The Struggle to Speak Honestly

January 18, 2022

By Weniela, Philippines

I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days in 2017. My time fellowshiping with brothers and sisters was usually so happy for me because I always got to learn more truths and gain something from it. At first it was all through text chatting, that is, we were typing all of our communication. So I didn’t hold anything back, and I was really eager to talk about my understanding of God’s words. The leaders would say I had a good understanding and brothers and sisters looked up to me. They said they liked hearing my fellowship and I spoke English well. I was thrilled to hear their praise and I felt I was doing okay. Then a sister suggested we start doing voice calls for gatherings, and my problems came to the fore.

In an afternoon gathering, after we read God’s words, a couple of sisters shared their understanding of the passage. But I was nervous and hadn’t really heard their fellowship. It had all been by text before, so I wasn’t really used to fellowship by voice. Voice fellowship was my weak point. When it was by text I could pick my words and smooth it out. But using live chat, I didn’t have enough time to prepare. Though I had some understanding of God’s words, my fellowship would be chaotic and disorganized, so I was afraid of brothers and sisters being disappointed in me. I was preoccupied with this the entire time. I was hesitating on whether I’d share or not. If I didn’t, the others would think I wasn’t actively engaged and the leader would be disappointed in me. But if I did, I’d be on the spot and if I did poorly, the brothers and sisters would look down on me. It would ruin my good image with them. These thoughts made me so nervous I couldn’t get anything out. I was embarrassed, especially because the sisters who had converted me were in the gathering. I thought they had to be disappointed because in our communication via text, I displayed a good understanding and I was really engaged, but that time I didn’t say a word. Then Flora Shi, a leader, said to me, “Sister Weniela, would you like to share? Everyone else has. Did you forget to share fellowship?” Her tone of voice made me feel like she was disappointed. I felt really awkward and embarrassed. To hide this shortcoming of mine and maintain my image in their eyes, I decided that from then on I’d write out what I wanted to fellowship before the gathering, and I could just read it when it was my turn. Then I wouldn’t be so nervous. They’d think I was a good speaker and my fellowship was on point and helpful for them. I thought it was a good idea.

One evening, a couple of sisters from China hosted our gathering. We all used English to communicate out of convenience. The local brothers and sisters were really shy because their English wasn’t very good, but they were still able to fellowship on their understanding of God’s words. When it was my turn, I was really engaged and I sounded very confident because I’d written it all out beforehand. I was the last one. I’d spent a lot of time writing my fellowship and I was doing my best to speak totally naturally so they wouldn’t notice I was reading. Afterwards, they all complimented my fellowship and said it was helpful for them and said my English was great. I was secretly pleased to hear their praise and felt like I’d earned their respect. Then whenever brothers and sisters said they liked my fellowship and said I was gifted, I couldn’t hold back the joy I felt. Then I was elected to be group leader. I focused even more on what the others thought of me. But after a while, I started to feel guilty, kind of uneasy whenever the others praised me. I knew what I was doing was wrong, that I wasn’t allowing them to see the real me. I didn’t feel right about it, but I still kept doing the same things. In gatherings I wasn’t truly listening to the others’ fellowship. I wasn’t remotely listening to them with my heart, but I was busy writing out my own understanding, and as a result, there was no way for me to really learn from their fellowship. The gatherings had no meaning for me. I was always focused on writing something that sounded good to satisfy my vanity and safeguard my reputation. It kept me from getting more out of those gatherings. I wanted to change, to fellowship more freely, but I was scared to take that step. I was afraid that if the others knew I’d been writing things out in advance, they’d look down on me and they might say I was really disingenuous, that I was lying and being deceitful. I wanted to stop doing that plenty of times because it wasn’t benefitting me at all, and it left me really uneasy, but that anxiety didn’t hold any weight in comparison to my image and others’ admiration. I cared more about my face and reputation. But every time I did that, I felt incredibly guilty. I even tried to convince myself that I was just doing it so I could share my understanding more clearly and accurately, and then the others would be able to understand what I was saying better. I kept telling myself it was okay, but my uneasiness and guilt kept tormenting me. I figured, if I could let go of my pride and tell everyone the truth, I’d be able to escape that. But if they found out that my English really wasn’t great, I thought they’d laugh at me. Then how could I face them? I struggled with this for a long time, but I still didn’t manage to open my heart up. Not knowing what else to do, I tried working on my language skills. I practiced fellowshiping on my own at home, recording myself and then listening to it to see how it sounded. I thought I could gradually improve my speaking skills that way, then I wouldn’t have to keep writing my fellowship out in advance, but could just share directly. Then there’d be no need to tell everyone the truth. As long as I could still fellowship well and my English sounded fluent, I’d hold on to their respect for me. But no matter how much I’d practiced, I got nervous every time we were all in fellowship, so I’d just read my fellowship like I’d been doing all along. I was disappointed in myself and was trapped in a negative state. It also impacted my duty. I ended up being dismissed from my position as group leader.

