The Path to Removing the Mask
By Tongxin, South Korea
I was elected as watering team leader earlier this year, responsible for several teams’ watering work. At the time I thought that being elected to that position meant I must have some caliber and capability, that I was ahead of the others in my understanding of the truth and life entry. I felt like I needed to equip myself with the truth and put my heart into doing my duty well, so everyone would see that I was capable of doing that duty.
At first I wasn’t familiar with the work, so when unfamiliar things came up I’d ask the leader or brothers and sisters I worked with about them. I figured that since I was new to that duty, everyone would understand that there would be some things I didn’t know, and doing more seeking might help me grow more quickly, then I’d leave a good impression on everyone, and they’d think I was really earnest. But I kept running into lots of problems and later on I was hesitating to ask. I’d been in that duty a while by then, so what would everyone think of me if I was constantly asking so many questions? Would they think my caliber wasn’t very good, that I couldn’t even solve simple problems, and I wasn’t able to take on that duty as team leader? So when I ran into problems after that, I couldn’t stop thinking about whether I should ask them, whether it was reasonable to ask. I was worried my thinking would seem simplistic. If I felt like some problems were not complicated, I wouldn’t ask, but try to figure them out myself. So more and more issues piled up and quite a few weren’t resolved in time. This made me more and more worried: “Is everyone going to think I’m not a good fit for team leader?” During gatherings, especially when a leader was there, When I fellowshiped onI was constantly worrying: “Is my fellowship practical? Is my understanding pure?” I’d observe everyone’s reactions after my fellowship, and if someone expanded on the basis of what I’d said, that meant my fellowship had struck a chord, that it contained light, it showed I had a pure understanding of God’s words and could handle the duty. But I’d feel awful if no one responded when I was done. After some time, my duty started to feel really exhausting. I was always preoccupied about everything I said and I couldn’t relax. I’d wanted to perform the duty well, but I was always on tenterhooks, and I wasn’t growing or learning anything. I’d lost sight of my original intent.
I came before God in prayer and seeking, and read a passage of His words: “People themselves are objects of creation. Can objects of creation achieve omnipotence? Can they achieve perfection and flawlessness? Can they achieve proficiency in everything, come to understand everything, and accomplish everything? They cannot. However, within humans, there is a weakness. As soon as they learn a skill or profession, people feel that they are capable, that they are people with status and worth, and that they are professionals. No matter how ‘capable’ they think they are, they all want to package themselves up, disguise themselves as lofty personages, and appear perfect and flawless, without a single defect; in the eyes of others, they wish to be regarded as great, powerful, fully capable, and able to accomplish anything. They feel that if they sought others’ help, they would appear incapable, weak, and inferior, and that people would look down on them. For this reason, they always want to keep up a front. Some people, when asked to do something, say they know how to do it, when they actually do not. Afterward, in secret, they look it up and try to learn how to do it, but after studying it for several days, they still do not understand it. When asked how they are getting on with it, they say, ‘Soon, soon!’ But in their hearts, they’re thinking, ‘I’m not there yet, I have no idea, I don’t know what to do. No—I must not give up, I must continue putting on a front, I can’t let people look down on me, I can’t let them see my failings and weaknesses.’ What problem is this? What kind of disposition is this? Such people are so arrogant, they have lost all sense! They do not wish to be ordinary people, normal people, or mere mortals. They just want to be superhuman, or someone with special abilities or powers. This is such a huge problem! With regard to the weaknesses, shortcomings, ignorance, foolishness, and lack of understanding within normal humanity, they will wrap it all up, and not let other people see it, and then keep on disguising themselves. … Such people’s heads are always stuck in the clouds, are they not? Are they not dreaming? They do not know who they themselves are, nor do they know how to live out normal humanity. They have never once acted like practical human beings. In conducting themselves, if people choose this sort of path—always having their heads in the clouds instead of their feet on the ground, always wanting to fly—then they are bound to encounter problems. The path in life you choose is not right” (“The Five States Necessary to Be on the Right Track in One’s Faith” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Thinking this over gave me a little understanding of my state. I thought too much of myself, feeling like, since I was elected as watering team leader, that meant I had a certain caliber and work capability. When I saw myself that way, I started caring what everyone else thought of me, and I wanted to prove myself up to the task as soon as possible. So when I ran into more problems and