Vanity and Reputation Harmed Me

January 17, 2022

In 2017, I was elected to a leadership position and put in charge of the work of a few churches. I noticed that all those churches’ leaders had been believers for longer than me. Sister Gao and Sister Sun had served as leaders for many years and we’d been in co-worker gatherings together in the past, so they pretty much knew what to expect of me. Sister Yuan, a leader from another church, had watered me right after I accepted the work of God. I was completely clueless at the time, but whenever I had any issues, she always helped me with fellowship on the truth. So be it work experience or time in the faith, they had me beat in every aspect. It seemed to me that if I tried to take charge of their work and help them solve their issues, I’d just end up embarrassing myself. Yet, I also knew that this commission was God’s exaltation. I couldn’t decline this duty just to save face and preserve my status. I had to accept and submit.

So I wrote to the church leaders for a gathering to familiarize myself with the churches as soon as possible. I usually write letters out very quickly, but not when I wrote to Sister Gao. I kept writing and rewriting those few lines, revising them over and over. I kept worrying that I’d fail to communicate clearly and she’d look down on me. When it came time for the gathering, I became even more anxious. My mind was racing with thoughts: We used to hold gatherings together as co-workers, and if I don’t fellowship well or can’t resolve their issues, what will they think of me? Will they say, “Who are you to host meetings and try to resolve our problems with a stature like yours?” No way, I have to give quality fellowship to show them that I’m capable of doing this job. Trying to appear composed, I started getting caught up on their work. I made notes of any problems that came up and looked for God’s words to resolve them. But being so nervous, I ran out of things to say after fellowshiping for a while. Just then, I noticed Sister Gao had a sort of grave look on her face. I thought to myself, “Is it because I didn’t resolve their problems with my fellowship?” Trying to recover some face, I forced myself to continue fellowshiping. As I talked, I kept monitoring their expressions, to see if they were becoming impatient. My heart pounded with the slightest change in their demeanor. Toward the end of the gathering, everyone basically went quiet and I was the only one talking. It felt like time was standing still—the gathering dragged on at a snail’s pace. Finally, the gathering came to a close and I headed home, utterly depleted. It felt like I’d just done a day of backbreaking labor, and all I wanted to do was rest, but then I remembered that I had scheduled a gathering the following day with Sister Yuan and some other sisters. If they ended up having some problem that I couldn’t resolve, what would they think of me? No, I had to prepare in advance. I picked up their church’s work report and began reading, but before I knew it, I had fallen asleep. It wasn’t until 9 p.m. that I woke with a start. I thought to myself: “That’s odd. I usually never get sleepy this early.” So I came before God and prayed to Him, saying: “Oh God, fulfilling this duty is putting me under a lot of pressure. I’m so worried that the church leaders will look down on me if I don’t provide good fellowship. I’m feeling so constrained and I don’t know how I should get myself through this situation. I pray that You enlighten and guide me to know myself.”

Then I read this passage of God’s words: “All corrupted humans suffer from a common problem: When they have no status, when they are ordinary brothers and sisters, they do not put on airs when interacting or speaking with anyone, nor do they adopt a certain style or tone in their speech; they are simply ordinary and normal, and do not need to package themselves. They do not feel any psychological pressure, and can fellowship openly and from the heart. They are approachable and are easy to interact with; others feel that they are very good people. However, as soon as they attain status, they become high and mighty, as if no one can reach them; they feel that they deserve respect, and that they and ordinary people are cut from different cloths. They look down on ordinary people and stop fellowshiping openly with others. Why do they no longer fellowship openly? They feel that they now have status, and are leaders. They think that leaders must have a certain image, be a bit loftier than ordinary people, and have more stature and be able to assume more responsibility; they believe that compared to ordinary people, leaders must have more patience, be able to suffer and expend more, and be able to withstand any temptation. They even think leaders cannot cry, no matter how many of their family members might die, and that, if they do have to cry, they must do it in secret, so that no one can see any shortcomings, defects, or weakness in them. They even feel that leaders cannot let anyone know if they have become negative; instead, they must hide all such things. They believe this is how one with status should act. When they repress themselves to this extent, has status not become their God, their Lord? And this being so, do they still possess normal humanity? When they have these ideas—when they put themselves in this box, and put on this kind of act—have they not become enamored with status?” (“To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words incisively revealed my state at the time. I was finding it so tiring and agonizing to hold these gatherings because I was too concerned with dignity and status. Thinking back to before I had been elected as a leader, I was uninhibited in my gatherings with Sister Gao and the other sisters. I fellowshiped exactly as much as I understood, and trusted that no one would look down on me for superficial fellowship since I hadn’t been a believer for very long. Yet, after fulfilling duties as a leader, I felt that since I had a higher position than them, they would think less of me if I didn’t fellowship well and couldn’t resolve their problems. I went out of my way to show off and assert myself in gatherings so that the others would think highly of me and say I was worthy of the post. I didn’t have all that much practical experience, but I was unwilling to open up about my shortcomings. I just kept plowing forward. I put myself up on a pedestal, thinking that leaders should have a certain stature and be better than everyone else in every way. I hid all of my flaws and inadequacies, didn’t openly seek what I didn’t understand and pretended that I did, all out of fear of being looked down upon. I brought all this suffering upon myself because I was too enamored of status. God gave me a chance to train myself by exalting me with this leadership position, allowing me to learn how to fellowship the truth and resolve problems. Yet, I didn’t give the slightest thought to how to fulfill my duties well and help others resolve their problems and issues. Instead, I took my duty as an opportunity for self-promotion, a chance to make others think highly of me. I even put up a false front and deceived my brothers and sisters. I didn’t have the slightest bit of reason—I was completely shameless. I came before God and prayed to Him in repentance, asking that He guides me to cast off the tethers of reputation and status.

