Taking the Mask Off
By Tinghua, France
Last June when I had just begun fulfilling my duty as a leader. At the beginning, since I spoke French and could communicate with new members directly, a few sisters I worked with would come ask me for help with translation and for my help if they had any questions or other difficulties. At the new believer church, no matter which group I went to for fellowship, everyone listened attentively and, when I finished, they always said it was very helpful. I thought that, compared to the sisters I partnered with, my language skills were better, and compared with the newcomers, I could fellowship about truths, so that meant I was an irreplaceable part of the group. This really satisfied my vanity. But as a result, I was always trying to maintain everyone’s good impression of me. Whenever a brother or sister asked questions, even if I obviously didn’t know the answer, I would pretend to.
I remember this one time, I went to a group to fellowship about the implementation of a project. A brother asked me a question, but since it was my first time doing this work, I wasn’t too sure about specific practice principles and requirements and I didn’t know how to respond. I kept thinking to myself: “If I say I don’t know, will this brother think less of me? Would he think that I’ve believed in God for so much longer than him, but can’t even answer this little question, so I don’t understand the truth? That would be so embarrassing. Would other brothers and sisters still approve of me as a leader? No matter what, I can’t let everyone know that I don’t understand.” With that in mind, I acted calm and threw out some doctrines off the top of my head. I could tell that he wasn’t satisfied with my answer. I actually felt a little guilty—wasn’t I fooling this brother? But in order to save face, I didn’t tell him the truth. Another time, a brother asked me how to organize time to be more efficient in fulfilling duties. He said it was really troubling him and he really needed help. I didn’t know how to help him at the time because I also have the same issues. I’m not good at managing my time either, and I often feel like there’s just not enough of it. But if I were to let him know that I have the same problem that he does even after believing in God all these years, would he think less of me? Would he think that I don’t understand any more than he does? Wouldn’t the image he has of me in his mind be ruined? I told him about some time management theories and led him to believe that I also use them in my practice. He didn’t say anything after that and I didn’t follow up to see if he found my fellowship helpful. I was afraid he would ask me more detailed questions, and if I couldn’t answer them, that would really be an embarrassment for me. So, I glossed over his problem just like that. There were quite a few times that my own state wasn’t that great. Working alongside brothers and sisters I revealed some corrupt dispositions, but during gatherings I avoided talking honestly about them. I only talked about some literal understanding ofand fellowshiped some empty doctrines to make them think I understood truth and had more faith and more stature than they did. Once, a sister who I had watered before sent me a message saying that she missed the gatherings we used to have. Normally, in my interactions with brothers and sisters, I could tell through both verbal and nonverbal communication that they looked up to and admired me. I was really happy and enjoyed feeling like I was an important person in the church, and I even hoped that everyone would keep looking up to and supporting me. Sometimes I didn’t feel quite at ease at the thought that I was always pretending to be someone worthy of admiration. Was I bringing people before me so that they would worship me? But that idea only occasionally flashed across my mind; I didn’t pay much attention to it.
One morning in early October, my partner sister and I were discussing work with a group leader. That sister had the group leader mention the problems and shortcomings that we were facing in fulfilling our duty. I was really surprised when the group leader said to me: “I really worship you Chinese brothers and sisters, especially you. I often think that what you say is more important than God’s words. I only want to listen to you.” Hearing that, my heart thumped in my chest and my face started to burn. She continued on to say: “I know that it’s wrong to worship people, but I’ve known you for a year now and I haven’t seen any of your corruptions, difficulties, or weaknesses. That makes me think you’re basically perfect, without any corruption. I can’t help but look up to you and admire you.” Hearing that surprised and scared me. I didn’t say anything for a few minutes until I translated the group leader’s comments for my partner sister, stuttering through the whole thing. Then, she fellowshiped to the group leader about the state that she was in. I just helped with translation since I didn’t really know what to say. And the gathering just awkwardly ended like that.
