What I Gained From Pursuing the Admiration of Others
By Shen Si, China
Last October, I went to a church to do my duty. The church leader, Sister Liang, asked me to lead a few gathering groups first. After each gathering, I always opened up to Sister Liang to ask about questions I didn’t understand, and Sister Liang would patiently fellowship with me. During that time, I felt like I gained something new every day. About a week later, our superior, Sister Chen, came to gather with us. Occasionally, I heard Sister Liang say that I was young, had good caliber, was mature in my humanity, and bore a burden in my duty. I was quite surprised. I didn’t expect Sister Liang’s evaluation of me to be so good. I heard Sister Chen say several times that she wanted to cultivate me as a church leader and asked Sister Liang to familiarize me with the various work of the church. At the time, I was outwardly calm, but in my heart, I was incredibly happy. It seemed like I was a valuable talent in the church! Since everyone thought so highly of me, I felt I had to perform well in the future, and that I couldn’t let others see my shortcomings. Otherwise, no one would respect me.
Soon, at the next gathering, when I saw Sister Chen, I involuntarily became nervous. I was afraid that if I performed poorly in front of her, I would ruin my good image in her eyes and she wouldn’t cultivate me anymore. Then, Sister Chen suddenly asked us what we had gained during this period of time. I thought, “During this time, I’ve just started church work. I’ve been very busy every day, and haven’t paid much attention to life entry, so I have nothing to talk about. But if I’m honest, won’t Sister Chen say that I don’t pay attention to life entry and I’m not someone who pursues the truth? Will she still cultivate me then? No, I can’t let her see that I have no life entry.” So, I racked my brain to recall the minor experiences I had recently of which I had some understanding, and I shared these with everyone. After my fellowship, when I saw that Sister Chen didn’t say anything about me, I let out a long sigh of relief.
After that, every time Sister Chen came to gatherings, I was very cautious, and I considered things in detail before I spoke. If I felt there were no loopholes, I was willing to say it. I also avoided mentioning serious problems when I talked about my state, and rarely took the initiative to express my own views when we discussed issues. I remember at one gathering, Sister Chen asked about a potential gospel recipient. After my partner sister finished speaking, Sister Chen pointed out the deviations in her preaching the gospel, and then asked us, “What would you do if you were asked to preach?” I was stunned, and I was very nervous, “Why is Sister Chen asking us what we think? Does she want to see if we have the brains and caliber to be leaders?” I strove to recall the evangelism materials I had read in the past, and searched for the right way to answer. At the time, I had some ideas, but I wasn’t sure they were right, so I didn’t say anything. I started thinking, “If my ideas will work, that’s fine, but if they don’t and another sister comes up with a better idea, will the leader think I have no caliber and that I consider things too simply? Wouldn’t this ruin my good image?” As I was thinking this, I unconsciously glanced over at my two partner sisters, and then my mind started to calculate, “Let’s hear what they have to say first. If their ideas are better than mine, I can expand on their thoughts. If their ideas aren’t so good, then I can talk about what I think. That way, no one will notice my shortcomings, and it won’t affect my good image in the leader’s eyes.” So, I turned my head to one side and pretended to think as I quietly waited for the two sisters to answer. After they finished talking, I fused the highlights of their thinking to my own and told everyone. When I saw that Sister Chen had nothing but praise for me, I was very happy. It was like flowers were blooming in my heart. I felt that my image in Sister Chen’s eyes had definitely improved. But later, when I calmed down and remembered how I was always cautious at gatherings, I felt a slight sense of rebuke in my heart, “Why is my thinking always so complicated when I gather with the leader? Maybe I should open up about my state with Sister Chen?” If I opened up about my state and difficulties now, would Sister Chen say that I was deceitful and that I hid too much? Would she still continue to cultivate me? After fighting with myself for a moment, I swallowed my words.
During that period, I always tried my best to package myself, because I thought that people being cultivated shouldn’t have any deficiencies. Sometimes I had difficulties I didn’t know how to solve, and I wanted to open up and seek with Sister Liang, but time and again, I hesitated, “Sister Liang’s evaluation of me has always been good. If I open up and seek, will she think my stature is too small to handle the work of a leader?” When I thought like this, I didn’t want to speak, but outwardly, I still pretended to be very proactive in my duty, as if I had no difficulties or weaknesses. Gradually, during the gatherings, I opened up less and less about my real state and difficulties. Whenever I heard my brothers and sisters say I was the subject of cultivation, I wrapped myself up in a thick disguise and was very cautious. Although the brothers and sisters around me thought highly of me, and I got compliments everywhere I went, I felt an indescribable bitterness. I often felt like I was living with a mask on. I had to think a long time about every word. It felt like there was a weight in my heart, my relationship with God grew more and more distant, I offered no light at gatherings, and my state was getting worse and worse. It felt like I was walking toward a dead end. At that time, I could only pray to God and ask Him to help me turn this state around.
