What Stopped Me from Speaking Honestly?
By Chen Xi, China
In your last letter, you mentioned that the sister you were partnered with was unprincipled, self-righteous, and arbitrary. You wanted to mention this to her but feared she’d be unaccepting, form a bad opinion of you, and you’d not be able to work together. You were conflicted and didn’t know how to resolve this state. I can understand how you feel. This problem exists mainly because we live by satanic philosophies, trying to maintain our relationships and focusing on how others see us. These things constrain us and make us afraid to practice the truth and adhere to principles. I’ve been in this state myself before, and with the revelation of God’s word, I gained some understanding of my incorrect viewpoints and corrupt disposition. I have now changed somewhat and am no longer so constrained in pointing out others’ problems. I’ll tell you about my experience. Hopefully it’ll help you a little.
I used to do church work with Zhou Fang and Liu Ying. Zhou Fang would often dominate work discussions. Later, because we weren’t getting good results in our duties, the leader arranged for Sister Zhang Ling to direct our work. Zhang Ling was able to find problems in our work and point out paths of practice. Seeing that we were listening to her ideas, Zhou Fang began to get jealous. During work discussions, even when Zhang Ling’s views were clearly correct, Zhou Fang would just find ways to overturn them, making it very hard to carry on work discussions. I wanted to bring this up with Zhou Fang, but then I thought a little friction at the start of collaboration was inevitable, so I didn’t make a big deal of it. Zhang Ling went on to follow up on work thoroughly, and promptly fellowshiped on solutions when she found problems, greatly improving our efficiency. But Zhou Fang began to insinuate that Zhang Ling was trying to build up her reputation, wanted quick gains, and worked for status. Her implications were judgmental, belittling, and intended to sow discord, causing Liu Ying to start opposing Zhang Ling too. I started to think Zhou Fang’s problem was pretty serious when I saw her protecting her status, and belittling and ostracizing Zhang Ling. Zhou Fang was revealing an antichrist’s disposition and walking an antichrist’s path. I wanted to take a moment to fellowship on the essence of this with her, but I just couldn’t get the words out. It was like my mouth had been glued shut. My state then was the same as yours is now. I was filled with apprehension. I feared that if I exposed Zhou Fang to be walking an antichrist’s path, she would form a bad opinion of me, take on a stony expression, or ostracize me as she did Zhang Ling. I didn’t want to point out her problems and found some excuses to console myself: “It’s not that she doesn’t know herself, as she was aware of her preoccupation with renown and status before. A change in disposition can’t happen overnight; best let her take her time and reflect on it.”
After this, each time I’d think about how I wasn’t helping or pointing out Zhou Fang’s problems to her, I’d feel really guilty. I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to not be constrained by my corrupt disposition and to speak the truth. In the next few days, I came across a testimony video in which the protagonist’s experience was similar to my state. A sister she was doing her duty with was always vying for status and gains, impacting the church’s work, so she wanted to report the problem to the leader. But since she feared offending her partner, she delayed making her report. It wasn’t until the protagonist was seriously dealt with that she began to reflect. She then read a passage of God’s word that I found very stirring. God’s word says, “All those who stick to the middle ground are the most sinister. They try not to offend anyone, they are people-pleasers, they go along with things, and no one can see through them. A person like that is a living Satan!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Practicing the Truth Can One Cast Off the Shackles of a Corrupt Disposition). This passage left a deep impression on me. God said that those who take the middle road are the most sinister and deceitful and are living devils. Wasn’t that how my state was? I knew that Zhou Fang’s problem was pretty serious and was already disrupting church work, and that she needed to be warned promptly, but I feared offending her, so I said nothing and didn’t protect the church’s work. I was walking the middle road just as God described and I was a person God detested. This was hard for me to take, so I decided not to be a deceitful people pleaser any longer. I had to uphold principles and protect the church’s work, and I knew I had to find a time to point out Zhou Fang’s problem to her. But that same day, I was caught off guard when Zhou Fang actually pointed out my problems first. She said things like I was seeking renown and status in my duty and that I was using my status to scold people. I saw that my own problems were so serious that I didn’t have the courage to point out her issues further, just brushing over what I’d planned to say, and saying nothing about her seeking renown and status or walking an antichrist’s path. I remember that she then asked for me to tell her if I saw she had any problems, so that she could recognize them and change. I said dishonestly, “No, you’re fine.” I actually had a lot I wanted to say but I didn’t dare say it, as I worried she’d think I was trying to get back at her, and that it’d be hard to work together if she saw me in a bad light. So, to allow her to save face, I said nothing. I was filled with self-reproach and guilt after this. I felt like such a coward. I couldn’t even say a few honest words, to say nothing of practicing the truth. For a while, I couldn’t eat or sleep properly and I couldn’t calm myself at gatherings. I prayed to God, “God! I clearly see my sister’s problems but I’m too scared of offending her to speak up! I’m so cowardly and selfish. I don’t want to carry on like this. Please guide me to forsake myself and be a person with a sense of justice.”