Afterwards, my whole body felt weak. I kept hearing the sister’s words echo in my head, especially the part about not seeing my corruption, that I seem perfect and she worships me, and that she thinks of my words as more important than even God’s. At first, without an understanding of myself, I felt totally wronged and really scared. I thought what she said was ridiculous. I never asked her to treat my words as God’s words. Doesn’t the fact that she said that mean the nature of the problem is really serious? Didn’t I bring her in front of me and become an antichrist? That afternoon I couldn’t think of anything else, but kept turning the moment over and over again in my head. I came before God to pray and seek: “God, it pains me and scares me to think about what that sister said today. I never imagined that she thought of me like that. Oh God, I don’t know how I got into this situation. I do not yet understand myself. Please lead me and guide me to know myself. I am willing to repent and stop doing things that You loathe.” One morning, I read two passages of God’s words. “Regardless of the context, no matter where they are performing their duty, the antichrist will try and give the impression that they aren’t weak, that they are always strong, full of confidence, never negative. They never reveal their real point of view or real attitude toward God. In the depths of their heart, do they really believe there is nothing they cannot do? Do they genuinely believe that they are without weakness, negativity, or outpourings of corruption? Absolutely not. They are good at putting on an act, adept at hiding things. They like showing people their strong and honorable side; they don’t want them to see the side of them that is weak and dark. Their purpose is obvious: It is, quite simply, to keep face in front of others, to protect the place they have in these people’s hearts. They think that if they open up before others about their own negativity and weakness, if they reveal the side of them that is rebellious and corrupt, this will be a grievous threat to their status and reputation—more trouble than it’s worth. So they would rather keep their weakness and rebelliousness strictly to themselves. And if a day does come when everyone sees the side of them that is weak and rebellious, they must continue putting on an act; they think that if they admit to having a corrupt disposition, to being an ordinary person, someone who is small and insignificant, then they will lose their place in people’s hearts, and will have utterly failed. And so, whatever happens, they cannot simply open up to people; whatever happens, they cannot give their power and status to anyone else; instead, they try as hard as they can to compete, and will never give up” (“They Do Their Duty Only to Distinguish Themselves and Feed Their Own Interests and Ambitions; They Never Consider the Interests of God’s House, and Even Sell Those Interests Out in Exchange for Personal Glory (Part Ten)” in Exposing Antichrists). “What disposition is it when people always put up a front, always whitewash themselves, always put on a pretense so that others think highly of them, and cannot see their faults or shortcomings, when they always try to present their best and most perfect side to people? This is arrogance, fakery, hypocrisy, it is the disposition of Satan, it is something evil. … Those who do not recognize these things never mention their own faults, shortcomings, and corrupt states, nor do they ever talk of knowing themselves. What do they say? ‘I’ve believed in God for many years. You don’t know what I’m thinking when I do something, what I take into consideration, what I am apt to do!’ Is this an arrogant disposition? What is the chief characteristic of an arrogant disposition? What is the goal they wish to achieve? (To make people think highly of them.) The purpose of making people think highly of them is to give them status in these people’s minds. When you have status in someone’s mind, then when they are in your company, they are deferential toward you, and especially polite when they talk to you, they are always respectful toward you, they always let you go first in all things, they give way to you, they flatter you, and they never say anything hurtful to you but talk everything over with you. Isn’t all this, in fact, of benefit to you? It is exactly what people desire. … Their aim when they hoodwink people, when they put on an act, whitewash themselves, put up a front, embellish themselves, so that others think they’re perfect, is to enjoy the trappings of status. If you don’t believe this, think it over carefully; why do you always want to make people think highly of you? Just what will the status that you so vigorously pursue bring you? It is good for you, it brings you benefits and things you can enjoy” (“The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God revealed that the dispositions of antichrists are especially arrogant and evil. They’ll mask themselves at any cost in order to maintain their status and image among others. They never let others see their corruption, weakness, or negativity, but always desire status in people’s minds and revel in the benefits of status. I saw that my disposition was the same as antichrists as exposed by God. Ever since becoming a leader