Afterward, I read in God’s word, “Some people are afraid that their brothers and sisters will, while interacting or associating with them, find out that there are problems inside them, and that the brothers and sisters will say they are small of stature or look down on them. As they speak, they always try to give the impression that they are zealous, that they long for God, and that they are keen to put the truth into practice, but in fact, in their hearts, they’re quite weak and extremely negative. They pretend to be strong so that no one can see through them. This is also deceit. In short, in anything you do, whether in life or in the performance of duty, if you engage in falsehood and pretense and deceive or trick others with fakery, such that they esteem you and worship you, or do not look down on you, then what you are doing is all deceit” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s word reveals clearly that when, to gain the high regard of those around you, you never show the difficulties or bad states you experience, and you always deceive others with the appearance and illusion of strength, and never let others see your real states, this is deceit. I looked back on my behavior and realized this is exactly what I was doing during that time. Ever since I heard the leader say she wanted to cultivate me, I began to care about my image in my leader’s mind. When my leader asked me about my state, and I clearly had no life entry during that time, I was worried that if I said it, it would destroy my good image in my leader’s eyes, so I racked my brains for some minor experiences and avoided discussing my serious problems to cover up the actual facts. When the leader asked us about our ideas for preaching the gospel, I was afraid of being wrong, and that the leader wouldn’t cultivate me if she saw my true measure, so I deliberately pretended to think and waited for my partner sisters to speak first so that I could expand on the highlights. I disguised myself ever more deeply, I didn’t dare to open up about my negative state, and I always pretended to be in a positive state. I was living a false life. Wasn’t this just hypocritically deceiving people? Once I recognized this, I prayed to God, “God, I don’t want to keep living in this state. Please help me to open up about my state and be an honest person.”
The next day, Sister Chen came to gather with us, and I opened up about my state. Then we read a passage of God’s word together. God says, “If you wish to seek the truth, if you wish to bring about a wholesale change in various aspects, such as your wrong motivations, states, or moods, then before all else, you must learn to open up and fellowship. … Opening up and laying oneself bare—first of all, this is a kind of attitude that a person should have before God, and this attitude is of critical importance. Do not hold things in, saying, ‘These are my motivations, these are my difficulties, I have a bad state, I’m negative, but I still won’t tell anyone, I’ll just keep it all to myself.’ If you never open up about your own state when you pray, it will become difficult to receive the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and over time you will stop wanting to pray, you will stop wanting to eat and drink God’s word, your state will slip further and further downhill, and turning things around will become hard. And so, no matter what your state is, regardless of whether you are negative, or in difficulty, regardless of your own personal motivations or plans, no matter what you have come to know or realize through examination, you must learn to open up and fellowship, and as you fellowship, the Holy Spirit works. And how does the Holy Spirit work? He enlightens you and allows you to see the severity of the problem, He makes you aware of the root and essence of the problem, then enlightens you to make you understand the truth and the principles of practice little by little, so that you can put the truth into practice, and from there enter into the realities of the truth. This is the effect achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit. When a person can fellowship openly, this means that they have an honest attitude toward the truth. Whether a person is honest, and whether they are an honest person, is measured by their attitude toward the truth and God, as well as whether they can accept the truth and obey God. This is what matters most” (The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days, Part Three). Only after readingdid I understand the importance of opening up and seeking the truth. This is the path to entering into the realities of truth. Being able to open up and fellowship means one’s attitude toward the truth is sincere, and is an attitude of seeking and accepting. Only by opening up and fellowshiping can we receive the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, and only then can we recognize our corrupt dispositions and resolve our difficulties. Reflecting on myself in that period, I saw that I always wanted to establish a perfect image in front of my brothers and sisters. Before I spoke, I always had to think twice about how to avoid others from seeing through me or looking down on me. It made my way of thinking so complicated. My state was clearly not good, but I didn’t dare reveal it. It was miserable and exhausting, nothing but torment, my state became worse and worse, and it was entirely self-inflicted. God’s essence is faithfulness, and God likes honest people. No matter what thoughts they have or what corruption they reveal, honest people can simply open up to their brothers and sisters, without pretense or disguise. Such people can accept God’s scrutiny, are willing to practice the truth, and live with integrity. This is the way a believer in God should behave. After that, when we discussed work, I consciously expressed my point of view, and when I didn’t understand things, I sought with others. During gatherings, I was also able to open up with everyone about my real state. Once I did this, the burden in my heart lightened a bit.
