By Nuli, China
I used to put a lot of effort into maintaining personal relationships in my interactions with friends, family, and neighbors. I’d put up with just about anything and let people have their way so that no one would have an unkind word to say about me. I never argued with anyone. Even when I noticed that someone had a problem, I still wouldn’t say anything. Over time, everyone came to think of me as a good person. I continued to apply this philosophy for living in my affairs and in my interactions with others even after becoming a believer. I remember, not long after gaining my faith, I noticed that Brother Tian, who was in charge of our group’s gatherings, was always very gentle in his speech and his fellowship on God’s words was enlightening. Whenever something was going on with me or I had some sort of difficulty, I liked seeking him out to help me resolve it, and he was always really patient in fellowship with me. We got along great. We were both elected as church leaders a few years later, and I was thrilled to have the chance to do my duty alongside him. But after a while, I noticed that Brother Tian didn’t really bear a burden in his duty, and when brothers and sisters became negative and weak, he’d just go through the motions and share some simplistic fellowship. He didn’t really care if anything came of it or not. I thought, “Isn’t he being careless in his duty? This will definitely delay brothers’ and sisters’ life entry. I have to fellowship with him. But then again, he’s been doing this duty longer than I have and he has some experience with this work. I’ve just started doing my duty as a leader. What would he think of me if I told him he’s not bearing a burden in his work?” As they say, “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship.” So in order to keep our relationship as it was, I just spoke to him and played down his issues.
In one of our gatherings, some brothers and sisters brought up difficulties they’d encountered in sharing the gospel, hoping we could help them address these issues. I talked to Brother Tian about us going together, but he made the excuse that gospel work wasn’t his forte, so he didn’t want to go. I fellowshiped with him, saying that our brothers and sisters were having a hard time in their duty, so we should do everything in our power to help them, and that we couldn’t do our duty just based on our preferences. He responded with silence, so I thought that was his tacit agreement. To my surprise, he didn’t even show up the next day. I felt a little disappointed in him—wasn’t it irresponsible of him, a church leader, to not lend a hand to resolve brothers’ and sisters’ problems? I knew I had to bring it up with him.
I went to talk to Brother Tian immediately after the gathering, and the whole way there I was thinking about how to fellowship with him. But he was so warm and friendly toward me when I got to his house, and I started to feel a little reticent. I thought, “Brother Tian is all smiles and even serving me tea. How can I say this to him? If I say he’s irresponsible in his duty and he’s in a dangerous state, wouldn’t that be really embarrassing for him? As they say, ‘Don’t raise a hand against a smiling face.’ We’ve always gotten along great. How could we keep working together if I ruin our relationship? We see each other all the time, so it would just be really awkward!” So I said to him very gently, “We need to develop a sense of burden toward our duties. We can’t just do things based on our personal preferences.” When he hung his head and didn’t say a word, I felt bad about saying anything further. I thought about how I’d just barely started out as a church leader and I didn’t know the church’s work very well yet. There were a lot of things I needed his help with, and as the old saying goes, “Don’t burn one’s bridges.” I felt I couldn’t be too hard on him, so I didn’t say anything more.
A message later came from our leaders notifying us of a gathering, and Brother Tian and I decided we would each notify some brothers and sisters. I asked him if he had gotten the word out when we saw each other the following day, but he said, totally unconcerned, that he’d gotten busy doing other things and had forgotten about it. Seeing how impassive he looked, I couldn’t help but reproach him. I said, “Doing your duty this way is irresponsible and it could delay the church’s work.” I was surprised when he got a sour look on his face, grabbed his keys, and just left. Seeing his antipathy, I didn’t dare say anything more, afraid it would ruin our relationship completely.
I had seen that Brother Tian didn’t bear any burden in his duty, that he was careless, he often caused delays, and in the face of issues he lacked self-knowledge. When others fellowshiped or pointed his issues out to him, he wouldn’t accept it. Didn’t that all point to him being a false leader, unable to accept the truth or do practical work? If he kept his position as a leader, it would hold up the church’s work—I knew I should let the leaders know about his problems. But then I thought about how the leaders would surely prune and deal with him when they found about all of that, and he’d probably lose his position. If Brother Tian found out I was the one to report him, he’d say I was heartless, that I’d betrayed an old friend. How could I face him after that? This thought left me unsure of what to do. After giving it a lot of thought, I ultimately decided to hold off on reporting him. I’d just exposed his problems—maybe he would reflect and understand his problems, and then repent. He had been a believer for years and he’d been pretty responsible in his duty before. So I decided to keep an eye on things for a few more days, and if he still didn’t change, I could report him then.
