The Burden of Hypocrisy
By Suwan, China
In August 2020, I was dismissed from my leadership position because I’d been pursuing status and muddling through. I felt terrible and had a lot of regret, and just wanted to repent and do a duty well after that. Then the church put me on a video production team with other sisters.
One day I chatted with them about my thoughts after being dismissed, and one of them, Sister Yang, told me that was really helpful for her. I noticed she looked at me differently after that. When I spoke in gatherings, she was listening really intently and nodding, and she’d usually agree with my opinions. She also seemed more caring to me on a day-to-day basis. I was thinking that she seemed to look up to me, that I’d just talked about what I’d learned and seemed to repent, so I should do something concrete. What would they think if they didn’t see any change in me? Would they think I was all talk and didn’t practice the truth? I was kind of worried about it. I was always sitting at a computer for video making, and my back would get sore and I’d want to relax, but I was afraid the others would think I was being lazy, that I talked about doing my duty well, but wouldn’t do anything to really change. So I wouldn’t take breaks when I was tired, afraid the others would think I wasn’t serious about my duty. I didn’t go to bed early when I was sleepy. Even if I’d finished my work, I’d force myself to keep going until 11:30 or 12 at night. Sometimes I was up all night and could hardly get up in the morning, but I’d force myself to get up with the others. I was afraid of leaving a bad impression. Once, I saw Sister Yang had a couple videos to work on. I didn’t plan to help her because they were difficult and complicated, and I didn’t want to figure them out. But I knew I didn’t have any projects of my own, so if I didn’t offer to help, it wouldn’t look like I was trying to do my duty well and my sisters would think I was all talk, not pursuing the truth. So I went and told Sister Yang I could help her with it.
I seemed to be throwing myself into my duty, but I knew that it was all to protect my image. I felt unsettled and wanted to open up with the others about my motivations, but I was afraid they’d know I’d had ulterior motives the whole time, and they’d think I hadn’t repented and I didn’t practice the truth. They’d probably see me as a hypocrite and shoot down everything I said I’d learned after my dismissal. That thought made me reluctant to lay bare myself, so in gatherings I kept talking about the corruption everyone else talked about and some positive experiences, while keeping my ugly thoughts hidden deep inside me. Since I was only sharing about positive things, in one gathering Sister Yang praised me for practicing the truth and sharing great fellowship. I heard later on that a couple of sisters said I really pursued the truth, I opened up frankly about my corruption, and I was actively engaged in my duty. I felt kind of pleased, but even more a sense of shame, because I knew what they were saying didn’t match up with my reality. I wasn’t frank at all, and I never opened up about the ugly corruption within me. I had motives behind the enthusiasm in my duty. I felt like that was terrible. Everyone was taken in by my façade—what could I do? I felt really guilty and wanted to open up to them, to stop fooling them, but I was afraid that if I did, everyone would know about my ugly thoughts. If they knew my repentance was just hypocrisy, a sham, they’d see right through me and think I was a cunning, wicked person. My good image would be ruined and no one would look up to me. Then I lost my nerve to open up my heart to the others.
I was thinking about it and reflecting on myself constantly, and I read some of, God says, “Do you know who are actually Pharisees? Are there any Pharisees around you? Why are these people called ‘Pharisees’? What is the definition of the appellation, ‘Pharisees’? They are people who are hypocritical, completely fake, and put on an act in everything they do, while pretending to be good, kind, and positive. Is this what they are actually like? 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. Their true face is hidden within their hearts; it is out of sight. If people do not pursue the truth, and if they do not understand the truth, then what do those theories they have gained become? Do they not become the letters and doctrines to which people often refer? People use these so-called correct doctrines to camouflage and package themselves so nicely. Wherever they go, the things they talk about, the things they say, and their external behavior all appear right and good to others; they are all in line with human notions and tastes. In others’ eyes, they are both devout and humble, capable of forbearance and tolerance, and can love others and love God. Actually, though, all of this is fake; it is all just pretense and a way in which they package themselves. 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 have given up their families and careers, appearing to work hard and expend themselves; in actual fact, however, they are running their own operation, profiting from the church and stealing offerings secretly. Everything they outwardly reveal—all their behavior—is fake. This is what is meant by a hypocritical Pharisee” (“Six Indicators of Life Growth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). This made me think of the Pharisees appearing so devout, humble, and loving. They were always standing in the street praying and explaining the Scripture, but they weren’t truly following God’s words. They put up a false front, making themselves look good to fool people, to give people the wrong impression so they’d be admired. Wasn’t I acting exactly like those hypocritical Pharisees? Thinking back, when I talked about what I’d learned after being dismissed, the sisters looked up to me a bit when I talked about needing genuine repentance. I was afraid that if I wasn’t enthusiastic in my duty, it might ruin their good impression of me, so I put on an act to hide my true self, to disguise myself. I didn’t dare rest when I was tired or sleep when I got exhausted at night, and I’d force myself out of bed without enough sleep. I didn’t want to help Sister Yang with that video, but I wanted her to think highly of me, so I pretended I was happy to do it. I knew I had the wrong motivation in my duty, one that God would disapprove of, and I should be open with others. But to protect my image, I hid all those undesirable motives and didn’t tell anyone about them. Then the sisters kind of admired me and were more caring toward me in general. That was deceptive of me. I saw I was really cunning and I was on the same path as the hypocritical Pharisees. I was putting on an act all the time. It was exhausting and made me feel guilty, plus God disapproved. After seeing what a serious problem it was, I mustered up the courage in a gathering to open up with the sisters about my motives and hypocrisy. I felt such a sense of relief after that. But I also felt like it would be really hard for me to correct my motives, so I came before God in prayer, asking Him to guide me to do my duty with a pure and honest heart.