Later, I saw a passage of God’s words that helped me understand the essence of my always seeking the high regard of others. God says, “Regardless of the context, no matter what duty they perform, the antichrist will try and give the impression that they aren’t weak, that they are always strong, full of confidence, never negative. They never reveal their real stature or real attitude toward God. In fact, in the depths of their heart, do they really believe there is nothing they cannot do? Do they genuinely believe that they are without weakness, negativity, or outpourings of corruption? Absolutely not. Antichrists are good at putting on an act, adept at hiding things. They like showing people their strong and honorable side; they don’t want them to see the side of them that is weak and true. Their purpose is obvious: It is, quite simply, to keep face, to protect the place they have in people’s hearts. They think that if they open up before others about their own negativity and weakness, if they reveal the side of them that is rebellious and corrupt, this will be grievous damage to their status and reputation—more trouble than it’s worth. So they would rather keep their weakness, rebelliousness, and negativity strictly to themselves. And if a day does come when everyone sees the side of them that is weak and rebellious, and that they are corrupt, and have not changed at all, antichrists will still keep putting on an act. They think that if they admit to having a corrupt disposition, to being an ordinary person, someone who is small and insignificant, then they will lose their place in people’s hearts, will lose everyone’s veneration and adoration, and thus will have utterly failed. And so, whatever happens, they will not simply open up to people; whatever happens, they will not give their power and status to anyone else; instead, they try as hard as they can to compete, and will never give up. … If something major should occur, and someone asks them for their understanding of the event, they are reticent to reveal their views, instead letting others speak first. Their reticence has its reasons: Either it is not that they have no view, but are afraid that their view is wrong, that if they say it aloud, others will rebut it, making them feel ashamed, and that is why they do not say it; or they do not have a view, and, unable to perceive the matter clearly, they do not dare speak arbitrarily, for fear of people laughing at their mistake—so silence is their only choice. In short, they do not readily speak up to express their views because they are afraid of revealing themselves for what they are, of letting people see that they are impoverished and pathetic, thus altering the image others have of them. So, after everyone else has finished fellowshiping their views, thoughts, and knowledge, they seize upon some loftier, more tenable claims, which they trot out as their own. They summarize them and give them to the group in fellowship, thereby gaining high status in the hearts of others. … Any who think themselves flawless and holy are, all of them, imposters. Why do I say all of them are frauds? Tell Me, is there anyone flawless amid corrupt humanity? Is there anyone who is truly holy? (No.) Of course not. How can man achieve flawlessness when they are so deeply corrupted by Satan and, besides, not innately possessed of the truth? Only God is holy; all corrupt humanity is defiled. If a person were to present themselves as holy, saying they were flawless, what would that person be? They would be a devil, Satan, the archangel—they would be a bona fide antichrist. Only an antichrist would claim to be a flawless and holy person.” (“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)” in Exposing Antichrists). God reveals that antichrists never open up about their true thoughts to others, they think twice before speaking, always whitewash and falsify, and they establish an image of being perfect and better than everyone among people, in the hope that they can gain prestige and enjoy its benefits. It felt like God was revealing me face to face. From the moment I heard my leader say she wanted to cultivate me, I started puffing myself up. I felt that since I would be cultivated, I must be better than the average person, and I enjoyed the feeling of being looked up to and valued by others. So at gatherings with the leader or when I got along with my brothers and sisters, all I thought about was how to maintain a good image in everyone’s hearts and make everyone look up to me. I always had to think twice before I spoke, I never expressed my opinions or exposed my shortcomings lightly, and I used this despicable means to deceive everyone and secure a place in their hearts. I was so hypocritical and evil. Did I have any human likeness at all? People should honor God above all and have God in their hearts, but I always want to package myself as perfect to make people look up to me and have a place for me in their hearts. Wasn’t this contending with God for position? Especially when I read God’s words, “Is there anyone flawless amid corrupt humanity? Is there anyone who is truly holy? (No.) Of course not. How can man achieve flawlessness when they are so deeply corrupted by Satan and, besides, not innately possessed of the truth? Only God is holy; all corrupt humanity is defiled. If a person were to present themselves as holy, saying they were flawless, what would that person be? They would be a devil, Satan, the archangel—they would be a bona fide antichrist.” I felt God’s majesty and wrath in these words, and they were piercing and frightening. It was as if I was being condemned by God. Among all the things in this universe, only God is almighty. I was just a person corrupted by Satan, full of corrupt dispositions, but I didn’t have even the slightest self-knowledge. I didn’t properly conduct myself, I was hypocritical, and I always tried to have a good image in people’s hearts, so that they would look up to me. I was really too arrogant and shameless, and it made God loathe and detest me! Only after knowing myself like this did I see the despicableness, ugliness, and filth behind my “perfect” image. Now, thinking back on how proud and self-satisfied I was when my brothers and sisters praised me, and my state of mind when I packaged myself, I was disgusted with myself, and I felt I was completely irrational. Actually, even if many people thought highly of me and approved of me, if my disposition didn’t change, and I only lived out the hypocritical and deceitful image of Satan, and then I was cast out in the end, wouldn’t it all be in vain?