After this I read some of God’s word. “‘Never hit people below the belt, and never expose their shortcomings’ describes a method for interacting with others that Satan has inculcated in people. It means that when you interact with others, you must give them some leeway. You should not be too harsh with others, you cannot reveal their past faults, you have to maintain their dignity, you cannot damage good relationships with them, you must be forgiving toward them, and so on. This saying about virtue mainly describes a kind of philosophy for living that dictates interactions among human beings. There is a tenet in philosophies for living that says, ‘Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship.’ It means that in order to preserve a friendly relationship, one must keep silent about their friend’s problems, even if they see them clearly—that they should uphold the principles of not attacking the other’s dignity or exposing their deficiencies. They are to deceive each other, hide from each other, engage in intrigue with each other; and though they know with crystal clarity what sort of person the other is, they do not say it outright, but employ cunning methods to preserve their friendly relationships. Why would one want to preserve such relationships? It is about not wanting to make enemies in this society, within the group, which would mean subjecting oneself often to dangerous situations. As you do not know in what way someone will harm you after you have exposed their shortcomings or hurt them and they become your enemy, and as you do not wish to put yourself in such a position, you employ the tenet of philosophies for living that runs, ‘Never hit people below the belt, and never expose their shortcomings.’ In light of this, if two people are in such a relationship, do they count as true friends? (No.) They are not true friends, much less are they each other’s confidant. So, what sort of relationship is this, exactly? Is it not a fundamental social relationship? (It is.) In such social relationships, people cannot offer their feelings, nor have deep exchanges, nor say anything they like, nor say out loud what is in their heart, or the problems they see in the other, or words that would benefit the other. Instead, they choose nice-sounding words so as not to hurt the other. They do not wish to make enemies. The goal of this is to keep the people around oneself from posing a threat. When no one is threatening to them, are they not living in relative ease and peace? Is this not people’s goal in promoting the phrase, ‘Never hit people below the belt, and never expose their shortcomings’? (It is.) Clearly, this is a cunning, deceptive way of existence, with an element of defensiveness, and whose goal is self-preservation. People who live like this have no confidants, no close friends with whom they can say anything at all. They are defensive with each other, and calculating, and strategic, each taking what they need from the relationship. Is this not so? At its root, the goal of ‘Never hit people below the belt, and never expose their shortcomings’ is to keep from offending others and making enemies, to protect oneself by not causing hurt to anyone. It is a technique and method adopted to keep oneself from being hurt. Looking at these several facets of essence, is the demand made of people’s virtue to ‘never hit people below the belt, and never expose their shortcomings’ a noble tenet? Is it positive? (No.) Then what is it teaching people? That you should not upset or hurt anyone, otherwise, you are the one who will end up getting hurt; and also, that you should not trust anyone. If you hurt any one of your good friends, the friendship will quietly start to change; they will go from being your good, close friend, to a stranger passing by on the street, or your enemy. What problems can teaching people in this way resolve? Even if, by acting in this way, you do not make enemies and even lose a few, will this make people admire and approve of you, and always keep you as a friend? Does this fully achieve the standard for virtue? At most, this is only a philosophy for living” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (8)). God’s word revealed that “Never hit people below the belt” is a cunning worldly philosophy instilled in people by Satan. When people live by this type of philosophy, they use and trick each other and become guarded against each other. They don’t dare open up or tell the truth to anyone. They just become ever more slippery and deceitful. I was living by this philosophy of “Never hit people below the belt” in my interactions. I knew that Zhou Fang was jealous of Zhang Ling, that she was belittling and ostracizing her, that the essence of this problem was serious, that this was disrupting our work, and that this needed to be pointed out to Zhou Fang, but I felt that by doing this, I’d be exposing her shortcomings and embarrassing her. I also worried that she’d see me in a bad light and not work well with me after. So to maintain our relationship, I said nothing, settling for just barely skimming over the topic. I didn’t draw on God’s word to point out the essence and consequences of her actions. When she asked me if I’d seen any other corruption in her, I knew she had problems that I hadn’t pointed out, but I just lied and said she was doing fine. I was telling barefaced lies, fooling and deceiving her! I saw that Zhou Fang was belittling and ostracizing Zhang Ling, but I just played the nice guy and said nothing. I wasn’t practicing the truth or protecting the church’s work. I was so slippery and deceitful. God asks that we be honest and that