Then I saw a video about someone’s experience that had these words from God. God says, “God does not perfect those who are deceitful. If your heart is not honest—if you are not an honest person—then you will not be gained by God. Likewise, you will not gain the truth, and will also be incapable of gaining God” (“Six Indicators of Life Growth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). This was really poignant and difficult for me. I was a cunning person with my heart full of darkness and evil, chock full of tricks. I wasn’t thinking about the truth or my duty, just about gaining admiration, how to make a good impression on others. Even when it came to sleep, I was worrying and calculating over that. God likes honest, frank people, and only honest people can gain His approval and His salvation. But my motive and starting point were always cunning and evil. No matter how well I dressed myself up and gained everyone’s adoration, I’d never get God’s approval, so in the end I’d be detested and damned by God like those hypocritical Pharisees. I was so disappointed in myself. Over all those years of faith, I hadn’t entered into the reality of a truth as basic as honesty, and I was just as cunning as ever. I really was far from what God required and a complete failure as a person.
I read a passage of God’s words after that. God says, “In all matters, you should be open to God and you should be openhearted—this is the only condition and state that should be maintained before God. Even when you are not open, you are open before God. God knows, whether you are open or not. Are you not foolish if you cannot see that? So how can you be wise? You know that God scrutinizes and knows everything, so do not think He might not know; since it is certain that God secretly sees people’s minds, people would be wise to be a little more openhearted, a little more pure, and be honest—that is the smart thing to do” (“They Would Have Others Obey Only Them, Not the Truth or God (Part Two)” in Exposing Antichrists). I felt so foolish when I read this. God sees into our hearts and minds, so He knows my own motives and what sort of person I am better than anyone. No matter how I hid my corruption from those sisters, God would know. As a believer who didn’t want to accept God’s scrutiny, didn’t that make me a nonbeliever? I felt pathetic. My efforts to pretend to be someone who pursued the truth and truly repented to gain admiration were actually smothering me. We need rest when we’re tired or sleepy. It’s very natural for humans. Plus, rest is revitalizing and then I can do my duty better, and no one would condemn it as being lazy or self-indulgent. But I was trying to deny the most basic of human needs, only thinking about how to get people to look up to me. It was exhausting. God says wise people need to learn to be frank and sincere, accept God’s scrutiny and be honest. That’s the only free way to live. At that point I didn’t want to pretend anymore. I would take a break when I was tired, and go to bed at night when I was sleepy. I opened up about my real state in gatherings, and proactively fulfilled my responsibilities in my duty. When things were tough, I told myself that it was my duty and not for anyone else to see. Whenever I had the urge to put on an act, I’d think of these words from God: “Those who are capable of putting the truth into practice can accept God’s scrutiny when doing things. When you accept God’s scrutiny, your heart is set straight” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). That would help me be more up-front and ready to accept God’s scrutiny.
After a while, I noticed that Sister Chen was a little irritable and impatient with Sister Yang when teaching her something. Sister Yang got resistant and didn’t want to learn it, and developed a bias against Sister Chen. It occurred to me that I could help with the training, so they would see I was a loving, patient person and they’d like me more. I did end up doing that. I was really patient and spoke to her kindly at first, but when I saw she was a slow learner and made lots of mistakes, I started getting annoyed. I felt like she wasn’t very sharp and I started to look down on her, but I reined in my temper and kept on. I knew my temper was flaring up, but I didn’t open up about my true feelings in gatherings, for I was worried if I said something the sisters would think I was just as unfair as Sister Chen, lacking love and patience, and that would ruin my image. Plus in our usual interactions, when I saw the others showing corruption or being negative, I felt some disdain for them even though I pretended to be caring and understanding. I’d never planned to share all that out of fear they’d say I was lacking compassion and hard to get along with.
