11. The Only Way to Live Like a Real Person
By Xincheng, China
I once read a novel by a Japanese writer which is about a salesman who managed to sell a hair growth serum, hair dye, pomade, hair thinner, and a hair trimmer to a painter who had little hair, saying it could solve his problems. The painter spent a lot of money but still ended up with the same nearly bald head. The writer used satire to expose the scams some unscrupulous salespeople use these days, warning people not to be taken in. This kind of thing is becoming worse and worse but no one can solve the problem. I used to be one of them, too. I’d lie and deceive customers to earn more money. I got more enmeshed in it and just couldn’t stop. Then I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days and I understood some truths by reading Almighty God’s words. My perspective was transformed and I started practicing the truth and being honest according to God’s words. This is the only way to live openly and have a human likeness.
When I first opened up a hair salon, I swore I’d do business honestly. I did just that, never engaging in profiteering. I put my all into it for every customer’s hair I did and my fees were lower than other hairstylists’. But after running myself ragged for a year, I was only left with 2,000-odd yuan after paying my rent, business taxes, utilities, heating fees, and so on. I had more business than the salons across the way but they were making a lot more money than me. I knew they were mostly making their money by ripping customers off, relying on base tactics for their ill-gotten gains. The truth is, sometimes I wanted to do what they were doing but I didn’t feel good about earning money that way. As the old saying goes, “poor but proud.” No matter how poor I was, I felt I had to keep my integrity. I gave it a lot of thought, but decided to keep doing business according to my conscience and be a good person no matter how little I earned. Three years just flew by this way, and other hairdressers who’d begun at the same time as me had bought larger shops or were doing big business. Some of them even had their own cars, but I was in exactly the same position I’d been in three years before.
One day my dad got sick and was admitted to the hospital and his treatment was going to cost tens of thousands of yuan. I had hardly any savings. I borrowed as much money as I could, but could still only pay half the medical bill. Thinking about how much I’d borrowed and not knowing when I’d be able to pay it back launched a battle inside me: Should I raise my prices a little? What if I padded the bill a bit for well-off customers? Just when I was in this quandary, a friend of mine said to me, “All this suffering is just because you’re so wedded to your honor. The other salon owners’ annual profits are in the tens of thousands, but yours is just a few thousand. You’re so bull-headed. If you want to repay those debts any time soon, you’ll have to be smarter in your business. You’ll need a few tricks up your sleeve to earn more money.” After she left, the owner of a salon across the street came over and teased me: “You’re really so good at running this salon! Business is good and you have a great reputation, but it’s just it’s not very profitable. You want to be Mother Theresa? If I had your skills, I would have gotten rich ages ago. You’re just too honest. You need to be savvy to run a business, but you’re exhausting yourself and hardly making anything. Doesn’t everyone say ‘Money makes the world go round’ and ‘Only a fool doesn’t take money at his fingertips’? You should give it some thought.” That night I was tossing and turning, unable to sleep. “What the two of them said does make some sense.” I thought, “I do business totally honestly, so when will I make some money? Like they say, ‘Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing.’ A penny can conquer even a hero. Besides, my dad is sick in the hospital and I can’t delay his treatment. For my dad’s treatment and so I can repay my debts, employing a few tactics to make some money is understandable.” I comforted myself that way and decided to start trying it out on wealthier customers.
The next day, a customer came in who wanted her hair permed. She looked really well-off judging by how she was dressed, so I figured I’d take advantage of the chance to earn a little extra. When she was paying I just asked for 200 yuan on the spot. To tell the truth, my heart was pounding because I usually charged only 120 yuan, so when I asked for that much, I wondered if she would accuse me of overcharging. If she said it was too expensive, I could lower the price a little. Feeling guilty, I couldn’t even look her in the eye. She just readily handed over the money and even praised my skills. She was really happy with the hairdo and said it was worth any amount of money. She said she’d recommend me to her friends and family. After she left, I felt unsettled for quite a while. She had that much trust in me but I’d cheated her. It was so immoral. But then again, “Only a fool doesn’t take money at his fingertips.” Then there were my debts, too, so I just buried my feelings of guilt. From that day on, I changed my attitude toward doing business. Whenever I saw a well-off customer come in, I’d welcome them, full of smiles, and I’d recommend some particular services and products.
