What Lies Behind Being Lenient With Others
By Fang Gang, South Korea
A few months ago, a leader assigned Brother Connor and I to take charge of watering work. After a little while, I noticed that he didn’t take on much of a burden in his work. He didn’t fellowship and help people with their problems quickly, and wasn’t very engaged in work discussions. The leader told me that Connor was being sloppy and irresponsible, and I had to fellowship with him. I thought, maybe he was busy, and so he’d put some work aside. I figured, it wasn’t like he was doing nothing at all. I shouldn’t expect too much from him, and I could handle the issues he hadn’t fellowshiped on. So, I didn’t look into the problems with his work. After a while, before a gathering for some brothers and sisters, I reminded Connor to first find out about their issues and difficulties ahead of time in order to find the appropriate words of God for fellowship, and make the gathering more effective. Later, I asked some of the brothers and sisters if Connor had asked about their states and difficulties, and they all said he hadn’t. I felt like he was being really irresponsible. The others had lots of difficulties and flaws in their duties. They needed more help and fellowship, but he wasn’t taking it seriously. That was really careless of him! I thought this time, I really should bring his issue up. But then I thought, if he didn’t accept it, if he said I expected too much and became biased against me, wouldn’t that make me seem too strict, too unfeeling toward others? Besides, Connor was young, so he was more likely to focus on fleshly comfort. Sometimes I got sloppy and focused on comfort, too, so I shouldn’t be too demanding. I could handle it myself. Be hard on yourself, easy on others. I’d just get busy, and cut down on my rest. So, I didn’t go fellowship with Connor and point out this problem of his. I acted that way with other work, too. When I saw someone wasn’t doing well, I didn’t look to see what was causing that or what should be done, but was just tolerant and patient. Sometimes I’d get very annoyed or angry about someone’s behavior, but I’d just bottle it up. I thought, “Forget it—let them do whatever they’re able to, and I will take care of the rest.” After a while, the brothers and sisters wanted to seek me out for help with their problems. I wasn’t feeling put out or upset when I saw that they all thought highly of me. All along, I felt that being strict with myself and forgiving of others in our interactions was being a person with good humanity, not like some people who are always nitpicky and can’t work with anyone.
Then one day I read something in God’s words about being “strict with yourself and tolerant of others,” and saw myself differently. Almighty God says, “‘Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others’—what does this saying mean? It means that you should make strict demands of yourself and be lenient with other people, so that they can see how generous and magnanimous you are. Why should people do this, then? What is it meant to achieve? Is it doable? Is it really a natural expression of people’s humanity? How much must you compromise yourself to take this on? You must be free of desires and demands, requiring yourself to feel less joy, suffer a bit more, pay more of a price and work more so that others do not have to wear themselves out. And if others whine, complain, or perform poorly, you must not ask too much of them—more or less is good enough. People believe that this is a sign of noble virtue—but why does it ring false to Me? Is it not false? (It is.) Under normal circumstances, the natural expression of an ordinary person’s humanity is to be tolerant of themselves and strict with others. That is a fact. People can perceive everyone else’s problems—‘This person is arrogant! That person is bad! This one is selfish! That one is careless and perfunctory in doing their duty! This person is so lazy!’ someone will say—while to themselves they think, ‘If I’m a bit lazy, that’s fine. I’m of good caliber. Though I’m lazy, I do a better job than others.’ They find fault with others and like to nitpick, but with themselves they are tolerant and accommodating wherever possible. Is this not a natural expression of their humanity? (It is.) If people are expected to live up to the idea of being ‘strict with yourself and tolerant of others,’ what agony must they put themselves through? Could they really bear it? How many people would manage to do so? (None.) And why is that? (People are selfish by nature. They act according to the principle that it is ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’) Indeed, man is born selfish, man is a selfish creature, and is deeply committed to that satanic philosophy: ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’ People think that it would be catastrophic for them, and unnatural, not to be selfish and look out for themselves when things befall them. This is what people believe and it is how they act. If people are expected not to be selfish, and to make strict demands of themselves, and to willingly lose out rather than taking advantage of others, is that a realistic expectation? If people are expected to happily say, when someone takes advantage of them, ‘You’re taking advantage but I’m not making a fuss about it. I’m a tolerant person, I won’t badmouth you or try to get my own back on you, and if you haven’t taken enough advantage yet, feel free to carry on’—is that a realistic expectation? How many people could manage to do this? Is this the way that corrupt mankind normally behaves? (No.) Obviously, for this to happen is anomalous. Why so? Because people with corrupt dispositions, especially selfish and mean people, struggle for their own interests, and cannot be satisfied with others securing their own interests. So, this phenomenon, when it does happen, is an anomaly. ‘Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others’—this claim about virtue, reflecting a social moralist’s deficient grasp of human nature, makes a demand of people that clearly does not tally with either the facts or human nature. It is like telling a mouse not to make holes or a cat not to catch mice. Is it right to make such a demand? (No. It defies the laws of human nature.) It is a hollow demand, and it clearly does not square with reality” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (6)). I didn’t entirely understand these words from God when I first read them, because I’d always thought that “Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others” was a good thing. I always admired people like that and I aspired to be like that. But carefully thinking over God’s words, I felt they were entirely accurate. I was utterly convinced. Especially when I read this, “People with corrupt dispositions, especially selfish and mean people, struggle for their own interests, and cannot be satisfied with others securing their own interests. So, this phenomenon, when it does happen, is an anomaly. ‘Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others’—this claim about virtue, reflecting a social moralist’s deficient grasp of human nature, makes a demand of people that clearly does not tally with either the facts or human nature. It is like telling a mouse not to make holes or a cat not to catch mice,” I was really taken aback. It turned out that this idea I’d been upholding was impractical, went against humanity, and was something people just can’t achieve. It can’t become a standard to follow. Looking back on my behavior, it really was just as God had exposed. When I was strict with myself and lenient with others, I felt wronged and upset, and even when I met that mark, I didn’t really want to—I wasn’t happy to do it. Like with Connor, I was well aware that he was muddling through his duty, being lazy and irresponsible. I was angry and I wanted to expose his issues so he could turn things around quickly and be a good partner to me. But then I’d think about how I shouldn’t be too strict, that I should be hard on myself, and easy on others, then I’d give up on the idea of talking to him about his problems. I felt like I could suffer a little more, pay a bit more of a price, and not ask too much of him so I didn’t seem too inconsiderate, too nitpicky. I was responsible for a few groups’ work, so I already had a heavy workload. Also having to help him address issues in his work left me feeling wronged, and I had lots of complaints, but for the sake of being strict with myself and tolerant of others, and so others would think well of me, I just kept quiet and tolerated it. That was my actual state, and what I really thought. Just as God says, “Man is born selfish, man is a selfish creature, and is deeply committed to that satanic philosophy: ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’ People think that it would be catastrophic for them, and unnatural, not to be selfish and look out for themselves when things befall them. This is what people believe and it is how they act.” We’re all selfish by nature, and I’m no exception. When I’m doing more, I resent the hard work and exhaustion. I feel wronged, upset, and unhappy about it. But I still went against my heart, being strict with myself and lenient with others. What corrupt disposition is really hidden behind this attitude of being “strict with yourself and tolerant of others”? What are the consequences of being that way?
