Understanding What It Means to Be a Good Person
By Ye Ying, Myanmar
Since I was little, my parents taught me to be fair, reasonable, kind to others, understanding of others’ difficulties, and not to split hairs. They said that’s what made someone a good person, and that would earn others’ respect and esteem. I also thought that was a good way to be, and I often reminded myself to be compassionate and kind. With my family and other villagers, I never got into conflict with others and I was really concerned with how everyone else saw me. My fellow villagers often praised me, saying I had good humanity and was understanding, and I didn’t bicker with anyone when they offended me. This kind of praise made me really happy. I thought that as a person, I should be amicable that way, and I should be understanding even when someone was in the wrong. I felt certain that this was the standard for being a good person. I kept doing things that way after becoming a believer, too.
Then in November 2021, I was elected as a church deacon and started spreading the gospel with a few other brothers and sisters. One of them, Brother Wang, was from the same village as me. He had caliber and his reasoning was really clear in his fellowship while sharing the gospel. He could use examples to explain things, to help those investigating the true way understand. But I discovered that he was kind of arrogant and didn’t like accepting others’ suggestions. Also, a lot of the time he didn’t follow the principles in his duty and he didn’t exalt and bear witness to God in his gospel work, but talked a lot about how many people he’d converted. The brothers and sisters all liked listening to him preach and really adulated him. Once someone who was looking into the true way praised him for having good caliber and preaching well. I’d noticed that he exalted himself and showed off quite a bit, and that in his gospel sharing, he didn’t focus on bearing witness to God’s work of the last days or on resolving people’s religious notions. I wanted to mention this to Brother Wang, but after a bit of thought I decided to wait a little longer. I wanted Brother Wang to know that I was a kind, reasonable person who didn’t call attention to every little problem I saw. I thought I should encourage and help him more. Later, the leader would often send out relevant principles for sharing the gospel to our group and I indirectly fellowshiped a bit on things relating to Brother Wang’s behavior. I was hoping that he would come to see his issues through that fellowship. I wanted to bring up his problems again, but then I thought that since he was a fairly arrogant person, he might not accept my advice. I was afraid he’d think I was unreasonable and unkind, and would develop a bad impression of me. If we came to an impasse in our relationship and couldn’t work well together, my image as a good person would be ruined. At this thought, I just swallowed my words. I felt kind of bad at the time, so I came before God in prayer, asking Him for the strength to practice the truth. After that, Brother Wang, a few other brothers and sisters and I all went to a village to share the gospel. I noticed that Brother Wang was still showing off in his fellowship, talking about how he didn’t care about money and how he worked hard for God, but wasn’t focused on fellowshiping the truth. On the way home, I mustered up my courage and said to him, “You didn’t enter into the principles in your preaching and testimony. You need to focus on fellowshiping the truth with potential gospel recipients, on bringing them before God—” Before I could finish, he responded with, “There’s nothing wrong with my fellowship. You’re overthinking things.” I was afraid of wounding his pride if I said anything more, and of damaging our rapport. I was also worried that he’d see me poorly and that it would ruin my positive image, so I didn’t say anything else. I felt like that was good enough and he could gradually come to see it himself. I found out later that even though we were busy all the time, we weren’t getting good results in our gospel work. Some people in that village were interested, but still didn’t understand things after hearing Brother Wang’s fellowship a few times. Also, they were impacted by rumors, had notions, and didn’t want to look into it anymore. Some people really looked up to Brother Wang and only wanted to listen to his fellowship, but didn’t want to listen to anyone else’s fellowship. Seeing this made me really uncomfortable, and I felt pretty guilty. These issues had a lot to do with Brother Wang. If I’d brought up his problems earlier, he could have seen them and changed, then our gospel work wouldn’t be compromised. But after that when I really wanted to bring it up, I got worried again that it would damage our rapport, and I felt really conflicted. I figured I could talk to the leader and have her fellowship with him, then our cooperation in our duty wouldn’t be impacted, and we could still get along. So, I talked to the leader about what was going on with Brother Wang. She found some relevant words of God and had us enter into them together, and it seemed Brother Wang made a bit of a change. So, I just let it go.