of the new believer church, I disguised myself at every turn to protect my status and image, and loved the feeling of being respected and worshiped. Brothers and sisters would ask me questions in the hope that I could help them, but I would just pretend to know the answer. I threw out some empty doctrines just to fob them off. Sometimes, my corrupt disposition was revealed when working alongside brothers and sisters, but during fellowship I always avoided talking about my true state, afraid that everyone would look down on me and wonder how I could still be as corrupt as them after so many years of faith. I was almost never open with brothers and sisters about my true state or said what I was really feeling. I just spouted some doctrines to mislead people, without regard for whether it actually helped them with their problems or whether my fellowship could benefit them. I just wanted to maintain my own status and everyone’s admiration. I was contemptible and evil. If I always disguise myself so that brothers and sisters can’t see my corruptions and shortcomings, then over time they’re very likely to look up to me. I thought back to the year I watered newcomers, when the brothers and sisters didn’t know anything about God, but ended up looking up to and worshiping me. They even saw my words as more important than God’s. Wasn’t I just bringing them before me? I was not fulfilling my duty, I was doing evil! I always wrapped myself up and pursued the admiration of others. But when a sister was in front of me telling me how she looked up to and worshiped me, I didn’t feel any happiness or enjoyment. In fact, I felt panicked and anxious, like I had just brought about some disaster upon myself. Seeing that I always pursued fame and status, disguising myself to make others admire me and enjoying the benefits of status, I realized I wasn’t on the right path, but a path against God. I finally understood that the sister saying those things was a reminder from God, a warning. God was protecting me. Otherwise I would have continued to put on pretenses and work for status, which is very dangerous.
Later, I read God’s words: “Some people do not pursue the truth, and once they have received an opportunity to be leaders, they act, through various means, exerting effort and paying a price, to acquire status. Eventually, they may gain status, deceive people and win over their hearts, so that more people will adore them and think highly of them. After they have acquired full power, and have completely satisfied their desire for status, what is the end result? Regardless of what little favors such a person uses to bribe people, how much they show off their gifts and abilities, or what methods they use to deceive people into having a good impression of them, and no matter what ways they use to win over people’s hearts and occupy a place therein, what have they lost? They have lost an opportunity to gain the truth while fulfilling the duties of leadership. At the same time, because of the various ways in which they have behaved, they have also accumulated evil deeds that will bring about their ultimate outcome. When you look at it now, would you say that using small favors or showing off or deceiving people with illusions is a good path to take, despite how many benefits and how much satisfaction a person implementing these means might outwardly seem to obtain? Is it a path of pursuing the truth? Is it a path that can bring about one’s salvation? Very clearly not. These methods and tricks, regardless of how brilliantly they might have been conceived, could not fool God, and are all ultimately condemned and loathed by God, because hidden behind such behaviors is personal ambition and a sort of attitude and essence of wishing to put oneself against Him. Deep down, God would absolutely never recognize such a person as one who is fulfilling their duty, and would instead define them as an evildoer. What is God’s conclusion when dealing with evildoers? ‘Depart from Me, you that work iniquity!’ When God said, ‘Depart from Me,’ He was sending people to Satan, to where Satan resides, and He no longer wanted them. Not wanting them meant He would not save them. If you are not one of God’s flock, let alone one of His followers, then you are not among the ones He will save. This is how such a person is defined” (“They Try to Win People Over” in Exposing Antichrists). I felt absolutely terrified after I read this. I could feel that God’s disposition does not tolerate offense. I was always putting on pretenses to trick and mislead people in order to win popularity. Essentially, I wanted to replace God in people’s hearts, to make them treat me like God. I was vying with God, something that deeply offends Him. Looking back on that year interacting with brothers and sisters, I put on pretenses every single day. Nobody could truly understand what kind of person I was, assuming that I understood truth, had stature and was free of corruptions. They blindly worshiped me. In deceiving and fooling people, I was doing evil and resisting God. It reminds me of the Pharisees, who served God but never exalted or testified for Him. They ran their mouths in temple and showed off by reciting some doctrines and knowledge of the Scripture. They deliberately stood on the street to pray and made