One time, a customer said she wanted to get her hair washed and styled, and I thought, “A hair wash is less than 10 yuan. I need to find a trick to get more money than that.” So I told her, “Your hair is too dry. If you don’t start taking care of it soon, it could start falling out, and hair is like a second face for women. If you develop issues with your hair, it’ll be too late for regrets.” She was convinced by everything I was saying and she spent 300 yuan on a set of anti-hair loss nourishing products and became a regular for hot oil treatments. I felt a little uneasy after she left. I did have the money, but I wasn’t sure how effective the product was. I’d talked it up, but what would I do if it didn’t work well and she came back to complain? But there was no point worrying. I’d already sold it, so that was that. When I was cutting a customer’s hair a few days later, she said she had dandruff and an itchy scalp. I thought, “I can recommend some of the shampoo I sell here so I can earn a little more money.” I said tactfully, “Dandruff and an itchy scalp are caused by inflammation and if it gets serious you could start losing hair, which would impact how you feel about yourself.” She quickly asked me what could be done about it, so as a matter of course, I recommended my anti-dandruff shampoo to her and I promised her it would work well. She bought the shampoo really happily. I charged her 68 yuan for a product that had cost me just 25 yuan and she thanked me over and over. I realized how easy it is to make money like that. No wonder the other salon owners had already gotten rich. I figured I could be rich in no time as well, and I wouldn’t have to worry about my dad’s hospital bills. In this way, the uneasiness in my heart gradually disappeared and I came to believe that the only way to make money was to lie and cheat.
Ten years passed in the blink of an eye. I’d made some money, all my debts were paid off, and I’d even bought a house and a car. I didn’t know why, but even though I lived more comfortably, I just couldn’t feel happy at all. I always had this empty, uneasy feeling. They say “As people act, Heaven watches,” and “What goes around comes around.” I was afraid all those customers I’d fooled would show up one day to settle the score with me, and then my reputation would be ruined. I was terrified at that thought and lived in fear. It was exhausting. I really wanted to go back to doing business honestly but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was like a thief who’d developed a taste for it—I wanted to quit, but couldn’t.
Just as I was struggling painfully, caught in a mire of sin, a friend shared Almighty God’s gospel of the last days with me. She told me that God’s words are all the truth and can resolve all of our difficulties, that they can heal the pain within our souls. After that, I started gathering and reading God’s words with others, singing songs of praise, and I felt really at peace. One can’t put a price on that kind of feeling. I set my resolve to practice my faith well.
In a gathering one time, brothers and sisters read a passage of God’s words. “Honesty means giving your heart to God, being genuine with God in all things, being open with Him in all things, never hiding the facts, not trying to deceive those above and below you, and not doing things only to curry favor with God. In short, to be honest is to be pure in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man. … If you have many confidences that you are reluctant to share, if you are highly averse to laying bare your secrets—your difficulties—before others to seek the way of the light, then I say that you are someone who will not attain salvation easily, and who will not easily emerge from the darkness” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Three Admonitions). This was really moving for me. I saw that God likes honest people and detests deceitful people. Being an honest person is the only way to get into His kingdom. The brothers and sisters were all pure and open. Even though there were times they’d lie to protect their own face or status, they were always able to reflect on themselves and be open and honest. Their lives were really free and liberated. I could feel that the church was nothing like the world. God likes honest people, and the more honest someone is, the more God likes them, but the more deceitful they are, the more He detests them. Only honest people can gain true happiness and joy. I really wanted to be an honest person, someone who God likes. But then I thought about how I’m a businesswoman, and in this materialistic society where money is everything, doing business honestly not only means you can’t earn money, but will be taken for a fool by others. There’s just no way to keep a foothold in this society like that and in the end you’ll just have to close your doors. But God’s words clearly state that He likes honest people, and deceitful people can hardly be saved. If I didn’t practice the truth like God requires but kept being underhanded, lying and cheating in my business, wouldn’t that be disgusting to God? I thought about it over and over, and ultimately decided to act according to God’s words, and practice telling the truth and being an honest person.