After that, we had a potential convert who was of good humanity and was interested in looking into God’s work of the last days, but he had to go out of town for work in a few days. We had to get someone to go share the gospel with him as soon as possible. We discussed it and decided to have Brother Tian go. Unexpectedly, however, he mixed up the timing and didn’t go the day he was supposed to. I was really angry when I found out about it. I’d warned him plenty of times, but he never changed, and that time he really messed up something important. It occurred to me that I’d known well that Brother Tian had been muddling through his duty for a while, and that he had no sense of responsibility, but I’d just been preoccupied with our relationship. I was afraid of offending him, so I hadn’t told the leaders about his problems. That had held up the church’s work time and time again. Wasn’t I doing evil? I was upset and filled with self-reproach at this thought.
That evening I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to understand my own problems. I then read this in God’s words: “Most people wish to pursue and practice the truth, but much of the time they merely have a resolution and the desire to do so; they do not possess the life of the truth within them. As a result, when they come across evil forces or encounter wicked and bad people committing evil deeds, or false leaders and antichrists doing things in a way that violates principles—thus causing the work of God’s house to suffer losses, and harming God’s chosen ones—they lose the courage to stand up and speak out. What does it mean when you have no courage? Does it mean that you are timid or inarticulate? Or is it that you do not understand thoroughly, and therefore do not have the confidence to speak up? It is none of these; it is that you are being controlled by several kinds of corrupt dispositions. One of these dispositions is cunning. You think of yourself first, thinking, ‘If I speak up, how will it benefit me? If I speak up and displease someone, how will we get along in the future?’ This is a cunning mentality, right? Is this not the result of a cunning disposition? Another is a selfish and mean disposition. You think, ‘What does a loss to the interests of God’s house have to do with me? Why should I care? It’s got nothing to do with me. Even if I see it and hear it happen, I don’t need to do anything. It’s not my responsibility—I’m not a leader.’ Such things are inside you, as if they had sprung from your unconscious mind, and as if they occupy permanent positions in your heart—they are the corrupt, satanic dispositions of man. These corrupt dispositions control your thoughts and bind your hands and feet, and they control your mouth. When you want to say something in your heart, the words reach your lips but you do not say them, or, if you do speak, your words are roundabout, leaving you with room to maneuver—you do not speak at all clearly. Others feel nothing after hearing you, and what you have said has not resolved the problem. You think to yourself: ‘Well, I spoke up. My conscience is at ease. I’ve fulfilled my responsibility.’ In truth, you know in your heart that you have not said all you should, that what you have said has had no effect, and that the detriment to the work of God’s house remains. You have not fulfilled your responsibility, yet you say overtly that you have fulfilled your responsibility, or that what was happening was unclear to you. Are you not then completely under the control of your corrupt, satanic dispositions?” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). Every one of God’s words struck me like a lightning bolt, as if I was face-to-face with Him as He judged and exposed me. I felt so guilty. I had seen very clearly that Brother Tian didn’t bear any burden in his duty and it held up the church’s work, but I’d just played the nice guy so I could protect my relationship with him, turning a blind eye. I’d drummed up some courage to point out his problems, but even then I held back, not daring to talk about the essence and the harmful consequences of his actions. And I fooled myself into thinking that I was putting the truth into practice. I saw the harm a false leader can do to the work of God’s house, but for the sake of self-preservation, I didn’t expose and report him. I was more willing to offend God than to offend a person. Acting that way made me a minion of Satan, standing on the side of a false leader, wallowing in the mire with him, holding up the church’s work. This was disgusting and odious to God. God elevated me, allowing me to take on the duty of a church leader, in the hope that I would fellowship on the truth, resolve brothers’ and sisters’ issues, and uphold the church’s work. But instead, I’d just protected my personal relationships and coddled a false leader while he disrupted the church’s work. I saw that I was completely lacking devotion in my duty. Not only had I failed to practice the truth, but I’d committed a transgression. I’d really let down God’s painstaking efforts. I finally saw that people pleasers aren’t actually good people, but they’re selfish and crafty. Realizing this was really upsetting for me, and I felt terrible about myself. I knew I couldn’t be a people pleaser anymore, but I had to put the truth into practice and expose Brother Tian for not doing practical work. I had to tell the leaders the truth about his problems and stop covering up for him.
