Why I Fear Exposing Others’ Problems

November 2, 2023

By Ruo Tong, Taiwan

When I was at school, I noticed that some of my classmates were pretty outspoken. When they saw others were wrong, they’d just come out and say so, which would often offend people and get themselves ostracized. I thought: “Are these people a little bit dense? As they say, ‘Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,’ and ‘Never hit people below the belt.’ See everything, but don’t broach everything, this way, a person can fit in with the crowd. If you’re too direct, even if you have no bad intentions, people will react badly and reject you. How can you make friends that way?” So I’d never directly point out others’ problems when interacting with them. My classmates all liked me and were friends with me, saying I was easy to get along with and nice, and I thought I had pretty good humanity. Once I had faith in God, I interacted with the brothers and sisters this way too. I didn’t point out others’ issues when I noticed them. I always felt being too direct would make people uncomfortable, that they’d think I was targeting them and trying to expose their shortcomings, and that this would destroy our relationship. It wasn’t until I experienced a revelation and read God’s word that I saw the way I interacted with others was against the truth and God.

It was 2015, and I was partnered with Leslie on video work. She’d been in the faith longer than me and was also older than me. We were polite toward each other, got along pretty well, and had almost no conflict. Later on, I was elected supervisor. One time, the others reported that Leslie was being perfunctory, devious, and slippery, and that she was holding up work. I felt that her problem was pretty serious, so I spoke with my work partners about needing to point out and expose Leslie’s problems so that she could reflect, know herself, repent, and change. My work partners agreed and asked who should go fellowship with Leslie. I stood there saying nothing, not wanting to stick my neck out to resolve the problem. I thought: “If I point out her problems will she think I’m targeting her? How would we get along after that?” To my surprise, everyone suggested that I go fellowship with Leslie. I wanted to run away, but if I didn’t point out her problems, church work would keep being impacted. So in the end, I just had to grit my teeth and go do it. I took some time to build myself up mentally, encouraging myself to point out her problems. I kept rehearsing what I was going to say to her in my head, from start to finish. But when I saw her, I felt all mixed up. I felt like I was being choked, and I just couldn’t get the words out. So I asked her in a gentle tone: “Has your state been good lately? Have you had any difficulties? Why have you been so slow in making videos?” Leslie responded that she’d been worried about her son not going to school, so her work was delayed. I thought: “She says she’s having difficulties. If I expose her for being perfunctory, devious, and slippery, will she think I’m being too harsh and that I’m targeting her? If our relationship falls apart, it’ll be a lot more uncomfortable between us.” At that thought, I didn’t point out her problems. I just gave her a few words of comfort and briefly went over the state of her duty.

Since she didn’t have any real self-knowledge, she kept being perfunctory in her duty, and there were lots of problems in her videos. I realized Leslie’s problems were pretty serious, and she’d have to be dismissed if she didn’t make changes. Later on, I went to fellowship with her again. I thought that this time I would definitely point out her problems. But as soon as I sat down, the words stuck in my mouth again. I kept thinking of how to tell her in a way that wouldn’t make her uncomfortable while still making her aware of her problems, without having her think I was targeting her or develop a bias against me. I asked her tactfully: “Why are you always slipshod in your duty?” Leslie then told me that sometimes she gave in to her fleshly fondness for reading novels, and neglected her duties. She got so upset she burst into tears as she said this. I thought: “She’s having such a hard time. If I tell her she’s being devious and slippery, will she be able to take it? Best to say nothing. In any case, she’s admitted her problem and should improve now.” So I expressed understanding toward her state and encouraged her to put more effort into her duty. After that, she remained unrepentant, her haphazard approach became worse and worse, and she ended up being dismissed. I didn’t reflect on myself, and the matter became a thing of the past.