we treat one another with candor, and that if we see others living in a corrupt disposition and walking the wrong path, or violating principles, we should offer help and compassion. But I was living by satanic philosophies. When I saw somebody walking the wrong path, I didn’t help them. I had no compassion. I never exposed others’ problems and I feared speaking honestly and causing myself trouble. I said nothing when I saw others’ problems to protect my own interests and not make enemies. I only ever used compliments and sweet-sounding flattery. Though I seemed to get along with people, I was guarded in my interactions, and was just deceiving and using them. How are these normal relations? How is this true friendship? I had no sincerity at all. I used to think that “Never hit people below the belt” was a smart idea to follow, that I’d be protecting myself, and not offending anyone or making enemies. But the exposure of God’s word made me see that values like “Never hit people below the belt” are satanic ways of handling things and that they corrupt people. They encourage us to protect ourselves, and make us ever more selfish and deceitful. They have us just look on without fellowshiping or critiquing as others take the wrong path and impact work. I was completely lacking in compassion and humanity.
I later read another passage of God’s word. “Regardless of the circumstances, as long as you are bound, controlled, and dominated by Satan’s corrupt disposition, everything you live out, everything you reveal, and everything you express—or your feelings, your thoughts and views, and your way of doing things—all belong to Satan. All of these things violate the truth and are hostile to the word of God and the truth. The further removed you are from the word of God and the truth, the more you fall under the control of Satan’s net and are ensnared in it. … On the one hand, people are controlled by corrupt dispositions and live in Satan’s net, adopting the various methods, thoughts, and viewpoints given by Satan to resolve issues happening around them. On the other hand, people still hope to attain peace and happiness from God. However, because they are always bound by Satan’s corrupt disposition and trapped in its net, unable consciously to resist and free themselves, they grow removed from the word of God and the principles of the truth. As a result, people are never able to attain the comfort, happiness, peace, and blessings given by God. In what state do people exist, in the end? Though they are willing to pursue the truth, they cannot rise to the task, and though they wish to perform their duties, they cannot live up to God’s requirements, but are stuck right where they are. This is an agonizing torment. People live within Satan’s corrupt disposition, in spite of themselves. More like fiends than people, they often live in dark corners, searching for shameful and evil methods by which to resolve the many difficulties they face. The fact is that deep in their minds, people are willing to be good and yearning for the light. They hope to live as human beings, with dignity. They also hope that they can pursue the truth and rely on the word of God to live, making the word of God their life and reality, but they never can put the truth into practice, and though they understand many doctrines, they cannot resolve their problems. People are locked in this dilemma, unable to go forward and unwilling to go back. They are stuck there, and the feeling of being stuck is one of agony—tremendous agony. People themselves cannot accept the truth and cannot put the word of God into practice, but, in their minds, they are still yearning for the light, and are not willing to leave the word of God and the right path. However, they are unable to break free from the binds and control of their satanic corrupt disposition. Ultimately, they can only live in agony and have no real happiness” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (8)). From God’s word I understood that my not daring to speak up when I saw others’ problems was because I saw “Never hit people below the belt” and “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship” as positive tenets by which to live one’s life. I thought this was having compassion and would allow me to protect myself and not get hurt. I recall when I was little, my grandmother taught me not to point out others’ problems when trying to get along, or else I’d make trouble for myself and be unable to gain social standing. I’d thought that what she’d said made sense, so I’d been reluctant to point out others’ faults and I’d never exposed their problems. I got along very well with my friends and I really thought that this was the secret to social interaction. I felt this was an admirable way to live and that it made me a kind person, and that if I didn’t stick to these values, I’d not be a good person. I was relying on these satanic philosophies in my interactions with other members. I’d seen others violating principles and taking the wrong path and I knew very well that I had to critique and help them, but I was constrained by these satanic philosophies and dared not critique others. Satan’s philosophies were like a net that bound me tightly, stopping me from moving, and utterly controlling my heart. We weren’t getting very good results in our work, so the church arranged for Zhang Ling to guide us. This was beneficial to the church’s work. But Zhou Fang not only didn’t cooperate with Zhang Ling, she also accused her of pursuing renown, status and quick gains when she saw her shouldering responsibility and being diligent and effective in her duty. She belittled her, ostracized her, and attacked her positivity. She also judged Zhang Ling in front of me and Liu Ying, trying to get us to join in ostracizing her too. Zhou Fang ostracized and attacked Zhang Ling for her own status. This wasn’t normal corruption. This was an antichrist’s disposition. I should have fulfilled my responsibility as her partner and pointed this out to her, but I didn’t act like her partner at all, meaning our work was impacted. I felt so guilty and hated myself for being so selfish and irresponsible. Though I didn’t point out Zhou Fang’s problems, she held no biases against me, and our relationship was maintained, I knew that I’d not practiced the truth, and that I’d offended and disgusted God.