One time in a gathering, a sister shared this passage of God’s words: “If you wish for others to trust you, first you must be honest. As an honest person, you must first lay your heart bare so that everyone can look into it, see all that you are thinking, and glimpse your true face; you must not try to disguise or package yourself to look good. Only then will people trust you and consider you honest. This is the most fundamental practice, and the prerequisite, of being an honest person. You are always pretending, always feigning holiness, virtuousness, greatness, and feigning high moral qualities. You do not let people see your corruption and your failings. You present a false image to people so that they believe you are upstanding, great, self-sacrificing, impartial, and selfless. This is deceitfulness. Do not put on a disguise, and do not package yourself; instead, lay yourself and your heart bare for others to see. If you can lay your heart bare for others to see, and lay bare all your thoughts and plans—both positive and negative—then are you not being honest? If you can lay yourself bare for others to see, then God, too, will see you and say, ‘You have laid yourself bare for others to see, and so you are surely honest before Me, too.’ If you only lay yourself bare to God when out of view of other people, and always pretend to be great and virtuous or just and selfless when in their company, then what will God think and say? He will say, ‘You are genuinely deceitful; you are purely hypocritical and petty; and you are not an honest person.’ God will condemn you thusly. If you wish to be an honest person, then regardless of when you are before God or other people, you should be able to provide a pure and open account of what is manifested in you, and about the words in your heart. Is this easy to achieve? It requires time; it requires an internal struggle, and we must practice constantly. Little by little, our hearts will open up and we will be able to lay ourselves bare” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God likes honest people, and He doesn’t like craftiness or dishonesty. Whether it’s something pretty or ugly, we have to open up from the heart in fellowship, not pretend to be something we’re not, not mask ourselves. That is being honest. I felt so guilty when I read this because I knew I wasn’t an honest person. I really wanted to open up to everyone, to let go of my vanity and desire for face, and even though I’d tried to quite a few times, I never was able to. I craved face too much. I was imprisoned by my own vanity. I saw that I really was incredibly corrupt. I felt really guilty and vexed at the same time. Why was I always pretending, giving people a false positive impression of me? Why couldn’t I practice the truth? Why was I making a waste of my faith in God? Were all those gatherings and duties all in vain? I felt like I’d never escape the bonds of my own vanity. I wanted to leave our group and take some time to get myself in the right state, then I could come back to gatherings and stop doing those things. So I dropped out of the group and stopped using that account I’d had, wanting to be alone and reflect on myself. I was really upset and frustrated for a while, and lonely, too. I was disappointed in myself. I’d been a believer for two years, but I still hadn’t managed to be honest and let go of my vanity. I cared too much about others’ opinion of me. Just imagining the others’ reactions after knowing the truth would make me feel really ashamed.