After that, I saw another passage of God’s words. “How should you practice to be an ordinary and normal person? How can this be done? … Firstly, don’t get caught up in your own title. Don’t say, ‘I am the leader, I am the head of the team, I am the supervisor, no one knows this business better than me, no one understands the skills more than me.’ Don’t get caught up in your self-appointed title. As soon as you do, it will bind your hands and feet, and what you say and do will be affected; your normal thinking and judgment will also be affected. You must free yourself from the shackles of this status; first lower yourself from this official position that you imagine yourself to have and stand in the place of an ordinary person; if you do, your attitude will become normal. You must also admit and say, ‘I don’t know how to do this, and I don’t understand that, either—I’m going to have to do some research and studying,’ or ‘I’ve never experienced this, so I don’t know what to do.’ When you are capable of saying what you’re really thinking and speaking honestly, you will be possessed of normal sense. Others will know the real you, and will thus have a normal view of you, and you will not have to put on an act, nor will there be any great pressure on you, and so you will be able to communicate with people normally. Living like this is free and easy; anyone who finds living exhausting has caused this themselves. Don’t pretend or put up a front; first open up about what you’re thinking in your heart, about your true thoughts, so that everyone is aware of them and understands them. As a result, your concerns and the barriers and suspicions between you and others will all be eliminated. You’re also hobbled by something else, too. You always consider yourself the head of the team, a leader, a worker, or someone with a title and status: If you say you don’t understand something, or can’t do something, are you not denigrating yourself? When you put aside these fetters in your heart, when you stop thinking of yourself as a leader or a worker, and when you stop thinking that you’re better than other people, and feel that you are an ordinary person who is the same as everyone else, that there are some areas in which you are inferior to others—when you fellowship the truth and work-related matters with this attitude, the effect is different, and the vibe is different, too. If, in your heart, you always have misgivings, if you always feel stressed and hobbled, and if you want to rid yourself of these things but can’t, then you can be effective in doing so by praying seriously to God, reflecting on yourself, seeing your shortcomings, striving toward the truth, and putting the truth into practice” (“Treasuring God’s Words Is the Foundation of Belief in God” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I had always thought that since I would be cultivated, I must be the best and the most perfect. Now I know this view is a mistake. God’s house doesn’t promote and cultivate perfect people, supermen, or great men. It promotes and cultivates ordinary people with deficiencies and corruption. Being cultivated is nothing more than God giving you a chance to practice. It doesn’t mean people have no deficiencies, or that they are better than ordinary people. Actually, no matter what duty I perform, and whether or not I am cultivated, I am just an ordinary person with corruption and deficiencies, and certain things are beyond me. I have to treat my strengths and weaknesses correctly, learn to step down from the high position, be able to often come before God to examine myself, and at the same time, be able to open up about what I expose and think to others so that everyone can see my corruption and shortcomings. Only this is reasonable. In the past, I always disguised my shortcomings and weaknesses, and I always feared everyone would look down on me if they came out. Actually, I was only harming myself. Not only did it cause me to not have a normal relationship with God, when people couldn’t see my shortcomings in my duty, they couldn’t help me or make up for them, which meant that no matter how long I did my duty, I could never make progress. Once I recognized this, I wanted to make efforts to be an honest person as God requires, and as God says, be as clear as a glass of water, able to say what is in my heart and no longer disguise myself. Before God, I swore an oath, “I want to be an ordinary person and show my real face to everyone!” A few days later, the church arranged for me to do my duty in another church. I thought back on all the moments I disguised myself when I got along with others, and I felt an indescribable sadness and remorse as I thought, “I deceived my brothers and sisters for too long. Before I go, I have to open up to them and let them see the real me.” During our gathering, I shared my state during this period and the lessons I learned, and opened up about everything with them. After I opened up, my old sense of being bottled up disappeared immediately, and it was replaced with a deep sense of release. I was surprised to find my brothers and sisters not only didn’t look down on me, they encouraged me. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and tears flowed down my cheeks. On the way home that day, the winter sun felt especially warm on my body, and I gave thanks and praise to God in my heart. After that, in my new work, I no longer focused on my so-called good image. Whenever I had any state or difficulty, I opened up and sought with others. During the gatherings, I said as much as I understood, and if I didn’t understand, I asked my brothers and sisters for help. Through their fellowship and help, I gradually came to understand the things I hadn’t before. After doing this for a while, I found that I made some progress in my duty, and I felt a deep sense of freedom and release. I also realized the sense of security and peace that practicing being an honest person brings. From the bottom of my heart, I can say it felt wonderful!