Once, I mentioned the matter to another sister who pointed out that I was always protective of my relationships with others, and that was a sign of being a people-pleaser. But at first I didn’t see it that way. I thought there was no way I was a people-pleaser, because they’re cunning, and I’d never done anything cunning, so how could I be one of them? At the time I didn’t want to accept her feedback, but I also knew that there was a lesson for me to learn in what she’d said. I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to know myself. I read this in God’s words later on: “People’s behavior and treating others must be based on the words of God; this is the most basic principle for human conduct. How can people practice the truth if they do not understand the principles of human conduct? Practicing the truth is not saying empty words and reciting set phrases. No matter what one may encounter in life, as long as it involves the principles of human conduct, perspectives on events, or the matter of performing their duty, they are faced with making a choice, and they should seek the truth, they should search for a basis and principle in God’s words, and then they should search for a path to practice; those who can practice in this way are people who pursue the truth. To be able to pursue the truth in this way no matter how great the difficulties one encounters is to walk the path of Peter and the path of pursuing the truth. For example: What principle should be followed when interacting with others? Your original viewpoint is that you should not offend anyone, but maintain the peace and avoid making anyone lose face, so that in the future, everyone can get along. Constricted by this viewpoint, when you see someone do something bad, make a mistake, or commit an act that goes against the principles, you would rather tolerate it than bring it up with the person. Constricted by your viewpoint, you become averse to offending anyone. No matter who you associate with, hindered as you are by thoughts of face, of emotions, or of feelings that have grown over many years of interaction, you will always say nice things to make the person happy. Where there are things you find unsatisfactory, you are also tolerant; you merely let off a little steam in private, cast a few aspersions, but when you meet them in person, you don’t rock the boat and still maintain a relationship with them. What do you think of such conduct? Is it not that of a yes-man? Is this not pretty slippery? It violates the principles of conduct. So is it not lowly to act in such a manner? Those who act like this are not good people, nor are they noble. No matter how much you have suffered, and no matter the price you have paid, if you conduct yourself without principles, then you have failed and will meet no approval before God, nor be remembered by Him, nor please Him” (The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 2, To Perform One’s Duty Well, One Must at Least Be Possessed of a Conscience and Reason). I reflected on myself in light of God’s words. I’d felt like I wasn’t a people-pleaser, but how did I really act? During that time, I’d seen that Brother Wang was showing off a lot in his gospel work and I should have pointed that issue out to help him know himself and do his duty in line with the principles, but I was worried being direct would hurt our relationship. So I was always considerate of his feelings and didn’t dare say anything too direct. I even wanted to give him more encouragement to give him the impression I was a good person, and get him to think highly of me. But in fact, I knew that when cooperating with brothers and sisters in a duty, when we notice problems we need to point them out, make up for others’ weaknesses, and uphold the church’s work together. But I was knowingly doing the wrong thing and not practicing the truth. As a result Brother Wang didn’t recognize his own issues and kept showing off while sharing the gospel without focusing on fellowship of the truth. That meant the religious notions of people looking into the true way weren’t resolved and some people stopped attending gatherings when they were disturbed. I saw the impact on our work and felt kind of guilty, but I was afraid he’d become biased against me if I was direct, and it would damage our relationship. So I craftily got a church leader to fellowship with him so that I wouldn’t have to offend him. I saw that I tried to protect relationships with others and coddle them in my duty, that I wasn’t upholding the church’s interests at all and didn’t have a sense of righteousness, and I wasn’t remotely principled. I wasn’t someone who practiced the truth at all. Isn’t that exactly how a people-pleaser acts? After that, I read a passage of God’s words exposing antichrists. “To all appearances, the antichrists’ words seem especially kind, cultured, and distinguished. Anyone who violates principle, who is meddlesome and intrusive in church work, is not exposed or criticized no matter who they are; the antichrist turns a blind eye, letting people think they are magnanimous in all matters. People’s every corruption and odious deed is met with beneficence and toleration. They do not grow angry, or fly into a rage, they will not get cross and blame people when they do something wrong and harm the interests of God’s house. No matter who commits evil and disturbs the work of God’s house, they pay no heed, as if this has nothing to do with them, and they will never offend people because of it. What are they most concerned with? With how many people look up to them, and with how many people see them when they suffer, and admire them for it. The antichrists believe that suffering must never be for nothing; no matter what hardship they endure, what price