All I did during that time was read God’s words. One day I saw this passage: “Pursuing the truth is what is most important, and practicing it is actually very simple. You should begin with being an honest person and speaking truthfully, and opening up your heart. If there is something about which you are too embarrassed to speak with your brothers and sisters, then you should kneel down and tell it to God through prayer. What should you say to God? Tell God what is in your heart; do not give empty pleasantries or attempt to deceive Him. Start with being honest. If you have been weak, then say you have been weak; if you have been evil, then say you have been evil; if you have been deceitful, then say you have been deceitful; if you have had vicious and insidious thoughts, tell God about them. If you are always competing for position, tell Him this, too. Let God discipline you; let Him arrange an environment for you. Allow God to help you get through all of your difficulties and resolve all of your problems. You should open up your heart; do not keep it shut. Even if you shut Him out, He can still see into you. However, if you open up to Him, you can gain the truth. So which path should you choose? Start with being honest, and by all means not put on an act. For years, we have been fellowshiping truths about being honest, and yet today there are still many people who remain indifferent, who speak and act only according to their own intentions, desires, and aims, and to whom it has never occurred to repent. Is this the attitude of people who are honest? (No.) Why does God ask people to be honest? Is it to make them easier to control? (No.) Being honest is the start of being normal, of being beloved by God, of gaining the truth; and it is also the most fundamental indication of possessing humanity and the likeness of a genuine person. Thus, anyone who has never been honest, or considered being honest, is someone who cannot understand the truth, or gain the truth. If you don’t believe Me, go and see for yourself, or go and experience this for yourself. Your heart can only open up if you practice honesty, and only once your heart has opened up can the truth enter into you and, in turn, you can understand and gain it. If your heart is always shut, and you never speak truthfully to anyone, and you are always evasive and elusive, then what will come of all that evasion of yours? You will eventually ruin yourself, and you will be incapable of comprehending or gaining any truths” (“Six Indicators of Life Growth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). This showed me that understanding the truth is more important than anything, more than my face and my vanity. To gain the truth, I had to start with being honest. One is one, and two is two—no more pretending or cheating. For quite a while, I’d been putting on an act, deceiving the others. I’d write out what I wanted to fellowship so they’d think I had a good understanding and I spoke English well, then they’d keep praising me. I was riddled with guilt and anxiety, but I didn’t have the courage to open up to the brothers and sisters. I didn’t want them to see my inadequacies and look down on me, to say I was a liar. I even preferred leaving our group over telling them the truth. I really was cunning. I realized that being so depressed was the harm that Satan was doing to me and was probably holding me back in my life entry. It could even ruin me. I should have the courage to tell the others what was really in my heart so I could actually practice some honesty. No matter how awkward it was to tell the truth, I knew I had to get away from doing things the wrong way. God likes honest people and is disgusted by crafty people. If I kept putting on an act, giving the others a false impression and not being forthright, I’d keep living in darkness and I’d never gain the Holy Spirit’s work. I’d never gain the truth. I had to open myself wide to God so that He could help me resolve this deceit in me. I said a prayer, asking God to guide me to practice the truth and be an honest person.

Later on, I finally opened up to our leader, Sister Connie. I told her why I’d left our group and disabled my account. After hearing me out, Sister Connie said, “I’d never look down on you for that, and I really appreciate your honesty.” I was incredibly relieved to hear her say that. I truly experienced how wonderful it is to be honest. This honesty freed me from all of my anxiety and allowed me to correct my mistaken views. She also gave me some advice, that when I’m sharing my understanding of God’s words, I don’t need to speak really eloquently or to share any sort of high-level theories. It’s enough for it to come from the heart, for it to be honest. That brings God joy. I took her suggestion and felt ready to put it into practice.