difficulties, I couldn’t simply bring them up, but I was always worried people would see through me, say I was lacking caliber and wasn’t up to the job. I started putting on a mask, keeping quiet when problems came up and figuring things out on my own. That meant a lot of problems in my duty didn’t get taken care of, which held up our work and impacted my own state. I lost clarity in my thinking, and started getting confused over things I used to understand. I was always second guessing my fellowship in gatherings, afraid people would look down on me if it wasn’t any good. I felt constrained at every turn. I realized I was entirely to blame. I was so arrogant and unreasonable, and couldn’t properly face my own flaws. I was always putting on an act so others would think more of me. That duty was a chance given to me by God’s house to train myself and it didn’t mean I understood the truth or could do the job well. I just had a little capacity to receive the truth, but there were lots of things I couldn’t understand and didn’t have any personal experience with. There was nothing special about me, but I’d thought too much of myself, pretending to be lofty, someone who understands the truth. I overestimated myself! Now, I keep my feet on the ground and I ask when I need to, which is the only realistic and reasonable path of practice.
I read a passage of God’s words that gave some practical approaches. God says, “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 yourselves up is the first step toward entering the truth, and it is the first hurdle, which is the most difficult to overcome. Once you have overcome it, entering the truth is easy. To take this step signifies 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 cover anything up, make any modifications, or employ any tricks for the sake of your own reputation, self-respect, and status, and this also applies to any mistakes you have made; such pointless work is unnecessary. If you do not, then you will live easily and tirelessly, and completely in the light. Only such people can win God’s praise” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Thinking over this helped me realize that to do my duty freely, without anxiety, the first step was to learn to open up about my faults and stop putting on a mask. I had to practice the truth and be an honest person. I saw I was just a corrupt person who hardly understood the truth, so of course I wouldn’t understand a lot. That was perfectly normal. There was no need to put on an act and cover anything up for my own image. The only way to relax in my duty was to let go of my pride, and open up and seek when I had a question. At this, my heart brightened and I started focusing on practicing that. When I wasn’t sure about something, I proactively asked about it, and when sharing my opinion, I said what I truly thought and only fellowshiped on what I knew. When I put this into practice, I gradually started understanding things I never had before, and I was able to find and address errors in my duty. I got a stronger impression of my personal issues. Then I personally experienced that being seen for what I am is a good thing, that it helps to understand principles of the truth and discover your own flaws. I felt a lot freer at this point and after that I was able to do my duty normally.
Before long, the groups I was responsible for were doing really well in church life, and brothers and sisters wanted to fellowship with me on their problems. But without realizing it, I’d started focusing on what people thought of me again. One time at a co-workers’ meeting, a leader brought up some problems in a church and asked us what we thought. I was thinking, “So many brothers and sisters are here, and if I could come up with some unique insights, that would show how capable I am.” But I thought for ages and couldn’t make sense of it. Just then, the leader asked me what I thought. I stammered for ages, then just gave an ambiguous suggestion. Pretty soon after, two other sisters shared their thinking, and their suggestions were the opposite of mine. What they said was really well-reasoned, and the leader agreed with them. I felt uncomfortable immediately, thinking not only had I failed to make myself look good, but I’d looked bad. What would the leader think of me? Would she think that I didn’t have any insight into such a simple thing, that I hadn’t grown at all? Over the next few days, some issues came up in the groups I was responsible for. I didn’t understand them, so I should have sought help right away. But then I wondered, if I asked all those questions, wouldn’t that ruin the good image I’d built up? On the other hand, I knew unresolved problems would hinder our work, so I thought of a makeshift strategy: I’d divide up my questions and ask different people, so the problems would get resolved but I wouldn’t look like I was asking too many questions and didn’t know anything. As I hid myself this way, my state deteriorated more and more. My thinking became more clouded and I started struggling in lots of things. Then I reflected, and saw that since I didn’t have insight into things I used to, it had to be a problem with my state. So I came before God and prayed, “God, I clearly have problems, but I don’t dare be honest and open up about my faults. I always want to act big. Why is it so hard to ask when I don’t understand? My lips are just sealed shut and doing my duty this way is exhausting. Please guide me to know my corruption and to change.”