I continued to seek. Why couldn’t I expose others’ problems when I saw them? I read God’s word. “Is the word ‘expose’ in the phrase ‘never expose others’ shortcomings’ good or bad? Does the word ‘expose’ have a level of meaning that refers to people being revealed or exposed within the words of God? (It does not.) From My understanding of the word ‘expose’ as it exists in this instance of human language, it does not mean that. It more means to maliciously uncover people’s nature and reveal some of their problems and deficiencies, or some things and behaviors unknown to others, as well as some intrigue or ideas and views operating in the background. This is the meaning of the word ‘expose’ in the phrase ‘never expose others’ shortcomings.’ If two people get along well and are confidants, with no barriers between them, and they hope that they can derive benefit and assistance from each other, then it would be best for them to sit together, clearly explaining each other’s problems in openness and sincerity. This is proper, and it is not exposing others’ shortcomings. If you discover another person’s problems but see that they are not yet able to accept your advice, then simply do not say anything, so as to avoid quarrel or conflict. If you want to help them, you can first seek their opinion and ask them, ‘I see that you have a bit of a problem, and I hope to give you some advice. I do not know if you can accept it. If you can, I will tell you. If you cannot, I will keep it to myself for now and not speak.’ If they say, ‘I trust you. Whatever you say is appropriate. I can accept anything,’ that means that you have been granted permission, and you can then communicate their problems one by one. They will not only completely accept what you have said, but will also benefit from it, and the two of you will still be able to maintain a normal relationship. Is this not treating each other with sincerity? (It is.) This is the correct method for interacting with others; it is not the same as exposing others’ shortcomings. What does it mean not to ‘expose others’ shortcomings,’ as the phrase in question goes? It means not to speak of others’ deficiencies, not to speak of those problems that are most taboo to a person, not to expose the essence of a problem, and not to reveal it so blatantly. It means just to make some perfunctory remarks, to say things that everyone always says, to say things that the person themselves is already able to perceive, and not to reveal mistakes the person has made previously or sensitive issues. If you act in this way, what benefit does it bring to the other person? Perhaps you have not insulted them or made an enemy of them, but what you have done in no way helps or benefits them. Consequently, the phrase ‘never expose others’ shortcomings’ itself is evasive and a form of trickery. You cannot treat each other with sincerity. One could say that to act in this way is to harbor evil intentions; it is not the proper way of interacting with others. Unbelievers even see ‘never expose others’ shortcomings’ as something a person of noble virtue should do. This is clearly a deceitful manner of interacting with others, which people adopt to protect themselves; it is not at all a proper mode of interaction. Never exposing others’ shortcomings itself is insincere; there is perhaps an ulterior intent in exposing the shortcomings of others” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (8)). I was the same as you before. I felt that pointing out problems in others’ duties was exposing their shortcomings and that it hurt them. I felt that doing this would make enemies and impact our relationships. Now I see that this view was wrong and that I didn’t view things in line with God’s word. God asks that we be honest, treat one another with candor, and be able to help one another. When we see others violating principles based on their corrupt dispositions, or taking the wrong path, we should point out their problem in line with the truth, guiding them in knowing themselves. Even if being dealt with and exposed may be hard to bear, it is done to help a person know themselves. This is genuine compassion and help. This is protecting the church’s work. So-called “exposing shortcomings” is not actually offering sincere help; rather, it is loaded with personal motivations and biases, relies on a corrupt disposition to expose shortcomings and ills, and works to attack, judge, and belittle for the sake of hurting or embarrassing another. It doesn’t give a person any path. It only causes pain and negativity. I saw that Zhou Fang was pursuing renown and status, was on an antichrist’s path, and that she was impacting the church’s work. My fellowship and critiquing would get her to reflect and understand herself. It would protect the church’s work while helping her. At this realization, I felt a little brighter and at ease and no longer constrained by mistaken views.