One day when I was cutting a customer’s hair, she asked if her hair was dry, and if so, she wanted to get an oil treatment as well. I thought, “I can only make ten yuan from a haircut, but an oil treatment would mean at least another hundred. The customer herself has asked for it—I certainly haven’t pushed anything extra on her to get more money.” In fact, I took a look at her hair and saw that it wasn’t dry at all, but if I told her the truth, she definitely wouldn’t want to have it done. Just as I was feeling at a loss, these words of God occurred to me: “To be honest is to be pure in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Three Admonitions). God’s words gave me a timely reminder that honest people are practical and realistic in their words and deeds. They’re not deceitful before God or before other people. Since I wanted to be an honest person, I should act in accordance with God’s words and tell the truth. So, I told the customer, “Your hair isn’t dry. Don’t waste your money.” She responded, surprised, “I’m surprised that you have such professional integrity. There are so few people in business like you these days. I’m definitely going to send everyone in my family here to get their hair done.” I was thrilled to hear the customer say this—I thanked God over and over. I experienced how wonderful, how sweet it is to be honest and tell the truth!
In the days that followed, I acted as an honest person in accordance with God’s requirements. Before I knew it, all that fear, all that worry in my heart had just vanished and I no longer worried that someone would come back and complain. I slept soundly every night. I thought I could practice the truth and speak honestly. But to my surprise, my satanic dispositions and philosophies were deeply entrenched. When tempted by big profit, I went back to my old ways.
One day, five women came into the salon. They had just come back from a trip and their taxi driver recommended my salon, so they came straight here. One of the women said, “Price isn’t an issue, just make sure you do a good job.” Hearing her say this, I thought to myself, “It’s practically in my pocket. I’ll stretch the truth just this once and God should forgive me.” So, I said the 160-yuan perms were 260 yuan and they didn’t say a word. I made an extra 500 that way. I was really happy when I got the money, thinking I wouldn’t need to worry about my store rent that month. But that night I felt gloomy and upset. I just tossed and turned, unable to sleep.
Later on, I thought about how I knew being an honest person was a positive thing and was related to how we conduct ourselves and whether we can be saved and get into God’s kingdom. So why couldn’t I put it into practice? What was the real reason? Seeking answers, I watched a video of a reading of God’s words. Almighty God says, “People in the past ran their business so that nobody was cheated; they sold items at the same price regardless of who was buying. Is not some element of good conscience and humanity conveyed here? When people conducted their business like this, in good faith, it can be seen that they still had some conscience and some humanity at that time. But with man’s ever-increasing demand for money, people unknowingly came to love money, gain, and pleasure more and more. In short, people came to view money as more important than before. When people view money as more important, they unknowingly begin to attach less importance to their reputation, their renown, their good name and their integrity, do they not? When you engage in business, you see others using various means to swindle people and get rich. Although the money earned is ill-gotten, they become richer and richer. Though they may engage in the same business as you, their whole family enjoys life more than you do, and you feel bad, saying to yourself, ‘Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I earn as much as they do? I must think of a way to get more money, to make my business prosper.’ You then do your utmost to ponder how to make lots of money. According to the usual method of making money—selling things at the same price to all customers—any profit you make is made in good conscience. However, this is not the way to get rich quick. Driven by the urge to make a profit, your thinking undergoes a gradual transformation. During this transformation, your principles of conduct also begin to change. When you first cheat someone, you have your reservations, saying, ‘This will be the only time I cheat someone. I will not do it again. I cannot cheat people. There are serious consequences to cheating. It will bring me lots of trouble!’ When you first deceive someone, your heart has some scruples; this is the function of man’s conscience—to make you feel scruples and to reproach you, so that it feels unnatural when you cheat someone. But after you have successfully deceived someone, you see that you now have more money than you did before, and you think this method can be very beneficial for you. Despite the dull ache in your heart, you still feel like congratulating yourself on your success, and you feel somewhat pleased with yourself. For the first time, you approve of your own behavior, your own deceptive ways. Afterward, once man has been contaminated by this cheating, it is the same as someone who gets involved in gambling and then becomes a gambler. In your unawareness, you give approval to your own cheating behavior and accept it. In unawareness, you take cheating to be a legitimate commercial behavior and the most useful means for your survival and livelihood; you think that by doing this you can quickly make a fortune. This is a process: In the beginning, people cannot accept this type of behavior and they look down on this behavior and practice. Then they begin to experiment with this behavior themselves, trying it out in their own way, and their hearts begin to gradually transform. What kind of transformation is this? It is an approval and admission of this trend, of this idea instilled in you by the social trend. Without realizing it, if you do not cheat people when doing business with them, you feel you are worse off; if you do not cheat people, you feel as though you have lost something. Unknowingly, this cheating becomes your very soul, your backbone, and an indispensable type of behavior that is a principle in your life. After man has accepted this behavior and this thinking, has this not brought about a change in his heart? Your heart has changed, so has your integrity changed as well? Has your humanity changed? Has your conscience changed? (Yes.) Yes, every part of this person undergoes a qualitative change, from their heart to their thoughts, to such an extent that they are transformed from the inside out. This change pulls you further and further away from God, and you become more and more closely aligned with Satan; you become more and more alike to Satan” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique VI). God’s words all reflect reality. That’s exactly how I was. At first I went by my conscience and did business honestly. But when my dad had to be hospitalized, urged on by my friend and colleague, I started to lie and cheat to earn more money. I ended up unable to stop myself. I wanted to stop but couldn’t. I saw that was all caused by Satan’s corruption. I’d been influenced by society and took Satan’s philosophies like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Money is first,” “Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing,” and “Money makes the world go round” as my mottos. I followed evil trends instead of earning money honorably. I abandoned my basic standards of conduct for profit, learning how to tailor my approach to what I observed in others. I racked my brains and stopped at nothing to cheat customers, becoming more and more selfish, slippery, evil, and greedy. I lost the conscience, reason, and dignity a normal person should have. Even though I’d made some money from lying and cheating over the years, paying off my debts and living a more comfortable life, I hadn’t experienced true happiness. I constantly felt guilty, always worried about being exposed for my lies and ruining my name. But I was still trapped in it and couldn’t escape. After becoming a believer, even knowing that God likes honest people and resolving in prayer to practice God’s words, when I was tempted by a significant sum of money I couldn’t stop myself from lying and cheating. I saw just how deeply corrupted by Satan I was. I finally realized that these satanic philosophies for living are negative things that mislead and harm people. They corrupted me so much that I was becoming more and more evil and depraved. Living by these ideas and doing business dishonestly isn’t the right path in life. Putting God’s words into practice, and practicing the truth as God requires, as an honest person is the only right path in life!