their phylacteries wider and the tassels of their clothes longer. They appeared devout and had a lot of good behavior, and they were highly regarded among the people, who all looked up to and worshiped them. But God, condemning them as evildoers and the ilk of serpent, charged them with seven woes. God is of righteous, holy disposition and intolerant of any offense against His disposition. He hates and condemns hypocrites who crave popularity like the Pharisees. He absolutely does not save people like that. Everything I did back then was just like the Pharisees. I attended a lot of gatherings and completed some work while fulfilling my duty, but my intentions were not to satisfy God, but to protect my own status and image among the people. I always pretended that I really grasped the truth and thoroughly understood things. I even avoided talking about my weaknesses and corruptions to get others to admire me and worship me, and the outcome was that I brought people in front of me. If I had continued disguising myself and going down the same path as the Pharisees, I would have been spurned and eliminated by God. Seeing that God condemns and eliminates those kinds of people really scared me. I blamed myself and was filled with remorse. God elevated me to a leadership position, hoping that I would water and support newcomers, guiding brothers and sisters to quickly understand truth and lay a foundation in the true way. But I didn’t do my job properly, I didn’t fulfill my leadership duties. I only held on to my status. I wasn’t helping brothers and sisters with their life entry, but I was actually hoodwinking and harming them. I was too despicable, devoid of any conscience or reason. The more I thought about it, the more remorseful I felt. I knelt before God and prayed to Him: “Oh God, in fulfilling my duty I didn’t pursue truth, but instead I followed the wrong path, pursuing fame and status. I really made You detest and abhor me. God, I do not want to continue like this. I want to repent and change. I pray to You for leadership and guidance.”
I saw a few passages of God’s words later on: “First, you must understand what a real created being is: A real created being is not a superhuman, but a person who lives straightforwardly and humbly on the earth and is not at all extraordinary. What does it mean not to be extraordinary? It means that no matter how tall you can stand or how high you can jump, the fact remains that your actual height will not change, and you have no extraordinary ability. If you wish always to surpass others, to be ranked above others, then this is engendered by your arrogant, satanic disposition, and it is your delusion. You cannot, in fact, achieve this, and it is impossible for you to do so. God did not give you such talent or skill, and neither did He give you such an essence. Do not forget that you are a normal, ordinary member of mankind, in no way different from others, though your appearance, family, and the decade of your birth may be different, and there may be some differences in your talents and gifts. But do not forget this: No matter how different you are, it is only in these small ways, and your corrupt disposition is the same as others’, and the principles, goals, and orientation to which you must adhere in the performance of your duty are identical to others’. It is merely in their strengths and gifts that people differ” (“The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “As one of the creatures, man must keep his own position, and behave conscientiously. Dutifully guard that which is entrusted to you by the Creator. Do not act out of line, or do things beyond your range of ability or which are loathsome to God. Do not try to be great, or become a superman, or above others, nor seek to become God. This is how people should not desire to be. Seeking to become great or a superman is absurd. Seeking to become God is even more disgraceful; it is disgusting, and despicable. What is commendable, and what the creatures should hold to more than anything else, is to become a true creature; this is the only goal that all people should pursue” (“God Himself, the Unique I” in). From these passages I realized that I’m just an ordinary created being, the same as everyone else. God hopes that I can stay in my place and behave conscientiously while earnestly fulfilling my own duty. God gave me certain qualities and language skills. I should thank God for them and use them to fulfill my duty. But I used these things as capital to get ahead. I was clearly a corrupt person filled with the corrupted disposition of Satan. But I tried everything to conceal my corruptions and shortcomings, disguising myself as a perfect person to get others to admire and worship me. I realized that what I was pursuing was hypocritical and shameful. It was disgusting to man and vile to God. I always disguised myself, concealing my corruptions, but even if others couldn’t tell, those corruptions were still just as much a part of me, so, wasn’t I deceiving myself as well as others? Without ever opening myself to seek the truth, those corrupt dispositions could never be resolved. Not only did I suffer in my own life, but I also misled and deceived others. Wasn’t that shooting myself in the foot? Pretense and deceit are clearly not a good path.