That same night I wrote to the leaders about Brother Tian’s performance. I felt so relieved and at peace after I finished my letter, and I felt like I’d finally begun to have a sense of justice, that I wasn’t as base and despicable as I had been before. Just as God says: “If you can fulfill your responsibilities, perform your obligations and duties, set aside your selfish desires, set aside your own intents and motives, have consideration for God’s will, and put the interests of God and His house first, then after experiencing this for a while, you will feel that this is a good way to live. It is living straightforwardly and honestly, without being a base person or a good-for-nothing, and living justly and honorably rather than being narrow-minded or mean. You will feel that this is how a person should live and act. Gradually, the desire within your heart to gratify your own interests will lessen” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). When I saw Brother Tian the next day, I fellowshiped with him, dissecting the issues in his duty, and I talked about the nature and consequences of being so careless and perfunctory. After hearing me out, he did acknowledge that he had a problem. Our leaders later determined through his general performance that he didn’t do any practical work and that he was a false leader, and he was dismissed. Even though he’d lost his position, I still had an undeniable responsibility in the damage he’d done to the church’s work. I swore to myself that I’d never be a people pleaser again, that I wouldn’t stand in the way of the church’s work anymore.
Soon after, I began working together with Brother Li who had become a church leader. We shared fellowship and discussed any difficulties we encountered in our work. When I was in a bad state, he helped me through fellowship. We got along really well. But after a while, it became clear that Brother Li didn’t do practical work in his duty. He just went through the motions in gatherings, but he didn’t resolve brothers’ and sisters’ real-life difficulties. It occurred to me that Brother Li wasn’t very responsible, and that I should give him fellowship. A while later, I did bring up this issue with him and exposed the nature and consequences of the way he did his duty.
I noticed that even though some time had passed, Brother Li still hadn’t adjusted his attitude toward his duty, and on top of that, he was always in pursuit of name and status. When he didn’t achieve anything in his work and couldn’t win others’ esteem, he’d become negative and pay no mind to the work of the church. I went to fellowship with him again and asked him to reflect and try to understand his motives in his duty. At the time, he acknowledged that his perspective in his pursuit was misguided, but afterward his state didn’t change at all. I realized that if he continued on in that duty it would harm the church’s work, so I decided to let the leaders know. But as soon as I picked up my pen and got ready to write my letter, I thought, “If the leaders find out about Brother Li’s behavior, they’ll definitely act according to the principles and dismiss him. Brother Li values his reputation very highly—won’t he resent me if he is dismissed? When I started out with my duty, he was always sharing fellowship and helping me, so if I report on his problems now, won’t he think I’m being heartless? How could I face him after that?” Then I realized I was about to become a people pleaser again and that I wasn’t upholding the work of God’s house. I felt somewhat guilty at this, so I quickly said a prayer: “God, I’ve seen Brother Li’s issues and I want to report them, but I’m afraid of displeasing him. I’m well aware of the truth but I’m unable to put it into practice. That’s not upholding the work of God’s house. Oh God, please guide me to know myself so that I can repent and change.”
I read this in God’s words after my prayer: “Satan corrupts people through the education and influence of national governments and of the famous and great. Their devilish words have become man’s life nature. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’ is a well-known satanic saying that has been instilled into everyone, and that has become man’s life. There are other words of philosophies for living that are also like this. Satan uses each nation’s fine traditional culture to educate people, causing mankind to fall into and be engulfed by a boundless abyss of destruction, and in the end people are destroyed by God because they serve Satan and resist God. … There are still many satanic poisons in people’s lives, in their conduct and behavior; they possess almost no truth at all. For example, their philosophies for living, their ways of doing things, and their maxims are all filled with the poisons of the great red dragon, and they all come from Satan. Thus, all things that flow through people’s bones and blood are all things of Satan. … Mankind has been profoundly corrupted by Satan. Satan’s venom flows through the blood of every person, and it can be seen that man’s nature is corrupt, evil, and reactionary, filled by and immersed in the philosophies of Satan—it is, in its entirety, a nature that betrays God. This is why people resist God and stand in opposition to God” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days).
Through God’s words, I was able to understand that my being a people pleaser was rooted in being too selfish, despicable, crooked, and cunning. I always put my own interests first in everything. I lived by satanic laws for survival and perspectives like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,” “Think before you speak and then talk with reservation,” and “Never hit people below the belt.” I kept my mouth shut about other people’s problems, no matter who I was dealing with, thinking that would endear me to others, that they’d like me. I protected my interpersonal relationships at every turn; I protected my image in others’ eyes. My own motives and adulterations were mixed up in everything I did, as were Satan’s cunning schemes. I knew that Brother Tian didn’t feel any responsibility toward his duty and that he disrupted and delayed the church’s work over and over, but I still didn’t go into detail about his issue or report it to our leaders, afraid of offending him and hoping to preserve the image he had of me. This damaged the church’s work. And most recently, I saw that Brother Li was just focused on pursuing name and status in his duty and he didn’t take any responsibility toward the church’s work. I also knew he didn’t have any real understanding of himself, that he wasn’t well-suited for that position and I should tell the leaders right away to protect the work of God’s house. However, I was worried he’d resent me and that my own interests and reputation would be compromised, so I wanted to take on the role of a people pleaser once again. I realized I was living by satanic life philosophies at every turn, placing my own interests and reputation over everything else without taking the church’s work into account at all. I was truly selfish and despicable. I saw all of this happened entirely because I was living as a people pleaser based on satanic life philosophies.
