team leader, I should have reasonably assigned work based upon our overall work schedule and the skills of each member, so that everyone could play a part, have a chance to practice in their duty, and put their skills into play. Only as such would our team’s work progress normally and improve. For those that were less skilled, had average caliber and were slow to update knowledge, work assignments should be based on their actual stature and difficulties. They should be assigned easier work to make sure they’d be up to the task and should not be forced into doing something they were incapable of. As for those with good caliber, an ability to learn new things, and a grasp of the principles and skills, they could be given a reasonably larger amount of work, be asked to put more thought into their work and bear more of a burden—this would allow them to progress faster. If they encountered difficulties and felt a bit stressed, this was normal and would impel them to rely upon God more, improve their skills and make faster progress. What’s more, if anyone were upset after I assigned them work, I could communicate with them to see if they had real difficulties or were just seeking comfort and not willing to suffer and pay a price. I could then handle things based on the actual situation—this would be acting based on truth principles. In fact, most of the time I did assign work reasonably based on team members’ actual situations. I didn’t ask too much, wasn’t that strict and my team members could handle their assignments. When they were occasionally lazy, not willing to pay a price and strive to succeed, or feared taking responsibility and passed the work off to others, I should have fellowshiped and advised them to make them aware of their corrupt disposition. In more serious cases I should have pruned and dealt with them and could not continually indulge them and just tolerate their behavior with no baseline standard. Only in so doing could I maintain the normal work progress of our team. Later on, I came across another two passages of God’s words that gave me more clarity on my path of practice. “In everything you do, you must examine whether your intentions are correct. If you are able to act according to the requirements of God, then your relationship with God is normal. This is the minimum standard. Look into your intentions, and if you find that incorrect intentions have arisen, be able to turn your back on them and act according to the words of God; thus will you become someone who is right before God, which in turn demonstrates that your relationship with God is normal, and that all that you do is for God’s sake, not your own. In all you do and all you say, be able to set your heart right and be righteous in your actions, and do not be led by your emotions, nor act according to your own will. These are principles by which believers in God must conduct themselves(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. How Is Your Relationship With God?). “So what are the truth principles demanded by God? That people be understanding of the weakness and negativity of others when they are weak and negative, that people be mindful of others’ pain and difficulties, and then inquire about these things, and offer help and support, and read them God’s words to help them solve the problems, so that they are no longer weak, and are brought before God. Is this a way of practicing that is in line with principles? Practicing thus is in line with the truth principles. Naturally, relationships of this kind are also in line with principles. When people are deliberately disturbing and disruptive, or deliberately perfunctory when performing their duty, if you see this and are able to handle matters according to principles, and can point these things out to them, and reprimand them, and help them, then this is in line with the truth principles. If you turn a blind eye, or are tolerant toward them and cover for them, and even go so far as to say nice things to praise and applaud them, finessing them with fake words, then such behaviors, such ways of interacting with people, dealing with issues, and handling problems, are clearly at odds with the truth principles, and have no basis in the words of God—in which case these behaviors and ways of interacting with people and handling issues are clearly illegitimate(The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers (14)). After pondering over God’s words, I felt much clearer. As a believer, I had to have God in my heart when I spoke and acted, and I should place my heart before God to be scrutinized. This is the very least I should do. What’s more, while interacting with others and partnering in my duty, I should set good intentions, act according to truth principles, refrain from doing anything that would damage the interests of God’s house and always consider the church’s work. I should help and support those who were negative, weak and facing hardship, and should fellowship with, help, advise or expose anyone that revealed their corrupt disposition or intentionally disrupted and disturbed church work instead of tolerating them or foolishly extending goodwill. When assigning work, I shouldn’t protect my own reputation and only consider people’s flesh and feelings. I had to assign work reasonably based on principles and the actual state of the team to make sure the work was not delayed. This way of practicing would be beneficial to the church’s work and all members. After that, when interacting with brothers and sisters, I practiced being honest, saying what I truly felt and communicating with people when I had issues. When assigning work, I would assign based on people’s actual situations so that everyone was able to play their part. I would assign members to handle relatively easy problems and would only get involved if they couldn’t resolve them. When people were unhappy with their assignment and didn’t want to pay more of a price, I would fellowship God’s will with them, let them reflect on and know their corrupt disposition and rectify their improper attitudes. When I had more work than I could handle or encountered issues, I would discuss with others about how to assign work reasonably to prevent delays and would stop taking it all on myself. Everyone was able to proactively take part in work and was much more enthusiastic in their duties, and our work progress improved. I felt much more at ease. At times I still display corruption, but I’m able to consciously practice according to God’s words. It was only with the guidance of God’s words that I was able to turn things around. Thank God!

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