One day in November, I got a leader’s letter telling me I needed to take on a duty somewhere else the next day. The sisters all said they were sad to see me go. Sister Li said how edifying and helpful my fellowship was for her, that I was really fair with others and never turned up my nose, and that those who understand and pursue the truth are welcome anywhere. Hearing such high praise from her made me kind of uncomfortable. I told her not to praise or elevate others too much, that it wasn’t good for them. I had a talk with Sister Yang after that. She wasn’t directly praising me, but I could hear in her voice that she saw me the same way as Sister Li. I felt like I had a weight on my heart, worried that I’d misled them and I had a problem. But looking at it another way, I thought I had corrupt disposition, but I was trying to self-reflect, and it might be that I was better at that than them, so they thought highly of me. With that thought, I swept those concerns out of my mind and didn’t think about it again.
I saw a testimonial video, A Hypocrite’s Repentance, where a sister talked about only sharing positive things in her fellowship, and the others all looked up to her. She was dismissed but the brothers and sisters still voted unanimously for her to take that duty again, feeling like they couldn’t do without her. Some looked up to her so much they almost treated her like God. This really woke me up: It was a serious problem. I thought about how the others had been so admiring and complimentary of me lately and thought I might be just like that sister, only talking about positive entry, and I might need to reflect. Then I read a passage of God’s words.says, “In front of others, antichrists pretend to be capable of great tolerance, forbearing, humility, and kindness. To all, they appear generous and magnanimous. Give them a problem and some authority, and they seem in every regard to handle it with leniency, not splitting hairs, showing how noble they are. Do these antichrists truly possess such essences? What is the aim behind their kindness, tolerance, and attentiveness to others? Would they do such things if it were not to ingratiate themselves with people, to win them over? Is this their true face? Are their essences, dispositions and humanity really as humble, forbearing, tolerant, and capable of genuine loving assistance as they seem? Not at all. To attract more people’s attention, to win more people over, to insinuate themselves with them, to make the antichrist the first one they think of when they have an issue, and the one they seek out when they need help—to achieve these aims, the antichrists deliberately play to the gallery, saying all the right words and doing all the right things. Before the words leave their mouth, who knows how many times they have screened and reworked them in their heart, in their mind. They ponder, with great calculation and deliberation, the wording, phrasing, and intonation, even the expression on their face and their tone as they utter them, and take into account who they are saying these words to, how old they are, whether they are junior or senior to them, what they think of them, whether they harbor any personal resentment toward them, whether their personalities are a good match, what kind of position they hold in the church and among the brothers and sisters, what duty they perform—all this they carefully observe and deliberate before producing tactics for how to behave toward various people. And regardless of what those tactics are, the antichrist generally has the same objective, no matter who or what kind of person it is aimed at: to make the person think highly of them, to take them from looking down on them, to looking upon them as an equal, to looking up to them, to make people prick their ears up when they speak, and give them the time and chance to speak, to gain more people’s consent when they do things, to make more people exonerate them when they make mistakes, and to make more people stick up for them, speak out for them, and try to resist and reason with God when they are revealed for what they really are, forsaken by the house of God, and thrown out of the church. This indicates that the position and influence that they have so deliberately engineered is deeply embedded in the church; clearly, for so many people to offer them their aid, solidarity, and defense when they are brought down means their efforts have not been in vain” (“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). God’s words about antichrists show that they put on an act as great people to gain others’ admiration, and this is how they mislead them. I was acting just like an antichrist. I wanted admiration, so when I was training Sister Yang, even though I felt fed up, I still put on a face of nothing but patience. And when I saw corruption in the sisters, I looked down on them, but I still put on an act, never really opening up to any of them. I was afraid it would ruin their image of me. That pulled the wool over their eyes so that they kept praising me. I saw I really was cunning.