Later on, I read a passage of God’s word which gave me some understanding of my state. Almighty God says, “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 shouting slogans. 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, search for a basis and principle in God’s words, and then find a path of 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, the path of pursuing the truth. For example: What principle should be followed when interacting with others? Perhaps your original viewpoint is harmony is a treasure and forbearance is brilliance, that you should keep the peace, avoid causing others to lose face, and offend no one, thereby achieving good relations with others. Constricted by this viewpoint, you will keep silent when you witness others committing misdeeds or violating principles. Rather than offending anyone, you will prefer the work of the church to suffer losses. You will seek to maintain harmony with everyone, no matter who they are. You will only say things that are pleasing to others—thinking only about protecting their emotions and saving their face. Even if you find that someone has problems, you will exercise tolerance—behind their back, you might speak up, but to their face you will keep the peace and maintain your relationship. What do you think of such conduct? Is it not that of a people-pleaser? 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, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. To Perform One’s Duty Well, One Must at Least Be Possessed of a Conscience and Reason). God’s word made it clear to me that no matter what happens in my life, as long as it involves principles of conduct or outlooks on things, I should always seek the principles of the truth. Until then, I hadn’t dared to point out brothers’ and sisters’ problems, and I thought there was nothing wrong with that. I thought as long as we were getting along well and not arguing, all was good. I read that God says: “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.” These words really touched me. It may have seemed like I wasn’t doing anything evil, but I was always afraid of offending people and never dared to honestly point out others’ problems. Even if I saw a problem and was angry inside, I’d still be all smiles with them, meaning that problems that should have been solved, weren’t, and church work suffered losses. God says that kind of person is sly and deceitful, and unprincipled in their conduct. I reflected on how I’d handled the incident with Leslie. I was well aware that she was being devious and slippery and badly impacting progress, but I was scared of making her unhappy if I was too direct. She might think I was too harsh, and develop a bias against me. I was afraid she’d dismiss it and pull a long face, then things would get awkward between us. Wanting to protect our relationship, I was too scared to say anything to expose or deal with her. I saw her problem of being perfunctory becoming worse and I was angry, but in fellowship with her, I was scared of antagonizing her, so I didn’t dare mention or expose her problem. I just said a few harmless things that skimmed over the topic, and even comforted her, despite how I felt. As a supervisor, not exposing or resolving the problems I found meant I was being irresponsible and seriously negligent. I finally saw that I’d been playing the “nice guy” around others all along, thinking that being considerate and understanding was being a good person. It was only once the facts were revealed that I fully changed how I viewed myself. I noticed Leslie’s problem but did not point it out and help her. As a result, she did not see the essence or consequences of her issue, her life suffered, and the church’s work was delayed. I’d been so selfish, devious, and deceitful. How could I say I had good humanity?

Later on, in a gathering, I read God’s word’s dissection of “Never hit people below the belt,” and “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship.” I then knew that I’d been unwilling to point out others’ problems because I’d been influenced by these ideas. Almighty God says, “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 hitting people below the belt or exposing their shortcomings. 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 know someone will become your enemy and harm you after you have exposed their shortcomings or hurt them, 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 pick nice things to say, to keep the other’s favor. They dare not speak the truth or uphold the principles, lest it give rise to animosity toward them in others. 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 Means to Pursue the Truth (8)). When God dissected the impact of “Never hit people below the belt,” and “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,” I felt like He was right in front of me, exposing me. Living by these philosophies of conduct, my words and actions only served to protect me. No matter who I found myself with, I always held to the principle of never antagonizing or offending anyone. Like when I was in school, I saw people who were blunt being ostracized, so I felt that to get along with others, you must never say how you really feel, and you must never bring up a person’s problems and offend them. That way, people will like you and you’ll fit in easily. Even after believing in God, I still followed that method of conduct with brothers and sisters. To avoid being disliked or hurting feelings, whenever people needed exposing and might be offended, I’d take a back seat, or mention it to a partner to let them handle it. Sometimes when I had to give fellowship, I’d just say some inconsequential things that fit the situation, meaning a lot of problems didn’t get resolved in time. I held worldly philosophies like “One more friend means one more path,” and “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,” to be the criteria for conducting myself. I never told anyone what I was really thinking, and I became more and more fake and deceitful. I’d think to myself that maintaining good relations and getting along with everyone would make people like me, then I’d easily gain others’ approval. If one day I said or did something against principles, people would let me off the hook and allow me to save face. I saw that I was unprincipled in my interactions. I just wanted to keep everyone happy and smiling, and for nobody to expose anyone’s shortcomings so I would never lose face and could maintain my status and image. Wasn’t I trying to win people over and use them? I might have seemed personable, affable, and empathetic, but behind it all, I was pursuing my own unspoken ends. I was truly evil! Thinking back on the matter of Leslie, it was clear to me that she was devious and slippery, but to avoid antagonizing her, I didn’t point out or expose her problems, impacting work progress. Not only was I harming her by interacting that way, I was also delaying church work. God has always fellowshiped that we should view people and things, behave and act according to God’s words, with the truth as our criterion. But in everyday life, I was living by satanic philosophies, always constrained in my speech and actions. I was unable to fellowship or help others normally, and even less able to fulfill the responsibilities of a leader. I didn’t consider how to speak in a way that would edify others or how to protect the church’s work. I watched as the church’s work was harmed and played the nice guy despite my feelings. I was sacrificing the church’s interests for the sake of my own. I was so fake and lacking in humanity! If I went on like that, I’d be hated and detested by God and disdained and rejected by the others. I prayed to God: “Oh God, I see the church’s work being harmed but I always play the nice guy. I’m not protecting the church’s interests and that must disgust You. Oh God, I want to repent. Please guide me to resolve this problem of mine and to be a person with a sense of justice that protects the church’s work.”