I came before God in prayer and seeking with that question, and then read a passage of His words. “‘Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others,’ as with sayings about returning money you have found and taking joy in helping others, is one of those demands that traditional culture makes on people to act with virtue. By the same token, regardless of whether someone can attain or exercise such virtue, it is still not the standard or norm for measuring their humanity. It may be that you really are capable of being strict with yourself and that you hold yourself to particularly high standards. You may be squeaky clean and always think of others, without being selfish and seeking after your own interests. You may seem particularly magnanimous and selfless, and have a strong sense of social responsibility and the public good. Your noble personality and qualities may be on display to those close to you, and to those you encounter and interact with. Your behavior may never give others any reason to blame or criticize you, eliciting instead profuse praise and even admiration. People may regard you as someone who is truly strict with themselves and tolerant of others. However, these are nothing more than external behaviors. Are the thoughts and wishes deep in your heart consistent with these external behaviors, with these actions that you live out externally? The answer is no, they are not. The reason you can act in this way is that there is a motive behind it. What is that motive, exactly? One thing, at least, can be said about it: It is something unmentionable, something dark and evil. … It can be said with certainty that most of those who demand of themselves that they live out the virtue of being ‘strict with yourself and tolerant of others,’ are obsessed with status. Driven by their corrupt dispositions, they cannot help but pursue prestige, social prominence, and status in the eyes of others. All these things are related to their desire for status, and are pursued under cover of good, virtuous behavior. And how do these things they pursue come about? They come entirely from and are driven by corrupt dispositions. So, no matter what, whether someone lives out the virtue of being ‘strict with yourself and tolerant of others,’ and whether they do so to perfection, cannot change the essence of their humanity. By implication, this means that it cannot in any way change their outlook or values, or guide their attitudes and perspectives on all manner of people, events, and things. Isn’t that the case? (It is.) The more that someone is capable of being strict with themselves and tolerant of others, the better they are at putting on an act, at beguiling others with good behavior and pleasing words, and the more deceitful and evil they are. The more that they are this type of person, the deeper their love and pursuit of status and power. However impressive their show of virtue, and however pleasing it is to behold, the unspoken pursuit in the depths of their heart, their nature and essence, and even their ambitions may burst forth at any time. Therefore, however virtuous their behavior, it cannot conceal their intrinsic humanity, or their ambitions and desires. It cannot conceal their hideous nature and essence which do not love the positive and are sick of and despise the truth. As these facts show, the saying ‘Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others’ is more than just absurd—it shows up those ambitious types who use such sayings and behaviors to cover up the ambitions and desires of which they cannot speak” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (6)). I saw from what’s revealed in God’s words that being “strict with yourself and tolerant of others” looks like it’s being understanding and magnanimous with others, that it’s being broad-minded and noble, but deep inside, an unspeakable, dark, evil motive lurks. It’s flaunting yourself through superficially good behavior, just to gain admiration, and have a higher status and reputation among others. That kind of person seems commendable from the outside, but in fact, they’re a hypocrite, pretending to be a good person. I thought about how I’d acted and what I’d exposed with Connor. No matter how sloppy and irresponsible he was in work, I not only didn’t point it out and fellowship or deal with him, but kept being understanding and accommodating. No matter how busy I was, how little time I had, I’d go do whatever Connor hadn’t done. Even if it was difficult or tiring, I’d push through. In fact, doing that wasn’t me being magnanimous. I had ulterior motives. I was afraid of wounding his pride and offending him if I pointed it out directly, and then what would he think of me? I wanted to establish my place and leave the others with a good impression. I wasn’t perfectly willing—I just forced myself to do it every time, to show everyone how generous I was, to gain their admiration. As a result I became more and more slippery and cunning. I seemed like an understanding person, but my own wrong motives were behind that. I was giving people a false impression, deceiving them, fooling them. How is that normal humanity? At that point, I gained some discernment of the essence of being “strict with yourself and tolerant of others.” I felt that the despicable motives hidden in my heart were nauseating. I was also really grateful to God. Without Him exposing the reality of that part of traditional culture, I’d have remained ignorant, thinking that being “strict with yourself and tolerant of others” was being someone with good humanity. I finally realized this is a fallacy Satan uses to mislead and corrupt people. It’s not the truth at all, or a standard to use for evaluating a person’s humanity. Later, I read another passage of God’s words. “No matter how standardized humanity’s requirements and maxims on moral character are, or how much they suit the tastes, outlooks, wishes, and even interests of the masses, they are not the truth. This is something you must understand. Because they are not the truth, you should make haste to deny and abandon them. You must also dissect their essence, as well as the results that come from living by them. Can they bring about real repentance in you? Can they really help you to know yourself? Can they really make you live out human likeness? They can do none of these things. They will only make you hypocritical and self-righteous. They will make you more slippery and evil. There are some who say, ‘In the past, when we upheld these parts of traditional culture, we felt like good people. When other people saw how we behaved, they thought we were good people, too. But actually, we know in our hearts what sort of evil we are capable of. Doing a few good deeds only disguises it. But if we were to abandon the good behavior that traditional culture demands of us, what would we do instead? What behavior and actions will bring honor to God?’ What do you think of this question? Do they still not know what truth believers in God should practice? God has spoken so many truths, and there are so many that people should be practicing. So why do you refuse to practice the truth, and insist on being a false do-gooder and a hypocrite? Why are you pretending? … In short, the point of bringing up these moral maxims is not just to let you know that they are the notions and imaginings of people, and that they come from Satan. It is to make you understand that the essence of these things is false, disguised, and deceptive. Even if people behave well, it does not in any way mean that they are living out normal humanity. Rather, they are using false behavior to cover up their intentions and goals, and to disguise their corrupt dispositions, natures, and essences. As a result, humanity is getting better and better at pretending and tricking others, making them even more corrupt and evil. The moral standards of traditional culture that corrupt humanity uphold are not at all compatible with the truth spoken by God, nor are they consistent with anything God teaches people. The two have no connection whatsoever. If you are still upholding traditional culture, then you have been thoroughly misled and poisoned. If there is any matter in which you uphold traditional culture and observe the principles and views of it, then you are violating the truth, rebelling against and running counter to God in that matter. If you uphold and are loyal to any of these moral maxims, treat them as a criterion or a point of reference from which to view people or circumstances, then you have erred. If you judge or harm people to a certain degree with them, you have committed a sin. If you always cling to measuring everyone by the moral standards of traditional culture, then the number of people that you’ve condemned and wronged will keep multiplying and you will certainly condemn and resist God. Then you will be an arch-sinner” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth. What It Is to Pursue the Truth (5)). Pondering God’s words brought me some more clarity. When we notice someone being perfunctory, cunning, or irresponsible in work, we should point it out to them or prune and deal with them so they can see the nature and consequences of being careless, and turn it around in time. That’s what someone with good humanity should do. But to preserve my image and status, I was lenient and tolerant, and kept quiet about problems I saw. As a result, Connor wasn’t aware of his corrupt disposition and he continued being careless and irresponsible in his duty. That’s damaging for people’s life entry—that’s a transgression. I wasn’t being remotely considerate or understanding of him, but I was hurting him. I saw I wasn’t a truly good person at all. Not only was I hurting brothers and sisters, but I was delaying and impacting the church’s work. I personally experienced “Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others” isn’t the truth, that those aren’t good words to live by, but a fallacy that Satan uses to mislead and corrupt people. I couldn’t keep letting Satan toy with me—I should do what God requires, using God’s words as my basis and the truth as my standard for seeing and doing things. After that, when I noticed issues with Connor, I didn’t indulge him anymore. I pointed them out so he could see them and change.
Before long, I was given responsibility for another project. While checking up on it, I noticed a brother wasn’t serious in his duty and was sloppy in everything he did. I wanted to just handle things and be done with it, to avoid pointing it out and embarrassing him. Then it occurred to me that I was having these thoughts to protect my own interests, to establish a good image with others. I didn’t want to point out his issue, afraid to offend him. That’s a despicable motive! I remembered something God says: “At the same time as performing your duty properly, you must also ensure that you do nothing that does not benefit the life entry of God’s chosen ones, and say nothing that is unhelpful to the brothers and sisters. At the very least, you must do nothing that goes against your conscience and must absolutely not do anything shameful. That which rebels against or resists God, in particular, you absolutely must not do, and you must not do anything that disturbs the work or life of the church. Be just and honorable in everything you do and ensure that your every action is presentable before God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. How Is Your Relationship With God?). God’s words showed me the principle to act upon. Whatever I do, it has to benefit brothers’ and sisters’ life entry and be edifying. I also have to accept God’s scrutiny completely openly. When I saw that brother being slipshod in his duty, I should point it out so he could see his problem and quickly change. That was beneficial for his life entry and for the church’s work. If I didn’t say anything, but just quietly helped him do things, he couldn’t see his issues and he wouldn’t progress in his duty. At this thought, I spoke up about the problems I saw in his work. He wanted to change after he heard me out. I felt really at ease and at peace after I put that into practice and we got better results in our duty than before. Thank Almighty God!
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