Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4


Chapter 12—Self-Exaltation

Dear Brother N,

In my last vision your case was presented before me. I was shown that there are defects in your Christian character that must be overcome before you can perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. You love the truth, but you need to be sanctified by it. You are not selfish nor niggardly in hospitality or in sustaining the cause of truth; but there is one kind of selfishness which exists in your heart. You are wedded to your own opinion and extol your own judgment above that of others. You are in danger of exalting yourself above your brethren. You are exacting and are inclined to carry out your own ideas, independent of your brethren, because you consider your intelligence and experience superior to theirs. In this you fail to carry out the apostle's injunction: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” You have your notions, your purposes, and your plans, and you imagine they can never be incorrect. 4T 125.3

In your household you have always taken too much of the management upon yourself. When your opinions or plans have been crossed, instead of conceding to, or compromising with, those who opposed you, considering that they as well as yourself had a right to their independent judgment, you have felt vexed and hurt. You could not endure that your family should call your plans in question or offer suggestions differing from your opinions. In consequence of this unpleasant state of affairs your family have usually submitted their wishes to yours, and allowed you to have your own way, in order to preserve harmony at home. Therefore there has been in your family much long-suffering, much patient indulgence of your whims. This appears to you only a proper observance of your legitimate authority; you consider it sound and correct management on your part. 4T 126.1

Whenever your determination to carry out your own judgment at all hazards has driven your friends to the opposite extreme and to feel contempt for your arbitrary spirit, you have felt and intimated that all such opposition was instigated by the temptations of the enemy. This has made you more persistent in carrying out your own ideas, regardless of the wishes of others. 4T 126.2

You are in danger of having trouble because you are unwilling to grant liberty of judgment and opinion to those connected with you. It is well for you to remember that their ways and their opinions may be as dear to them as yours are to you. We are very apt to lose sight of this fact when we censure others for not agreeing with us. You govern the members of your family too rigidly. You are very punctilious in giving them line upon line and precept upon precept; and if they venture to differ with you, it only renders you more determined to act according to your own mind, and to show that you are master in your own house, and that you are not to be interfered with. 4T 126.3

You seem to consider that it is enough for you to say that a thing must be done in order to have it done in the very manner you indicate. In this arbitrary way you often place your mind and judgment between your family and their own good sense of what is right and proper under the circumstances. You have made a sad mistake in breaking down the will and judgment of your wife, and requiring her to unquestionably yield to your superior wisdom or bring discord into the home. 4T 127.1

You should not seek to rule the actions of your wife, or treat her as a servile dependent. Never lift yourself above her, and excuse yourself by thinking: “She is inexperienced and inferior to me.” Never seek to unreasonably bend her will to yours, for she has an individuality that can never be merged in yours. I have seen many families shipwrecked through overmanagement on the part of their head, whereas through consultation and agreement all might have moved off harmoniously and well. 4T 127.2

My brother, you are self-conceited. You go out of your proper province in order to exercise your authority. You imagine that you understand the best way of doing the work in your kitchen. You have your own peculiar ideas of how everything should be done in the working department, and you expect all to adapt themselves like machinery to these ideas and observe the particular order that pleases you. 4T 127.3

These efforts to bring your friends into a position where they will meekly yield every wish and inclination to your will are vain and futile. All minds are not molded alike, and it is well that it is so, for if they were exactly similar, there would be less harmony and natural adaptability to each other than now. But we are all represented as being members of the body, united in Christ. In this body there are various members, and one member cannot perform exactly the same office as another. The eyes are made for seeing, and in no case can they perform the work of the ears, which is that of hearing; neither can the ears take the place of the mouth, nor the mouth perform the office of the nose. Yet all these organs are necessary to the perfect whole and work in beautiful harmony with one another. The hands have their office, and the feet theirs. One is not to say to the other, “You are inferior to me;” the hands are not to say to the feet, “We have no need of you;” but all are united to the body to do their specific work and should be alike respected, as they conduce to the comfort and usefulness of the perfect whole. 4T 127.4

We cannot all have the same minds nor cherish the same ideas; but one is to be a benefit and blessing to the other, that where one lacks, another may supply what is requisite. You have certain deficiencies of character and natural biases that render it profitable for you to be brought in contact with a mind differently organized, in order to properly balance your own. Instead of superintending so exclusively, you should consult with your wife and arrive at joint decisions. You do not encourage independent effort on the part of your family; but if your specific directions are not scrupulously carried out, you too frequently find fault with the delinquents. 4T 128.1