After this I read another passage of God’s word that clarified the principles on how to treat other brothers and sisters. Almighty God says, “In God’s house, what are the principles for how people are treated? You should treat everyone according to the principles of the truth, and you should treat each of your brothers and sisters fairly. How to treat them fairly? This must be based on God’s words, on which people God saves, and which He casts out, on which He likes, and which He hates; these are the principles of the truth. Brothers and sisters should be treated with loving help, and mutual acceptance and patience. Evildoers and nonbelievers should be identified, separated, and kept away from. Only by doing so are you treating people with principles. Every brother and sister has strengths and shortcomings, and they all have corrupt dispositions, so when people are together, they should lovingly help each other out, they should be accepting and patient and should not nitpick or be too harsh. … You have to look at how God treats ignorant and foolish people, how He treats those with immature stature, how He treats the normal manifestations of humanity’s corrupt disposition, and how He treats those who are malicious. God treats different people in different ways, and He also has various ways of managing different people’s myriad conditions. You must understand these truths. Once you have understood these truths, you will then know how to experience matters and treat people according to principles” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. To Gain the Truth, One Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Nearby). From God’s word I understood the principles for helping brothers and sisters. Because of Satan’s corruption we all have many corrupt dispositions. Regarding the corrupt dispositions people reveal in the performance of their duties, if work is not impacted, or if a person’s stature is too immature, you cannot arbitrarily seize on a person’s corruption or shortcomings to expose and hurt them. This kind of situation requires reliance on compassion to positively fellowship and help. But for those who walk the path of antichrists or have serious corrupt dispositions, disrupting the church’s work, if positive fellowship gets no results, they must be pruned and dealt with, and their behavior exposed and dissected, so that they can know the essence of their problem and truly repent. If they aren’t exposed, then they won’t be able to reflect or understand their problem and they will continue to disrupt church work. People must be helped according to their essence, stature, and unique background. We shouldn’t always expose and dissect people’s problems immediately, nor should we always choose tolerance and patience. Some things don’t affect work and require tolerance and patience, but some things do cause disruptions in work, and in these cases people must be exposed and dealt with using specific measures appropriate to the person’s stature. The result of this is that brothers and sisters will know their corruption and be able to repent, change, and act according to principles. This kind of fellowship helps people while benefiting the church’s work. With these realizations, my heart felt brighter, and I wrote a letter to Zhou Fang exposing her problems. She later replied to my letter, saying: “Thank you for exposing and dealing with me. I’d not expected my problems to be so serious. I’d always thought I only revealed a little corruption and that this was fine so long as I reflected and found some of God’s word to read. I was completely unaware I was on an antichrist’s path and had issues with my humanity. I see through your fellowship and dissection that you sincerely want to help me. I am willing to accept this, and to reflect and understand myself.” Reading these words really moved me. I felt that practicing by God’s word benefited both me and others, and my heart felt at ease and calm. Through this experience, I saw that with my previous reliance on ideas like “Never hit people below the belt,” I was being harmed by Satan, and living a selfish, despicable, and deceitful life. I now see clearly that only God’s word is the truth and that only by conducting ourselves and handling things by God’s word can we live like humans. My experience was quite superficial, so if you have any further insight you can write to me.
September 10, 2022
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