After that I read a couple passages of God’s words that exposed my state perfectly.says, “Making mistakes or putting on a pretense: which of these relates to disposition? (Putting on a pretense.) Putting on a pretense is a matter of disposition, it involves an arrogant disposition, evil, and treachery; it is disdained by others, and disdained by God. … If you do not try and put on a pretense or make excuses, everyone will say you are honest and wise. And what makes you wise? Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has faults and flaws. And actually, everyone has the same corrupt disposition. Do not think yourself more noble, perfect, and kind than others; that is being utterly unreasonable. Once people’s corrupt dispositions and the essence and true face of man’s corruption are clear to you, you will not be surprised by your own mistakes, nor will you turn the screws on others when they make a mistake, but will face both correctly. Only then will you be insightful and not do stupid things, which will make you someone wise. Those who are not wise but foolish always dwell on their minor mistakes while being sneaky behind the scenes. It is disgusting to see. In fact, what you’re doing is immediately obvious to other people, yet you are still blatantly putting on an act. To others, it looks like a clown performance. Isn’t this stupid? It really is. Stupid people don’t have any wisdom. No matter how many sermons they hear, they still don’t understand the truth or see anything for what it really is. They are always on their high horse, thinking they are different from everyone else, thinking they are more worthy—which is stupid. Stupid people don’t have spiritual understanding, do they? The matters in which you are stupid and unwise are the matters in which you have no spiritual understanding, and do not understand the truth. This is how it is” (“The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “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. Take members of the satanic regime: No matter how much they fight, feud, or kill behind the scenes, no one is allowed to report or expose this. What’s more, they do everything they can to cover it up. In public, they do their utmost to whitewash themselves, saying how much they love the people, how great, glorious and correct they are. This is the nature of Satan. What is the salient feature of this aspect of Satan’s nature? (Trickery and deception.) And what is the aim of this trickery and deception? To hoodwink people, to stop them from seeing its essence and its true colors, and thus achieve the aim of solidifying its rule. Ordinary people may lack such power and status, but they, too, wish to make others have a good opinion of them, and for people to have a high estimation of them, and give them a high status, in their hearts. This is what a corrupt disposition is. 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” (“The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Pondering God’s words, I could see that between putting up false fronts and doing things wrong, false fronts are worse. No one is perfect, so running into questions and making mistakes in your duty is totally normal, but what lies behind a front are the satanic dispositions of being arrogant, cunning, and evil. Always hiding your imperfections, just letting people see your good side so they look up to you, admire you is what God hates more. A truly wise person can properly face their shortcomings, and use that to make up for what they lack. It’s a chance to grow. But the foolish, ignorant people who lack self-awareness can’t ever accept their own faults. They just put on an act, which means problems never get resolved and they never grow in life. Thinking back over my behavior, I realized I was one of the arrogant fools exposed by God. When I started doing okay in my duty, I felt like I really wasn’t bad, and I was up to being team leader. I was able to resolve problems, so I really elevated myself, and thought a lot of myself. So when I encountered things I didn’t know how to handle, I was cautious and indecisive, worried I’d say the wrong thing and ruin my good image. And I decided to express fewer opinions and ask less questions. Even when I did seek help, I’d pick harder questions to display my abilities, not wanting everyone to see where I struggled. I even played games, splitting questions between people so I wouldn’t be overlooked. I really was arrogant and cunning without any self-awareness, putting on an act in various ways so people would look up to me. I was such a fool, disgusting to God and people. I hid my flaws to protect my name and status, leaving problems in my duty unresolved. I was holding up the work of God’s house. What was I thinking? I was so despicable and evil. I could hold on to my position for the short term by pretending, but God inspects all, and sooner or later I would have been eliminated by God for cheating Him, for delaying the church’s work. Antichrists particularly treasure status and won’t even spare the interests of God’s house for their own status. What was the difference between my disposition and perspectives on pursuit, and an antichrist’s? Really thinking about it, how did that position benefit me? It made me unwilling to acknowledge or face my flaws, and I lost my reason. I didn’t want to seek when I ran into problems, but put on an act and became more and more cunning. I’d end up on an antichrist’s path, disgusting God and being eliminated. That would hurt the work of God’s house and destroy me. At that point I realized how dangerous going on that way was. It was a wake-up call that I couldn’t do my duty like that anymore.