I started thinking about why I couldn’t stop putting on an act. What disposition was it? I read a passage of God’s words, God says, “Deceit is often outwardly evident. When someone is said to be very sly and shrewd with words, that is deceit. And what is the chief characteristic of evil? Evil is when what people say is especially pleasing to the ear, when it all seems right, and irreproachable, and good no matter which way you look at it, but their actions are especially evil, and highly furtive, and not easily discernible. They often employ some right words and nice-sounding phrases, and use certain doctrines, arguments, and techniques that are in line with people’s feelings to pull the wool over their eyes; they pretend to go one way but actually go another to achieve their secret aims. This is evil. People usually believe this to be deceit. They have less knowledge of evil, and dissect it less, too; evil is actually more difficult to identify than deceit, for it is more hidden, and the methods and techniques involved are more sophisticated. When people have a deceitful disposition within them, it usually only takes two or three days before others can see that they are deceitful, or that their actions and words reveal a deceitful disposition. But when someone is said to be evil, this is not something that can be discerned in one or two days. For if nothing significant or specific happens over the short-term, and if you listen to their words alone, you would have a hard time telling them for what they really are. They say the right words and do the right things, and can spout doctrine after doctrine. After two or three days with such a person, you think them a good person, someone who is able to give things up and expend themselves, who understands spiritual matters, who has a heart that loves God, who acts with conscience and sense. But then you start entrusting them with tasks, and you soon realize that they are not honest, that they are even more insidious than deceitful people—that they are something evil. They often choose the right words, words that fit with the truth, that are in line with people’s feelings and with humanity, words that sound nice, and beguiling words to converse with people, in one regard, to establish themselves, and in another regard, to deceive others, so that they can have status and prestige among people, all of which easily bewitches those who are ignorant, who have a shallow understanding of the truth, who do not understand spiritual things, and who lack a foundation in their faith in God. This is what people with an evil disposition do” (“They Deceive, Draw In, Threaten, and Control People” in Exposing Antichrists). This showed me that behind all of it, an evil disposition was controlling me, which is harder to see than a cunning one. I was trying to mislead people and win their hearts for my own ulterior motives, so I did things that would look good and seemed in line with the truth, and others were taken in. I was just like that. I knew everyone likes people who pursue the truth and are loving, that they are esteemed in God’s house, so I pretended to be that kind of person. I looked ready to suffer, pay a price, do my duty, and be loving, and I acted like I acted in accordance with the truth, but my aim wasn’t to practice the truth. It was to be admired. I wanted to look good in others’ eyes, to capture their hearts. I was really evil and despicable. If it were not for God’s words’ judgment, I’d think that putting on a mask is just cunning, but I wouldn’t see it’s a type of evil disposition. That’s a path against God. It really is. I was so profoundly corrupted by Satan but always wanted to be admired and have a place in others’ hearts. How shameless! God created us, so we should naturally worship Him. Only God should be in our hearts. But I just wanted to occupy people’s hearts, fighting for God’s place. I was acting just like the archangel. God’s righteous disposition can’t be offended, so if I didn’t repent, I knew I’d end up damned by God just like the Pharisees. This scared me. I knew I was in dangerous waters if I kept on like that. I resolved to forsake the flesh and be a simple, honest person.
After that, I worked to forsake myself, and I started opening up in gatherings. Once, I’d slacked off on a video and there were a lot of problems with it. Redoing it caused lots of delays in our work. When a sister told me I’d been irresponsible and couldn’t be relied on, I felt resistant to that and argued with her in my heart. A leader asked me about my state later, and I thought that if I really shared everything, the brothers and sisters might think I couldn’t accept the truth, that I just kept defending myself. Then what would everyone think of me? Then I saw clearly that I was putting on an act again, so I prayed, and a passage of God’s words came to mind. God says, “Every time you finish doing something, the parts you think you did right must be held up for scrutiny—and, moreover, the part you think you did wrong must also be held up for scrutiny. This requires the brothers and sisters to spend more time together fellowshiping, seeking, and helping each other out. The more we fellowship, the more light enters our hearts; God will then enlighten us with regard to all our issues. If none of us speaks up, and we all just package ourselves to look good, hoping to leave a good impression in the minds of others and wanting them to think highly of us and not scoff at us, then we will have no means of growing. If you always package yourself to look good, you will not grow, and you will forever live in darkness. You will also be incapable of transformation. If you wish to change, then you must pay a price, lay yourself bare, and open up your heart to others, and by doing so, you will benefit both yourself and other people” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). This gave me a path of practice. I had to accept God’s scrutiny, and no matter what other people thought, I had to open up and practice the truth. At that point I mustered up my courage to open up about my state and reveal my corruption. I felt much freer after doing that, and fellowshiping with the others helped me understand my problem.
What was exposed during that time showed me I had a cunning, evil disposition. I was always pretending in order to be adored by others. If God hadn’t set things up that way, I never would have seen I was on a path against God, that I was going against God, and I would be destroyed in the end. I also saw how important our motives are in doing things, and I learned to accept God’s scrutiny and rectify my motives, to really open up and be honest. That’s the only way to gain God’s approval and bring Him joy.