After praying, I read this passage of God’s words: “Some people always think that when people have status, they should act more like officials, that others will only take them seriously and respect them if they speak in a certain way. If you are able to realize that this way of thinking is wrong, then you should pray to God and turn your back on fleshly things. Do not walk that path. When you have thoughts like these, you must get out of that state, and not allow yourself to get stuck in it. Once you become stuck in it, and those thoughts and views take shape within you, you will disguise yourself, you will package yourself, doing it incredibly tightly so that no one is able to see into you or get a sense of your heart and mind. You will be speaking with others as though from behind a mask. They will not be able to see your heart. You should learn to let other people see what’s in your heart, confide in people and get closer to them. You should turn away from physical predilections—and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this; it, too, is a viable path. No matter what happens to you, you must first reflect on the problems in your own thinking. If your inclination is still to put on some kind of act or pretense, then you should pray to God as quickly as you can: ‘Oh God! I want to disguise myself again, and am about to engage in schemes and deceptions once more. I’m such a devil! I make You detest me so! I am currently so disgusted with myself. Please discipline me, reproach me, and punish me.’ You must pray, and bring your attitude out into the light. This involves how you practice. What aspect of humanity is this practice aimed at? It is aimed at the thoughts and ideas, and the intentions, that people have revealed with regard to an issue, as well as the path they walk and the direction they take. Which is to say, when you have the thoughts to put on a pretense, depend on God to expose them, and to dissect them, and to keep them in check. When you dissect them and keep them in check in this way, there will cease to be any issues in what you do, because your corrupt disposition will have been frustrated, and will no longer be in evidence” (“To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Reading these words from God also gave me a path of practice. I may have been elected to be a leader, but my stature hadn’t changed. It wasn’t like fulfilling this duty meant I suddenly understood all truths, and could fathom everything and resolve all issues. I had to face up to my inadequacies—if I couldn’t resolve a problem, I should just honestly admit that I didn’t understand. Then I could seek the truth together with the others to resolve the problem. In a later gathering, the church leaders brought up problems they were stuck on for fellowship. I was a bit worried at the time. If I wasn’t able to resolve their problems, would they think less of me? So I silently prayed to God, asking Him to correct my attitude and allow me to calmly face my own inadequacies. Even if they saw my true ability and really did think less of me, I still had to practice the truth. That was fine as long as we resolved all our issues and our work went along smoothly. After that, I only fellowshiped as much as I understood, and if I was having trouble resolving them, I’d open up about it to my brothers and sisters, and we’d seek a resolution together. I felt a big release from practicing like this. Gradually, I stopped being so hung up on face and status, and I felt a lot more relaxed in gatherings. I could often feel God enlightening and guiding me, and I was able to identify some problems in the work and find ways to resolve them through God’s words. I felt grounded and at peace by doing my duty this way.

Later on, a few other things happened, which made me reflect on myself in an even deeper way. In 2019, I took on editing duty in the church. We needed to organize a study group on the relevant principles made up of brothers and sisters from a few churches. I had never organized such a big study group before, and I felt very pressured—it literally felt like there was a boulder sitting on my chest. I worried that I’d lose face if I couldn’t provide clear fellowship. One time, the group leader asked me to actively participate in fellowship for an upcoming study group. My heart caught in my throat—this wasn’t some small gathering of a few people. What if I couldn’t provide clear fellowship in front of so many of my brothers and sisters? What would they think of me? Would they wonder how someone of my caliber was allowed to fulfill editing duties? The more I thought about it, the more anxious I became. Before the gathering, I read the principles again and again. I racked my brains, trying to think up the clearest and most organized way to fellowship on them. I prayed to God nonstop in my heart, asking Him to bring peace and serenity to my heart. But when it came time for the gathering, I was still a nervous wreck. I just kept counting down the minutes until it was my turn to fellowship. I was not in any place to be pondering the principles. I really don’t know how I got through that gathering. I felt an immense amount of pressure—I just didn’t want to organize that kind of study group. I thought to myself: “Maybe I should just cancel the study group altogether and have everybody study amongst themselves. That way I won’t have to worry about providing bad fellowship and embarrassing myself in front of everyone.” I went to the leader and told him that the study group in its current form was ineffective. It ended up being canceled. No one else was aware of my despicable intentions, but God was watching. God later devised a scenario for me. A sister asked me several times: “Why don’t you organize a study group for the brothers and sisters to go over principles?” She also said that she’d really like to attend that kind of study group. Hearing her say this made me feel a bit guilty. I was in charge of the church’s editing work. It was my duty to lead my brothers and sisters in studying principles. But I canceled the study group in order to save face and preserve my status, without the slightest thought to others’ needs, or what would be best for the work of the church. Wasn’t I harming my brothers and sisters? I was so selfish and lowly!