they pay, what good deeds they do, how caring, considerate, and loving they are toward others, this must all be carried out in front of others, more people must see it. And what is their aim in acting thus? To win people over, to make people feel admiration and approval toward their actions, toward their behavior, toward their character” (The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 3, Item Nine: 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)). I felt so guilty after reading God’s words, as if God were right in front of me, exposing my satanic disposition. I reflected that I was always trying to be a compassionate, kind person because I felt that doing that would get me others’ respect and praise, and people would like me. I was like that when doing a duty with other brothers and sisters, too. I wouldn’t say anything overt to expose Brother Wang’s issues, afraid I’d hurt his reputation and that we wouldn’t get along well after that. But in fact, everything I did was to protect my own name and status. I was using surface-level kindness to disguise myself and make myself look good, to curry favor so people would think I was loving, patient, and tolerant, that I was a good, kind person. But I didn’t take to heart whether the church’s work or brothers’ and sisters’ lives were harmed. Only then did I see how slippery and cunning I was. It looked like I never offended anyone, like I was a good person, but in fact, my own vile motives were all that were behind my actions. I was deceiving people and cheating God. I saw that I had the same disposition as an antichrist, that I was upholding my own image and status at the expense of the church’s work, and staying on that path would be incredibly dangerous. I would become more and more distant from God and end up cast out by Him! I really despised myself when I realized this, and also felt pretty upset. I said a prayer, “God, I’m always disguising myself and making myself look good, focusing on creating a positive image. I don’t want to stay on this path. Please guide me to forsake my corrupt disposition.”
I read more of God’s words after that. “The standard by which humans judge other humans is based on their behavior; those whose conduct is good are righteous, while those whose conduct is abominable are wicked. The standard by which God judges humans is based on whether their essence submits to Him or not; one who submits to God is a righteous person, while one who does not is an enemy and a wicked person, regardless of whether this person’s behavior is good or bad and regardless of whether their speech is correct or incorrect” (The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 1, God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together). “It may be that in all your years of faith in God, you have never cursed anyone or committed a bad deed, yet in your association with Christ, you cannot speak the truth, act honestly, or obey the word of Christ; in that case, I say that you are the most sinister and malicious person in the world. You may be exceptionally amiable and devoted toward your relatives, friends, wife (or husband), sons and daughters, and parents, and never take advantage of others, but if you are incapable of compatibility with Christ, if you are unable to interact in harmony with Him, then even if you expend your all in relief to your neighbors or take meticulous care of your father, mother, and members of your household, I would say that you are still wicked, and moreover one full of cunning tricks” (The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 1, Those Who Are Incompatible With Christ Are Surely Opponents of God). I could see from God’s words that people’s standard for measuring others is based on how well they behave. Those who behave well are good people, while those who behave badly are bad people. But God’s standard for that is based on whether someone follows God’s way, and on someone’s essence and their attitude toward submitting to God. It shouldn’t be determined based on how nice their outward behavior is. The revelations of God’s words went straight to the heart for me. Since I was a child, with family members and with others, I never argued or started conflict with anyone. Even if someone started arguing with me, I’d resolve it by placating them. My fellow villagers always praised me for being a good person and I also thought being that way meant I’d reached the standard of a good person. Now it became apparent to me that I wasn’t appearing to do evil, but I wasn’t being honest in word or deed. I saw that Brother Wang did his duty in an unprincipled way and was always showing off, impacting our effectiveness in work. And to protect my image as a good person, I didn’t expose or help him, and I didn’t uphold the church’s interests. So even though others thought I was a good person, before God, I was still counter to Him and the truth, and everything I did was committing evil. I saw that judging whether someone was good or evil based on external behaviors wasn’t the right standard. Some people seem to do a lot of nice things, but they strongly resist and condemn God’s work and words. They’re evildoers. I remembered a sister I worked with. As far as I could tell, she didn’t care about being warm or kind in her words, but she could accept the truth and seek how to do her duty according to principles of the truth. She said what needed to be said when she saw others not acting according to the truth. She was able to point out problems to others and had a sense of righteousness. Thinking about this gave me some resolve to stop following my mistaken perspectives on trying to seem like a nice person, but I had to live according to the truth of God’s words, and pursue being a truly good person.
