Ran lived in the mountain from childhood. When she was young, she didn’t know what distress was. She just laughed if happy, just cried if unhappy, and just sang loudly or danced at will. She didn’t need to care about others’ opinions nor packaged herself or pretended. What a pure and lively girl!
Since when has Ran changed? Maybe 6 or 7? Right, when she started to go to school, she began to know the differences between good students and poor students and know how it felt to be admired and be given the cold shoulder. In front of excellent grades, even parents would stop quarrelling. Hence she started to study hard and keep the knowledge in textbooks in her mind. Ran was very smart and her grades were very excellent. Gradually, those knowledge in textbooks and those specious statements “A tree lives with its bark; a man lives with his face” and “A wild goose leaves behind a voice; a man leaves behind a reputation” restrained her nature. Ran began to restrain herself from showing her individuality and previous purity. In order to gain teachers’ and parents’ praise, she wore her first mask—restricting the true revelation of her character.
In school, aiming to become more and more remarkable, Ran burned the midnight oil for excellent grades. Besides, she enthusiastically helped her classmates solve questions when being asked. But at the same time she also had some reservations because she feared that others would surpass her. She learned to be “steady” and to scheme. She successfully wore her second mask—the hidden deceitfulness in her depth.
At the age of 15, Ran finally went out of the mountain but she found that the world outside was full of more dangers. Each of her several dozen classmates wore respective masks and everyone was good at acting: How to act in front of teachers, how to treat good students and poor students, and how to perform before the Student Union … All one’s masks were changed freely when he facing different people. It can be said that everyone wanted to be slick. Ran was dumbfounded and also frightened. She discovered that her only several masks were far from enough to adapt to the new environment. She felt completely insecure in this unfamiliar city.
Ran felt that she was like an ugly duckling and didn’t know how to get along with people around her. She was absorbed in novels and attracted by the excellence of different characters. Hereafter, she tried her best to learn skills from all kinds of characters in novels and applied them in her life. She learned to analyze the preferences and demands of different people and then packaged herself according to their preferences. She regarded every event as an opera highlight and herself as the main character. For audience’s eyes, she didn’t allow herself to make any mistake. The perseverance, which was for not being ignored and not losing face, finally made her stand out. After several years of staggering and tottering, she gained more masks: the aloofness, the flamboyance, the weak appearance full of schemes, and the shrewdness as a career woman …
Ran changed her different masks in different situations with skill and ease: When gathering with her classmates, she was an innocent and even a little stupid student and others tended to stand close to her. When chatting with her colleagues, she was Jack of all trades and master of none and occasional small mistakes made her more acceptable. When contacting her clients, she became a tactful career woman and her decent smile made her gain a lot. Then the closeness of classmates, the colleagues’ admiration and envy, the clients’ praises, the leader’s favor, and the increasing social status followed, which greatly boosted her ego. She also learned to change her masks in one second, which was even much quicker than the face-swapping of Sichuan Opera.
In her twenties, Ran finally became an outstanding girl in the eyes of most people. But she was very, very tired … Nobody understood her fatigue when she being alone even if she was so successful. She wanted to cry but found there was no reason, so she didn’t have tears. She wanted to laugh freely but found it was too foolish and naive, and an elite shouldn’t do that. Looking at the mirror, for the first time Ran looked at herself carefully and found the person in the mirror so unfamiliar. The 45-angle smile, which she had practiced so many times, now she thought, was so hypocritical.
On the Dragon Boat Festival, looking at the innumerable people, Ran walked along the street aimlessly again after sending greeting messages full of usual formulas to her clients. Watching people on the street who were happy with the festival, she felt she was very empty in her heart. Her slight frown replaced her habitual smile to register a protest. She took out her cell phone and looked at the names in her telephone book from the first one to the last one. However she found that no one could be dialed. She smiled bitterly … Then a sudden thought struck her. She dialed her mother’s phone number. At that time, how she wished to go back to her mother. She couldn’t conceal her pain in her heart anymore. She cried …
The next day, Ran went home. Her mother found a passage of God’s words for her and then Ran read it slightly: “The Almighty has mercy on these people who suffer deeply. At the same time, He is fed up with these people who have no consciousness, because He has to wait too long for the answer from humans. He desires to seek, seek your heart and your spirit. He wants to bring you food and water and to awaken you, so you are no longer thirsty, no longer hungry. When you are weary and when you begin to feel the desolation of this world, do not be perplexed, do not cry. Almighty God, the Watcher, will embrace your arrival any time. He is watching by your side, waiting for you to turn back. He is waiting for the day your memory suddenly recovers: becoming conscious of the fact that you came from God, somehow and somewhere once lost, falling unconscious on the roadside, and then, unknowingly having a father. You further realize that the Almighty has been watching there, awaiting your return all along. He longs bitterly, waiting for a response without an answer. His watching is priceless and is for the heart and the spirit of humans. Perhaps this watching is indefinite, and perhaps this watching is at its end. But you should know exactly where your heart and spirit are now” (“The Sighing of the Almighty”).