Were your wife and other members of your family without tact or skill, you would be more excusable in taking the reins so entirely into your own hands; but this not being the case, your course is altogether unwarrantable. After you have kindly informed them concerning your views of cooking and the management of household matters, and intimated what your desires are in this respect, go no further, but let them use your suggestions as they choose. They will be much more likely to be pleasantly influenced to please you than if you resorted to peremptory measures. And even if they do not adapt themselves to your opinions, do not persist in ruling, in having everything done in your own way. You must remember that the natural independence of others should be respected. If your wife does her work in a way convenient to herself, you have no right to interfere with her affairs and fret and burden her with your many suggestions and reflections upon her management. 4T 128.2

You have many good and generous traits of character. You are a courteous, affable man, in general, to those outside your own family. Perhaps this is attributable, in some measure, to the fact that you dare not exhibit your natural disposition to any except those whom you consider greatly your inferiors. If your superiority is not sufficiently recognized in society, you are determined that it shall be at home, where you think that none will presume to dispute its claims. 4T 129.1

You should go diligently about effecting a change in yourself. If you are willing to sacrifice your selfishness, your exacting disposition, your pet notions and ideas, you can have a peaceful, happy home upon which angels will delight to look. Is it sweeter to have your will than to see a proper freedom of action and spirit in your household? Your home is not always just what it should be, but you are the principal cause of its discord. If you stand as a representative of Christ upon the earth, do not, I beseech you, misrepresent your blessed Redeemer, who was meek and kind, gentle and forgiving. 4T 129.2

It is a fact well worth your consideration that it is a difficult thing for people who have sound minds and ideas of their own, to work precisely in the groove that another may lay out for them. Therefore you have no moral right to embarrass your wife and family with your whims and petulant notions concerning their employment. It will be hard for you to at once change your mode of operation, but make a firm determination that you will not enter your kitchen unless it be to encourage the efforts and praise the management of those who are laboring there. Let commendation take the place of censure. 4T 129.3

Cultivate traits of character the opposite of those which are here reproved. Seek to develop goodness, patience, love, and all the graces which will have a transforming influence in your home and will brighten the lives of your family and your friends. Confess that you have done wrong, and then turn squarely about and strive to be just and right. Do not endeavor to make your wife a slave to your will, but by kindness and an unselfish desire to promote her comfort and happiness draw her into close sympathy with yourself. Give her an opportunity to exercise her faculties, and do not try to warp her mind and mold her judgment till she loses her mental identity. 4T 130.1

She is a child of God and a woman of fine capabilities and good taste, one who has a humble opinion of herself at best. And you have so long dictated to her and discouraged her independent thought that it has had an influence to make her shut herself within herself and fail to develop the noble womanhood that is hers by right. While consulting with your wife upon matters that affect her interests equally with your own, you well know that if she expresses an opinion contrary to yours, a feeling of injury rises in your heart, and self takes possession of you and excludes that feeling of deference that you should naturally cherish toward the companion of your life. 4T 130.2

The very same spirit that you exercise at home will be manifested more or less in your church relationship. Your determined will, your rigid opinions, will be urged and made a ruling power as far as possible. This will never do; you must feel the necessity of occasionally yielding your judgment to that of others, and not persist in your way to a degree that often approaches stubbornness. If you wish for the daily blessing of God you should modulate your imperious disposition and make it correspond to the divine Pattern. 4T 130.3

You frequently grieve your wife unconsciously to yourself because you do not guard your words and acts with that tenderness that you should. You thus lessen her love for you and foster a coldness that is creeping into your home unawares. 4T 130.4

If you will think less of yourself and more of the treasures in your household, giving due consideration to the members of your family and allowing them a proper exercise of their individual judgment, you will bring a blessing upon yourself and them, and will increase the respect they feel for you. 4T 131.1

You have been inclined to look with a sort of contempt upon your brethren who were faulty, and who, because of their natural temperament, found it hard to overcome the evils that beset them. But Jesus pities them; He loves them and bears with their infirmities even as He does with yours. You do wrong to exalt yourself above those who are not so strong as you are. You do wrong to shut yourself up in a self-righteous spirit, thanking God that you are not like other men, but, that your faith and zeal exceed those of the poor, feeble ones striving to do right under discouragements and darkness. 4T 131.2