After that, I read more of God’s word. “When something arises, you live by a philosophy of life, and do not practice the truth. You are always afraid of offending others, but God, you do not fear offending, and will even sacrifice the interests of God’s house to protect your interpersonal relationships. What are the consequences of acting in this way? You will have protected your interpersonal relationships quite well, but you will have offended God, and He will detest and reject you, and be angry with you. Which is better, on the balance? If you cannot tell, then you are completely muddled; it proves that you do not have the slightest understanding of the truth. If you go on like that without ever waking up to it, the danger is great indeed, and in the end, you will be unable to attain the truth. It will be you who has suffered a loss. If you do not seek the truth in this matter, and you fail, will you be able to seek the truth in the future? If you still cannot, it will no longer be an issue of suffering a loss—you will ultimately be cast out. If you have the motivations and perspective of a ‘nice person,’ then, in all matters, you will be incapable of practicing the truth and abiding by principle, and you will always fail and fall down. If you do not awaken and do not ever seek the truth, then you are a nonbeliever, and you will never gain the truth and the life. What, then, should you do? When faced with such things, you must call out to God in prayer, begging for salvation, and asking that God give you more faith and strength, to enable you to abide by principle, do what you should do, handle things according to principle, stand your ground, protect the interests of God’s house, and prevent any harm from coming to the work of God’s house. If you are able to forsake your self-interests, reputation, and the standpoint of a ‘nice person,’ and if you do what you should do with an honest, undivided heart, then you will have defeated Satan, and will have gained this aspect of the truth. If you always live by the philosophy of Satan, maintaining your relationships with others and never practicing the truth, not daring to abide by principle, then will you be able to practice the truth in other matters? You will have no faith, no strength. If you are never able to seek or accept the truth, then will such faith in God allow you to obtain the truth? (No.) And if you cannot obtain the truth, can you be saved? You cannot. If you always live by the philosophy of Satan, utterly devoid of the reality of the truth, then you can never be saved(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). God’s word made it clear to me that my principles had always been to maintain relationships and never make enemies, instead of practicing God’s word. When I saw something that didn’t align with the truth, I’d simply give in and allow it, wanting to protect my relationships with others, allowing me to live in a state of safety. I saw that I was taking the path of moderation, being totally unprincipled. God asks us to speak and act according to His word, to be people that love what He loves, hate what He hates, and know good from evil, to be able to discern all kinds of people, and to treat others according to principles. Only this practice accords with God’s will. Still, I clearly saw Leslie holding up work in her duty but didn’t criticize or expose her. I comforted her when I saw her cry and played the nice guy, in spite of my feelings. In this, I was protecting our relationship and taking Satan’s side by indulging her. I was so foolish. Before, I didn’t think that kind of conduct was such a problem. It was only when the facts were revealed that I saw living by these philosophies of conduct really wasn’t the right path. I was a supervisor, but was always afraid of offending people and had no sense of justice. I didn’t dare point out issues I found or fellowship to resolve them, leading to problems cropping up over and over again. This wasn’t doing real work; this was resisting God.