I read more of God’s words with a path of practice, and it was even more freeing for me. God says, “Some people are promoted and nurtured by the church; this is a great opportunity. It can be said they have been elevated and graced by God. So how, then, should they perform their duty? The first principle they should abide by is to understand the truth. When they don’t understand the truth, they must seek the truth, and if after seeking they still don’t understand, they can find someone to ask and fellowship with; they should learn how to work in harmony with others, to ask more questions, to seek more. Only then will they be able to correctly solve problems, and be of benefit to God’s chosen ones and the work of the church. For you are only at the stage of promotion and nurturing. You do not understand everything. So don’t pretend that you understand; this is a foolish way of doing things. If you don’t understand, you can ask someone else, or fellowship with others, or enquire of the Above—there’s nothing shameful about any of these. Even when you don’t ask, the Above knows you are nothing, that you have nothing. Searching and fellowshiping are what you ought to be doing. This is the sense that ought to be found in normal humanity, and the principle that should be followed by leaders and workers. There is nothing shameful in doing these things. If you always have the feeling that, now that you are a leader, it is shameful to still not understand principle, and to be constantly asking others and the Above—and if, as a result, you pretend that you do understand, that you do know, that you are able to do this work, that you are good at this work, and do not require the pointers and fellowship of others, do not require the provision and support of anyone else, then this is dangerous; sooner or later you will be replaced, for this is at odds with the conditions of promotion and nurturing by the house of God. You believe yourself capable, yet you must realize that in actual fact, you are capable of nothing, and are only at the stage of learning and training. This is the sense you should possess. Searching and fellowshiping: these are what you should practice” (“Identifying False Leaders (5)” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I thought this over and saw that God’s house promotes and cultivates people to give them a chance to practice. It doesn’t mean they understand the truth, can resolve any problem, and are fit for God’s use. In their practice they’ll encounter all sorts of actual problems, and if they keep seeking and fellowshiping, they’ll slowly start to understand different aspects of the principles. Then they can solve problems and do their duty well. I knew I had to face my flaws properly and know who I was, seek more truth, discuss and fellowship with others more when things came up, and give it my all. Then, even if one day it became clear I really didn’t have the caliber, that I wasn’t up to the task, at least my conscience would be clear. I felt really relieved once I’d thought that through. I didn’t need to keep pretending and wearing a mask, but I had to be honest and squarely face my faults and shortcomings.
In our team discussions after that, I tried to honestly share my own opinions. I was kind of hesitant at first, afraid I’d say the wrong thing and be shown as having shallow understanding and poor caliber. Especially when there were problems I really wasn’t sure about, the opinions I shared weren’t very clear. My heart would start pounding: “Is everyone going to see through me?” But I’d remind myself that was my actual level, and it was okay if they looked down on me. What’s important is being an honest person before God, and expressing my thoughts and participating in discussions is my duty. That’s the only peaceful way to live. When I had questions in my duty after that, I went out and asked for others’ ideas. Every once in a while I still worried about being looked down on. But when I thought that hiding my faults to protect my pride would probably hurt the work of God’s house, I’d make an effort to turn away from that impulse and seek help. When I did that, I started to understand things I hadn’t before and I felt calmer, more at peace. Sometimes brothers and sisters had a more accurate understanding than me, and I’d start wondering if everyone was thinking I was no good. But I could see that wasn’t the right way to look at it. I had to learn from others’ strengths to make up for my weaknesses. Isn’t that a gift? I wasn’t flustered when I thought about it that way, and with time, I started feeling freer and freer. I’m grateful for God’s guidance that let me experience how free and joyful being honest is, and now I have more faith to put God’s words into practice.