I read this passage of God’s words after that: “How can one be an honest person? How does one practice being an honest person? (By not engaging in deceit and not being diluted when one speaks.) That is correct, and there are details within. What does ‘not being diluted’ mean? It means not to lie or harbor personal intentions and aims in what you say. If you harbor deceit or personal intentions and aims, then lies will naturally come forth. If you have no deceit or personal intentions or aims within you, then what you say will not be diluted, nor will it contain any lies; when you say ‘yes,’ it will mean ‘yes,’ and when you say ‘no,’ it will mean ‘no.’ To purify your heart first is the most crucial step. Once your heart is purified, the problems of your arrogance and deceitful lies will all be resolved. To be an honest person, one must clear their heart of these adulterations; having done so, it will be easy to be an honest person. Is it complicated to be an honest person? No, it is not. No matter how many states or corrupt dispositions there are within you, there is one truth that can resolve them all. Do not tell lies, call a spade a spade, practice in accordance with the truth, and be transparent in everything you do; live as a human being before God, and live in the light” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Path to Resolving a Corrupt Disposition). I found a path of practice from God’s words. First we have to set our motives straight, speak no lies and have no thought of deceit. We have to live out in the open, be worthy of people’s respect and trust, and live out more and more of a human likeness. God likes and blesses honest people. That kind of person doesn’t live in darkness or pain and they don’t rack their brains to keep a lie going. They especially don’t live every day in fear that their lies will come back to haunt them. Honest people aren’t constrained like that, but they’re free and at peace. Once I understood its true meaning, I became willing to practice being an honest person as God requires.
The following day around noon, I was in the middle of cutting someone’s hair when the woman I’d recommended the hair thickening treatment to before walked in pulling a long face. I thought, “It looks like she’s going to cause some trouble. What if she says the product was no good and other customers hear it? That could have an impact on my business. What can I do to get her out of here?” Just as I was trying to figure out how to handle her, I thought of the words of God: “Do not tell lies, call a spade a spade, practice in accordance with the truth, and be transparent in everything you do; live as a human being before God, and live in the light” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Path to Resolving a Corrupt Disposition). I realized I could no longer lie or cheat and no matter what that woman had to say and no matter what other customers thought of me, whether I could earn money afterward or not, I had to be honest according to God’s words and just speak the truth, then accept her complaint appropriately. Just as that was going through my mind, I heard her say angrily, “Didn’t you say this hair thickener would help more hair grow? I haven’t had a single strand of new hair. You were cheating me, weren’t you?” I told her sincerely, “Some customers have said that this product is somewhat effective, and others have said that it isn’t. I haven’t used it myself, so I couldn’t say. If you feel like it’s not working, then don’t use it anymore and I’ll give you a refund.” Hearing me say this, her anger vanished and she said with a smile, “I just wanted to know the truth of the matter. Since you’re willing to be honest, there’s no need for a refund. But still, even though my hair isn’t any thicker from using this product, it is softer and shinier than before.” Once she’d gone, I thought over what had just happened. I’d truly experienced that being honest and practicing the truth isn’t a disadvantage. Not only does it win others’ respect and trust, but it feels good, too. This gave me more confidence in being an honest person.
One weekend my older sister came to the salon to get her hair washed while there was a customer who wanted her hair dyed. I took a look at her hair and told her, “You dyed it pretty recently. You should wait a while, because these dyes have chemicals in them that are bad for you.” The customer responded with some surprise, “I just can’t believe that there are people doing business this way. No wonder you’re doing so well. Good character makes for a successful business!” After she left, my sister gave me a funny look and said, “Do you have a fever or something? That money was practically in your hands but you didn’t take it.” I said calmly, “Our conduct affects our business. How can someone who’s not a good person run a good business? You can earn money quickly by being unscrupulous, but not for long. I do things completely above board now and I feel much better earning money with conscience.” My sister smiled and said, “That wasn’t how you did business before at all. You’ve really changed.” Seeing her look of wonder, I thanked God over and over. It was all because of God’s words, and I got to taste the serenity of being an honest person and telling the truth.
After that, my salon was hopping every weekend and holiday, and a lot of people came in because of word of mouth or a friend’s recommendation. I used to think I’d never get a foothold in business without telling some lies and that people would laugh at me. But I finally saw how ridiculous, how absurd that notion is. Going by satanic philosophies brings temporary gain and leaves nothing but emptiness and pain. It’s a despicable, vile way to live, without any human likeness. Now I focus on practicing the truth, speaking honestly and living uprightly. Not only have I gained others’ respect and trust, but I personally feel at peace. It’s a wonderful way to live! The small change I’ve undergone now is all thanks to God’s words. Thanks be to Almighty God!