I later saw a very moving passage of God’s words in which He exposes antichrists. By placing so much importance on status and reputation, I was actually revealing my own antichrist disposition. God’s words say: “The antichrists’ cherishment of their status and prestige goes beyond that of normal people, and is something within their disposition and essence; it is not a temporary interest, or the transient effect of their surroundings—it is something within their life, their bones, and so it is their essence. This is to say that in everything an antichrist does, their first consideration is their own status and prestige, nothing else. For an antichrist, status and prestige are their life, and their lifelong goal. In all they do, their first consideration is: ‘What will happen to my status? And to my prestige? Will doing this give me prestige? Will it elevate my status in people’s minds?’ That is the first thing they think about, which is ample proof that they have the disposition and essence of antichrists; they would not strive thus otherwise” (“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 Two)” in Exposing Antichrists). Holding myself up against God’s words, I saw that my recent obsession with reputation and status was a manifestation of my antichrist disposition. While organizing the study group, I worried that I didn’t have a good grasp of the principles and that the others would look down on me if I didn’t fellowship well. Before the meeting, I read over the principles again and again, agonizing over the best possible way to express myself. Yet all of that hard work wasn’t to understand the truth and principles, or to help my brothers and sisters learn something practical and useful, but rather to craft an image of myself as an “able professional,” and to win the admiration of others. I placed far too much importance on reputation and status, and only thought of the gatherings as an opportunity to build my reputation. I was fully aware that that was an effective way to study, but I was scared of losing face by not fellowshiping well, so I shirked my duties, and even made excuses for canceling the study group. I spent all day and every day thinking about how not to lose face and how to gain others’ admiration. I prioritized my own personal benefit over everything else. God’s commission didn’t have any place in my heart, and I didn’t consider which course of action would be best for my brothers and sisters, which would be best for the work of God’s house. How selfish and lowly of me! I might not do any obvious evil as an antichrist from the outside, but in essence my disposition was no different. I was walking the path of an antichrist. If I had real status, I’d certainly act just like an antichrist, hindering and interrupting the work of God’s house to satisfy my own personal interests. I would end up doing all sorts of evil and being eliminated by God. Once I had realized all this, I felt really scared and regretful. So I prayed to God: “Dear God, Satan has deeply corrupted me. I’m always trying to preserve reputation and status, and I haven’t been devoted or responsible in my duty. O God, I don’t want to rebel against You any longer—I wish to repent. Please enlighten and guide me!”

In my seeking, I came upon a video reading of God’s words. Almighty 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). I saw how God hopes that we can all practice the truth and be honest people. Whether it’s our shortcomings, inadequacies or expressions of corruption, we should be open about all of them. We shouldn’t keep things inside or disguise ourselves for others or for God. We must be willing to submit all our words and actions to God’s scrutiny. Only then can we earn God’s praise. In truth, no matter how I disguise myself, I can’t change my stature. Even if I can fool my brothers and sisters into thinking highly of me, I can’t fool God. I should openly and purely submit myself to God’s scrutiny, and be an honest person.

Later on, we organized more gatherings to study with brothers and sisters from a few churches. I wanted these gatherings to be effective and be of real, practical help to my brothers and sisters, so every time I set out to prepare the study materials, I would earnestly pray to God and ask for His guidance. I would bring up any questions I wasn’t sure of for the group to discuss together. In previous gatherings, I’d racked my brains thinking up ways to ensure the others would think highly of me, only to end up feeling incredibly nervous and exhausted. Now, I no longer seek status or try to save face, and I feel much more relaxed and free. I’ve also realized that in order for a gathering to be effective, we need everyone’s cooperation, and what’s really key is the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination. When I approached each gathering with the right attitude, I felt God’s enlightenment and guidance. Sometimes when everyone was adding to each other’s ideas during fellowship, I felt like I got so much out of the gathering. Through this experience, I truly felt how foolish the pursuit of status and dignity is. I was just torturing myself and, on top of that, God was disgusted by me not fulfilling my duties. Only by practicing according to God’s word, seeking to be a creature of God, and honestly and earnestly fulfilling my duty, can I live joyfully and worry-free.

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