Later on, I found a path of practice in God’s word: “If you want to establish a normal relationship with God, your heart must be turned toward Him; with this as a foundation, you will then have normal relationships with other people too. If you do not have a normal relationship with God, then no matter what you do to maintain your relationships with other people, no matter how hard you work or how much energy you put in, it will all belong to a human philosophy for living. You will be protecting your position among people and attaining their praise through human perspectives and human philosophies, rather than establishing normal interpersonal relationships according to the word of God. If you do not focus on your relationships with people, and maintain a normal relationship with God instead, if you are willing to give your heart to God and learn to obey Him, then your interpersonal relationships will naturally become normal. These relationships will then not be built upon the flesh, but upon the foundation of God’s love. You will have almost no fleshly interactions with other people, but on a spiritual level, there will be fellowship and mutual love, comfort, and provision between you. All of this is done upon the foundation of a desire to satisfy God—these relationships are not maintained through human philosophies for living, they are formed naturally when one carries a burden for God. They do not require any artificial, human effort from you, you need only to practice according to the principles of God’s words(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. It Is Very Important to Establish a Normal Relationship With God). God’s word made it clear to me that normal interpersonal relations aren’t maintained through worldly philosophies. They are established on the foundation of practicing His word. When things come up, we need to practice the truth, act according to principles, protect church work, and shoulder a burden for brothers’ and sisters’ lives. This is the only way to have normal interpersonal relations. I recalled some brothers’ and sisters’ experiential testimonies. When they noticed others’ problems, they were able to point them out and help them according to God’s word. Although people sometimes lost face, if they pursued the truth, they could use this fellowship and criticism to discover their shortcomings, know their corrupt dispositions, amend their incorrect states, make progress in their lives, and get better and better results in their duties. That’s being truly loving and helpful. But for those who don’t pursue the truth, being criticized and dealt with lays them bare. They are sick of the truth, and when they’re pruned and dealt with, they try to make excuses and resist, with zero acceptance. This kind of person is not a true brother or sister and should be rejected and ostracized. Realizing this, I felt even more that only God’s word is the criterion for our actions and conduct, that we should treat others according to God’s word. That’s the right way to conduct yourself and aligns with standards for normal humanity.

Later on, I found a sister was being arrogant, self-righteous, and not accepting suggestions. She kept doing as she pleased and delaying work. I had to fellowship and point out her problems so she could reflect and know herself, but I was somewhat apprehensive. What if she wouldn’t accept it? Would she become biased against me and say I was targeting her? I recalled my previous failure, and what I’d read in God’s word not long before, and it stirred something in me. If I disregarded the church’s work in my effort to protect our relationship, I would be offending God. This time, God was observing my attitude to see whether I’d repented and changed. I couldn’t treat people like I had before. I remembered God’s word says: “When faced with such things, you must call out to God in prayer, begging for salvation, and asking that God give you more faith and strength, to enable you to abide by principle, do what you should do, handle things according to principle, stand your ground, protect the interests of God’s house, and prevent any harm from coming to the work of God’s house(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). I felt God beside me, encouraging me to take this step. I prayed to God, asking Him to give me faith and strength so I could practice the truth, put the church’s work first, and stop being afraid to offend people, protecting relationships. Having prayed, I sought out that sister. Along with exposing her problem based on her consistent behavior, I also pointed out that she was arrogant and didn’t accept others’ suggestions, that this was being sick of the truth and having a satanic disposition. I said if she kept obstructing church work without repenting or changing, she’d be dismissed. After I said all that, I didn’t feel like I always did before, afraid of being hated. Instead, I felt more relaxed and at peace. Thinking back, I always used to live by satanic philosophies of conduct, afraid of offending people, of disputes and conflicts arising. In interactions, I always considered others’ face and protected relationships, missing out on a lot of chances to practice the truth. Now, when I have to point out people’s problems, I still feel a little afraid, but I can be sure to pray to God, and put right my own intentions and views to practice according to the principles. This experience allowed me to correct my mistaken views. I truly thank God!

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