Later on, another sister sent me a passage of God’s words. “Instead of searching for the truth, most people have their own petty agendas. Their own interests, face, and the place or standing they hold in other people’s eyes are of great importance to them. These are the only things they cherish. They cling to for dear life. And how they are viewed or treated by God is of secondary importance; for the moment, they ignore that; for the moment, they only consider whether they are the boss of the group, whether other people look up to them and listen to what they say. These are of primary importance to them. When they’re in a group, almost all people look for this kind of standing, these kinds of opportunities. When they’re highly talented, of course they want to be top dog; if they are of middling ability, they’ll still want to hold a higher position than the other middling people in the group; and if they hold a low position in the group, being of average caliber and abilities, they, too, will want others to look up to them, they won’t want others to look down on them. These people’s face and dignity are where they draw the line: They have to hold on to these things. They could have no integrity, and be possessed of neither God’s approval or assent, but in a group, they never miss the chance to jockey for face, status, and the admiration of others—which is the disposition of Satan. Most people have no awareness of this. It is their belief that they must cling to this scrap of face to the very end. They are not aware that only when these vain and superficial things are completely relinquished and put aside will they become someone who has resolve. People who make status their life, lose their life. They do not know what is at stake. And so, when they act, they always hold something back, they always try to protect their own face and status, they put these first, speaking only for their own ends, to their own spurious defense. Everything they do is for themselves. They rush to anything that shines, letting everyone know they were a part of it. It didn’t actually have anything to do with them, but they never want to be left in the background, they’re always afraid of other people looking down on them, they’re always fearful of other people saying they’re nothing, that they are incapable of anything, that they have no skills. Is this all not directed by their satanic dispositions? When you are able to let go of all this, you will be much more relaxed and free inside; you will have set foot on the path to being honest. But for many, this is not easy to achieve. When the camera appears, they scramble to the front; they like having their face on camera, the more coverage the better; they’re afraid of not getting enough coverage, and will pay any price for the chance to get it. And is this not all directed by their satanic dispositions? (Yes.) These are their satanic dispositions. So you get coverage—what then? People think highly of you—so what? They idolize you—so what? Does any of this prove you have the truth? None of this has any value. When you can overcome these things—when you become indifferent to them, and no longer feel them important, when face, vanity, status, what other people think of you no longer control your thoughts and behavior, much less how you perform your duty—then your performance of your duty will become ever more effective, and ever more pure” (“Only by Practicing the Truth Can One Possess Normal Humanity” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). In this passage God exposes how people value their face and status more than their lives, and the first thing they think of when faced with something is their reputation, vanity, and position, not God’s will at all. God doesn’t want us to put on an act, and He doesn’t want us to put our reputation first or pursue our status among people. That isn’t what helps us gain God’s approval, and it can’t help us change our dispositions or be saved. Name and status are ties that Satan uses to bind us and pursuing these things makes us more and more vain and cunning. That way we lose God’s guidance and will ultimately lose His salvation. God doesn’t like crafty people and He doesn’t want people to play clever games to gain His approval or others’ admiration. He wants us to let go of our reputation and status, to pursue the truth and be honest people. Whether it’s before God or before others, we can’t be deceitful or disingenuous. Time after time, I’d failed to open up and share my struggles with the others because I was too concerned with my face and vanity. Firmly in the clutches of my satanic disposition, I was unable to practice the truth. My desire for face and status was too strong.

Later on, the sister sent me more of God’s words that had a particularly helpful passage for me. “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). From God’s words I saw that some people are hypocritical and fake to steal a place in people’s hearts. It looks like they gain others’ respect and their ambitions and desires are satisfied. But what do they get in the end? They can fool people for a moment, but they can’t fool God. God sees into our hearts and minds, and ultimately they lose their chance at God’s salvation and can never gain the truth or God’s approval. God’s words are clear. He hates those who don’t pursue the truth and harbor their own intentions, who want to steal a place in others’ hearts. He sees them as evildoers and He doesn’t acknowledge the duties they do. This scared me. I was afraid God would abandon me, that He would toss me out to Satan and I’d lose His salvation. I realized I’d really taken the wrong path. Because all of my thoughts and actions were for the sake of being praised and admired by others, I’d never considered God’s will or what I’d ultimately get from acting that way. Even if I gained some people’s hearts, I’d never gain the truth because I was on a path against God. If I kept on that path, ultimately I’d just be ruined. At this thought I knew that God hated what I’d been doing and it wasn’t what He wanted me to pursue. I couldn’t settle my feelings. I genuinely wanted to change and escape that state, to be my true self, and never again be deceitful.