God’s words were just like the call of a loving mother who was calling Her long-lost children. When Ran read these words, a warm current flowed into her heart. It was God’s love that wakened her heart out of years of sleep. It was God’s protection that made her remain purity in her deep heart.
Ran came before God to the call of God’s love. Gradually, from God’s words she knew what positive things and negative things were. She knew that God liked honest people and knew what pretense and falsehood were. Also, she found the root of her pretense from God’s words: “So Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts until all they can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision to both maintain and obtain fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds man with invisible shackles. These shackles are borne on people’s bodies, and they have not the strength nor courage to throw them off. So people trudge ever onward in great difficulty, unknowingly bearing these shackles. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind becomes estranged from God and betrays Him. With each passing generation, mankind becomes more and more wicked, more and more darkened, and so in this way one generation after another is destroyed in the fame and gain of Satan” (“God Himself, the Unique VI”).
Satan controls man’s thoughts using fame and gain. Using a very persuasive way, it tells us people that as long as we live, we should struggle for fame and gain. Someone who owns fame and gain can own everything and can be admired, looked up to and supported by others. This kind of person is the most noble and wealthy, and only such life can be valuable. In this way, fame and gain become invisible shackles, which Satan uses to bind and harm people. Everyone lives based on these satanic toxins. Nobody can see through Satan’s schemes so everyone is led by the nose by fame and gain and lives under the domain of Satan, fighting with each other. For fame and gain people all package themselves, which makes them ignore their own disadvantages and completely lose their true selves.
Ran was not an exception. For fame and gain she saw all masks as the true self. The situations of facing different people were just like different opera highlights. She had acted so many characters, and finally she completely lost herself. For face and other’s admiration, she saw “A tree lives with its bark; a man lives with his face” and “A wild goose leaves behind a voice and a man leaves behind a reputation” as her life principles. She restricted her nature thoroughly and pretended so that she became a model in parents’ and friends’ eyes. But in order to protect these masks, she never talked heart to heart with parents again and never expressed her true feelings inside her heart before others. Her aloofness made her much more attractive. But once these masks were destroyed, there would be several times more ridicule than the praise by then. Her weak appearance full of schemes sometimes gave her convenience in work and life but she always feared to be called a scheming woman. If that were the case, the group of friends which she made so hard would be adversely affected. For fame and gain, she lived in so much exhaustion and pain. Now she was unwilling to live like before. She wanted to live out her true self regardless of what others thought or said.
One day, Ran saw God’s words say: “To be honest, you must first lay your heart bare, so that everyone can see it, and all that you are thinking, and can see your true face; you must not pretend or package yourself. Only then will people trust you and consider you honest. This is the most fundamental practice of being honest, and it is a precondition. You are always pretending, always feigning holiness, virtuousness, greatness, and loftiness, and do not let people see your corruption and your failings. You present a false image to people, so that they believe you are upstanding, mighty, self-denying, impartial, and selfless. Don’t pretend, don’t package yourself; instead, lay yourself bare, lay your heart bare for others to see. If you can lay your heart bare for others to see, and lay bare all that you think and plan to do in your heart—regardless of whether it is positive or negative—then are you not being honest?” (“To Be Honest, You Should Lay Yourself Open to Others”).
Ran understood: If we package ourselves and pretend in order to gain others’ admiration, it will only make us more and more deceitful and painful. Only by being honest can we live in relaxation and release. When we want to package ourselves, we should put our images aside and ask others for help if we don’t understand something. If we make a mistake, we should face the fact bravely and admit our own mistakes. When others give suggestions, we should face our errors calmly and face squarely our own deficiencies. Ran knew that it was a little difficult for her to do these. But she believed that as long as she practiced being an honest person according to God’s words, with God’s guidance someday these painful masks would be torn off one by one and she would finally find the true self.