At a gathering one time, we read a couple passages of God’s words and I found the path to practice. “‘Sharing and communing experiences’ means giving voice to every thought in your heart, your state of being, your experiences and knowledge of God’s words, and the corrupt disposition within you, and then letting others discern them, accept the positive parts, and recognize that which is negative. Only this is sharing, and only this is truly communing” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “To free yourself from status’s control over you, you must first purge it from your intentions, your thoughts, and from your heart. How is this achieved? Before, when you were without status, you would ignore those who were not appealing to you. Now that you have status, if you see someone who is unappealing, or who has issues, you feel responsible for helping them, and so spend more time fellowshiping with them, trying to solve some of the practical problems they have. And what is the feeling in your heart when you do such things? It is a feeling of joy and peace. So, too, should you confide in people and be more open with them when you find yourself in difficulty or experience failure, fellowshiping your problems and weaknesses, how you disobeyed God, and how you then emerged from this, and were able to fulfill God’s will. And what is the effect of confiding in them in this way? It is, without doubt, positive. No one will look down on you—and may well envy you your experiences. Some people always think that when people have status, they should act more like officials, that others will only take them seriously and respect them if they speak in a certain way. If you are able to realize that this way of thinking is wrong, then you should pray to God and turn your back on fleshly things. Do not walk that path. When you have thoughts like these, you must get out of that state, and not allow yourself to get stuck in it. Once you become stuck in it, and those thoughts and views take shape within you, you will disguise yourself, you will package yourself, doing it incredibly tightly so that no one is able to see into you or get a sense of your heart and mind. You will be speaking with others as though from behind a mask. They will not be able to see your heart. You should learn to let other people see what’s in your heart, confide in people and get closer to them. You should turn away from physical predilections—and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this; it, too, is a viable path. No matter what happens to you, you must first reflect on the problems in your own thinking. If your inclination is still to put on some kind of act or pretense, then you should pray to God as quickly as you can: ‘Oh God! I want to disguise myself again, and am about to engage in schemes and deceptions once more. I’m such a devil! I make You detest me so! I am currently so disgusted with myself. Please discipline me, reproach me, and punish me.’ You must pray, and bring your attitude out into the light. This involves how you practice” (“To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words enlightened me even more. Getting rid of the yoke of fame and status means practicing truth and being an honest person. We have to reveal our heart and open up about our corruptions and shortcomings to the brothers and sisters to show everyone our true self. When others ask questions, we have to answer as well as we can and be honest when we don’t understand something, so we can all seek the truth together. By putting this into practice more, we can slowly free ourselves of the yoke of fame and status. At the time I thought that I should open up to the others and reveal to them how I’d disguised myself. But I was conflicted about what would happen if I opened up like that: “If I told them about my true disposition, what would everyone think? Would they look down on me?” That made me more and more nervous. I realized that I was just trying to put on pretenses again, so I prayed to God in my heart. I thought about how I always used to care about how others perceived me and never considered what God required of me. I decided I’d stop trying to save face and protect my status. I had to practice the truth and be an honest person, opening up to everyone and exposing my own corruptions to let them know that I am a corrupt person, unworthy of such admiration. I felt a lot calmer after thinking about things that way, and I fellowshiped about how, in order to protect my reputation and status, I’d concealed my own corruptions and shortcomings. I also shared what I’d learned about the dangers of pursuing status so that the brothers and sisters could learn from my failures. After fellowshiping, I felt especially at peace and liberated, and the others said they’d really benefited from it. I also truly felt the peace and joy of practicing truth and being an honest person. Now when I’m with brothers and sisters, I open my heart to fellowship with them and talk about how different situations exposed my corruptions, how I realized I had them, and how I sought the truth. If I don’t know the way to practice at the time, I say so honestly without considering what they might think of me. When I fulfill duty with my brothers and sisters, I consciously open up about things that confuse me or are difficult for me. I also let them know about things I don’t understand or can’t do and encourage them to offer suggestions and pitch in so we can all learn from one another. The brothers and sisters gradually became able to take on a burden in their duty and began to reflect on the corruptions that they revealed, and then read God’s words to learn about themselves. Seeing all this, I thanked God over and over in my heart. From this experience, I deeply felt that the most important part of being a created being is being a steadfast person, fulfilling our duty as best we can, and being honest with God and with others. This is the only way others can benefit and be edified by what we live out.