I read a passage of God’s words that gave me a path of practice. Almighty God says, “What people should strive to achieve most is to make the words of God their basis, and the truth their criterion; only then can they live in the light and live like a normal human being. If you wish to live in the light, you should act according to the truth; if you are to be honest, you should speak honest words, and do honest things. Only with the principles of truth is there a basis to your conduct; once people lose the principles of truth, and focus only on good behavior, this inevitably gives rise to fakery and pretense. If there is no principle to people’s conduct, then no matter how good their behavior is, they are hypocrites; they may be able to dupe others for a time, but they will never be trustworthy. Only when people act and conduct themselves according to God’s words do they have a true foundation. If they do not conduct themselves according to God’s words, and only focus on pretending to behave well, can they become good people as a result? Absolutely not. Good behavior cannot change people’s essence. Only the truth and the words of God can change people’s dispositions, thoughts, and opinions, and become their life. … Sometimes, it is necessary to point out and criticize others’ shortcomings, deficiencies, and faults directly. This is of great benefit to people. It is a real help to them, and it is constructive for them, is it not? Say, for example, you are especially willful and arrogant. You’ve never been aware of this, but someone who knows you well comes right out and tells you the problem. You think to yourself, ‘Am I willful? Am I arrogant? No one else dared to tell me, but they understand me. That they could say such a thing suggests that it really is true. I must spend some time reflecting on this.’ After that you say to the person, ‘Other people only say nice things to me, they sing my praises, no one ever gets personal with me, no one has ever pointed out these shortcomings and issues in me. Only you were able to tell me, to get personal with me. It was so great, such a big help to me.’ This was having a heart-to-heart, was it not? Little by little, the other person communicated to you what was on their mind, their thoughts about you, and their experiences of how they had notions, imaginings, negativity and weakness in this matter, and were able to escape it by seeking the truth. This is having a heart-to-heart, it is a communion of souls. And what, in sum, is the principle behind speaking? It is this: say what’s in your heart, and speak of your true experiences and what you really think. These words are the most beneficial to people, they provide for people, they help them, they are positive. Refuse to say those fake words, those words that do not benefit or edify people; this will avoid harming them or tripping them up, plunging them into negativity and having a negative effect. You must say positive things. You must strive to help people as much as you can, to benefit them, to provide to them, to produce in them true faith in God; and you must allow people to be helped, and to gain much, from your experiences of God’s words and the way you solve problems, and to be able to understand the path of experiencing the work of God and entering the reality of the truth, allowing them to enter into life and making their life grow—which is all the effect of your words having principles, and being edifying to people” (The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 2, What It Is to Pursue the Truth (3)). I found the principles for conducting myself in God’s words. We need to be honest people according to God’s words. When we see others’ problems we should point them out and help them, which can benefit them. We should support the church’s work and be edifying for others. I wanted to put the truth into practice immediately once I understood this path, to have a heart-to-heart with Brother Wang and bring up his issues. I knew this was so he could rectify his attitude toward his duty and learn about his corrupt disposition and the shortcomings in his duty. It was to help him. So I sought him out, ready to talk about his problems with him. Just then, I felt some concern again, worried about what he would think of me. But I thought about how recently I hadn’t been practicing the truth, which was hurting our work, and I felt really guilty. I knew that God examines my thoughts and deeds and I had to be an honest person. I couldn’t protect my image and turn my back on the truth anymore. This thought gave me the courage to forsake my corrupt disposition and talk to Brother Wang truthfully about his issues. To my surprise, he heard me out and was able to accept it, and he said, “I haven’t fully understood some principles. In the future please tell me about any issues you see. We can help each other and do our duty well together.” I was thrilled to hear him say this, and so grateful to God. I also felt embarrassed and regretful for not having put the truth into practice before. If I’d brought this up with him before, we could have improved our work results sooner, and he would have learned about his corrupt disposition earlier. Then I got a real taste that practicing the truth benefits others, yourself, and your duty. Now when I see brothers’ and sisters’ issues I proactively point them out because I know this is practicing the truth, and it’s helping them. I’ve also experienced that living according to God’s requirements and doing things by the principles of the truth is the only way to practice the truth and be a good person.
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