I used to think that getting along harmoniously with everyone and never hurting anyone’s feelings made me a good person. But reality showed me that although people pleasers never appear to hurt others, when they see someone living within their corrupt disposition, harmed by Satan and damaging the church’s interests, all they care about is protecting their own personal interests and personal relationships. They can’t stand on the side of the truth to help and support brothers and sisters, and uphold the church’s work. People pleasers may appear to be good people who are fair and understanding, but that’s all a façade. Deep in their hearts, they only think of their own self-interest. They even look straight on without a second thought as the church’s work is damaged and brothers’ and sisters’ progress in life is delayed. They seek personal gain at the expense of others. Where’s the humanity in that? It’s very clear that they’re slippery, deceitful, insidious and despicable hypocrites. I felt so ashamed when I realized this. I’d been enjoying everything that comes from God, but when faced with a problem, I stood on Satan’s side as a people pleaser. How was that doing my duty? I was favoring the enemy and biting the hand that fed me. I was one of Satan’s stooges, disrupting the church’s work, doing evil and resisting God!
This realization was really frightening for me. I came before God in prayer right away: “God, I’ve done so much evil. I’ve deserved Your punishment for so long, but You’ve still given me the chance to do my duty. I’m so grateful for Your mercy. Oh God, I wish to repent. Please guide and lead me so I can find the path of practice.”
I then read this in God’s words: “When the truth holds sway in your heart and has become your life, then, when you see something passive, negative, or evil arising, the reaction in your heart is entirely different. First, you feel reproach and a sense of uneasiness, followed immediately by this feeling: ‘I can’t just remain idle and turn a blind eye. I must stand up and speak, I must stand up and take responsibility.’ You can then stand up and put a stop to these evil deeds, exposing them, striving to safeguard the interests of God’s house and prevent God’s work from being disturbed. Not only will you have this courage and resolve, and will you be capable of understanding the matter completely, but you will also fulfill the responsibility you should bear for God’s work and for the interests of His house, and your duty will thereby be fulfilled. How will it be fulfilled? It will be fulfilled through the truth exerting its effect on you and becoming your life” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). “In the church, stand firm in your testimony to Me, uphold the truth; right is right and wrong is wrong. Do not confuse black and white. You shall be at war with Satan and must completely vanquish it so that it never rises again. You must give everything you have to protect My testimony. This shall be the goal of your actions—do not forget this” (“Chapter 41” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in). Reading God’s words helped me understand that in my duty, I have to be considerate of God’s will and always put the church’s interests first. If I discover anything that violates the principles of the truth, I can’t protect my relationships out of sentimentality and safeguard my personal interests, but instead I have to dare to bring negative things to light, to do things in line with the principles, and uphold the work of God’s house. This is the only way to fulfill my duty and my responsibilities. Brother Li was a church leader, so if I saw problems in how he did his duty but didn’t bring them up, not only would that harm the work of God’s house, but it would also be harmful for Brother Li. I knew that no matter what he might think of me or how he might treat me after that, I had to uphold the truth and report his issues. Just as I was getting ready to write that letter, the leaders arranged a gathering for us. In that gathering, I shared everything about Brother Li’s performance. After the leaders verified all of it the next day and confirmed that Brother Li was unable to do practical work, he was relieved of his duty. Doing this left me feeling really at ease and at peace.
I never knew myself before. I was always a people pleaser who lived by satanic philosophies in all things. I protected my own interests, afraid of slipping up and ruining my relationships with others. I kept my mouth shut even when I knew others had acted wrongly. I was unable to uphold the principles of the truth, and I didn’t protect the interests of God’s house. I’d been living without any dignity or integrity. By letting go of my selfish desires, having a heart of reverence for God in my duty, and holding to the principles and protecting the work of God’s house, I now feel utterly at peace. I feel that this is the only way to live with a human likeness. I’m so grateful for God’s salvation!