Later, Sister Connie encouraged me to share fellowship and open up with the others, to be honest so I could feel some peace and joy. But at the thought of opening up to the brothers and sisters about my corruption and faults, I really hesitated. Then I saw another passage of God’s words: “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. Next, you must learn how to dissect your thoughts and ideas. Whichever things you are doing are wrong, and whatever behaviors of yours God would not like, you should be able to reverse them immediately and rectify them. What is the purpose of rectifying them? It is to accept and take on board the truth, while rejecting the things within you that belong to Satan and replacing them with the truth. You used to rely on your satanic natures, such as cunning and deceptiveness, but now you do not; now, when you do things, you act with a mentality of honesty, purity, and obedience. If you hold nothing back, if you do not put on a front, a pretense, a facade, if you lay yourself bare to the brothers and sisters, do not hide your innermost thoughts and ponderances, but instead allow others to see your honest attitude, then the truth will gradually take root in you, it will blossom and bear fruit, it will yield results, little-by-little. If your heart is increasingly honest, and increasingly oriented toward God, and if you know to protect the interests of God’s house when you perform your duty, and your conscience is troubled when you fail to protect these interests, then this is proof that the truth has had an effect in you, and has become your life” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I could see that God’s words really can change people. When people learn how to open up about their true corruption and seek the truth, our mistaken ideas and corrupt dispositions can gradually be changed. God exposed my wrong thinking and revealed my mistaken pursuit of name and status, then guided me through His words to find the correct path of practice. I had to take the first step to open up to the others, to stop thinking of my name and face, to stop being cunning, deceitful, and disingenuous. I had to practice God’s words and allow them to lead the way within me.

That Sunday morning, I joined the gathering like usual and told myself I had to be genuine, to freely share my understanding with everyone. I prayed, “Dear God, this time I want to practice the truth, to escape the bonds of Satan and reveal my hypocrisy and deceit. I won’t care even if they look down on me. I just want to be an honest person to satisfy You. Please help me so that I can be open and honest.” I felt more relaxed after this prayer. During our gathering, I really gave thought to God’s words and seriously listened to the others’ fellowship on their experience and understanding. I wasn’t using that time to write out my own fellowship, and I didn’t think about what sort of fellowship everyone else would like. When I did that, I gained new enlightenment from the others’ fellowship. When it was my turn, I wasn’t thinking about how good or eloquent my fellowship was, and though I was nervous, it didn’t stop me from continuing to fellowship. Then I talked about a passage of God’s words that had really moved me. “Honesty means giving your heart to God, being genuine with God in all things, being open with Him in all things, never hiding the facts, not trying to deceive those above and below you, and not doing things only to curry favor with God. In short, to be honest is to be pure in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man. … If you have many confidences that you are reluctant to share, if you are highly averse to laying bare your secrets—your difficulties—before others to seek the way of the light, then I say that you are someone who will not attain salvation easily, and who will not easily emerge from the darkness” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I related this passage of God’s words to my own experience, and then bared my soul at the end, revealing to all of them my absolute truest face. I wasn’t remotely worried about what they’d say about me. I told them, “All this time, I’ve been putting on a great act, pretending to speak fluent English. The truth is that I was writing out all of my fellowship beforehand and even recording it to practice so it would sound natural, so you’d all think better of me. It was just to gain your praise, and have you look up to me. I’ve been deceiving you. …” I thought they’d look down on me after I laid my heart bare, but they told me I didn’t need to worry about not fellowshiping well, we are pretty much the same. God wants us to be genuine, not to be flowery and impractical. If I didn’t fellowship from the heart, and it was just literal doctrine, what good was that? I was so moved by this. They didn’t look down on me at all, and some of them said they could understand where I was coming from, and my experience helped them. This was a pleasant surprise for me. After opening up to everyone about my corruption, it felt like a thorn being taken out of my side. I was finally free, and I could finally escape the bonds of my satanic disposition. Satan uses vanity and reputation to keep me from practicing the truth, but when I learned about myself through God’s words, practicing being an honest person and opening up honestly, I felt I’d taken a step closer to God and removed these doubts and barriers between me and my brothers and sisters. I hadn’t been able to let go of my vanity or tell the truth for so long because I’d been so concerned with my face, but not with God’s will. For so long, I’d chosen to disguise myself in order to satisfy my vanity and revel in others’ praise, but that wasn’t what God wanted. In fact, I’d been hurting God for so long. But God was always forgiving and patient, waiting for me to turn around. I’m incredibly grateful for God’s tremendous love.

This experience taught me the importance of pursuing the truth. The only way to escape the shackles of a satanic disposition is to be an honest person and practice the truth. The only way to gain true happiness and peace is to choose the truth. I used to be so sly, so hypocritical, but now I decide to practice the truth and be honest. This is what’s most important to me. All I want is for God to keep guiding me so that I can put more truth into practice.

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