Angels from a pure and holy heaven come to this polluted world to sympathize with the weakest, the most helpless and needy, while Christ Himself descended from His throne to help just such as these. You have no right to hold yourself aloof from these faltering ones, nor to assert your marked superiority over them. Come more in unison with Christ, pity the erring, lift up the hands that hang down, strengthen the feeble knees, and bid the fearful hearts be strong. Pity and help them, even as Christ has pitied you. 4T 131.3

You have desired to do a work for the Master. Here is work for you to do that will be acceptable to Him—the very work that angels are engaged in carrying forward. You may be a colaborer with them. But you will never be called to preach the word to the people. You may have in general a correct knowledge of our faith, but you lack the qualifications of a teacher. You have not the faculty of adapting yourself to the needs and ways of others. You have not sufficient volume of voice. Even in conference meetings you speak too low to be heard by those assembled. You are also, my dear brother, frequently in danger of being tedious. Even in small meetings, your remarks are too lengthy. Every word of what you say may be true, but in order to find its way to the soul it should be accompanied with a fervor of spiritual power. What we say should be right to the point and not of sufficient length to weary the listeners, else the subject matter will find no lodgment in their hearts. 4T 131.4

There is plenty of work for all to do. You, my dear brother, can with all safety do good service for the Lord in helping those who most need aid. You may feel that your work in this direction is not rightly appreciated; but remember that our Savior's work was also lightly considered by those whom He benefited. He came to save those who were lost, but the very ones whom He sought to rescue refused His help and finally put Him to death. 4T 132.1

If you fail ninety-nine times in a hundred, but succeed in saving the one soul from ruin, you have done a noble deed for the Master's cause. But to be a co-worker with Jesus, you should have all patience with those for whom you labor, not scorning the simplicity of the work, but looking to the blessed result. When those for whom you labor do not exactly meet your mind, you often say in your heart: “Let them go; they are not worth saving.” What if Christ had treated poor outcasts in a similar manner? He died to save miserable sinners, and if you work in the same spirit and in the same manner indicated by the example of Him whom you follow, leaving the results with God, you can never in this life measure the amount of good you have accomplished. 4T 132.2

You are inclined to reach for higher work than that which naturally presents itself to you. You would seek to influence only the intellectual and honorable among men. But this class will surely disappoint your expectations. If they continue long in transgression, they seldom fully feel their lost and hopeless condition. You should work, as did Christ, in all humility, and you will not lose your reward. It is as honorable to work among the humble and lowly, leading them to the Saviour, as among the rich and great. Above all, do not undertake responsibilities that you are unable to carry. 4T 132.3

Everything possible should be done to make the meetings of our people interesting. You may be a great help in this if you take the proper course. Especially should our social meetings be properly conducted. A few pointed words in relation to your progress in the divine life, spoken in a clear, audible voice, in an earnest manner, without any effort of speech, would be edifying to others and a blessing to your own soul. 4T 132.4

You need the softening, subduing influence of the Spirit of God upon your heart. No one should receive the idea that a correct knowledge of the truth alone will meet the demands of God. A love and good will that exists only when our ways are acknowledged by our friends as right, is of no real value, for this is natural to the unregenerate heart. Those who profess to be children of God and walking in the light should not feel annoyed or angered when their track is crossed. 4T 133.1

You love the truth and are anxious for its advancement. You will be placed in various circumstances in order to try and prove you. You may develop a true Christian character if you will submit yourself to discipline. Your vital interests are at stake. What you most need is true holiness and a spirit of self-sacrifice. We may obtain a knowledge of the truth and read its most hidden mysteries, and even give our bodies to be burned for its sake; yet if we have not love and charity, we are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. 4T 133.2

Cultivate a disposition to esteem others better than yourself. Be less self-sufficient, less confident; cherish patience, forbearance, and brotherly love. Be ready to help the erring, and have pity and tender sympathy toward those who are weak. You need not leave your business in order to glorify the Lord; but you may, from day to day, in every deed and word, while pursuing your usual avocations, honor Him whom you serve, thereby influencing for the right those with whom you are brought in contact. 4T 133.3

Be courteous, tenderhearted, forgiving toward others. Let self sink in the love of Jesus, that you may honor your Redeemer and do the work that He has appointed for you to do. How little you know of the heart trials of poor souls who have been bound in the chains of darkness and who lack resolution and moral power. Strive to understand the weakness of others. Help the needy, crucify self, and let Jesus take possession of your soul, in order that you may carry out the principles of truth in your daily life. Then will you be, as never before, a blessing to the church and to all those with whom you come in contact. 4T 133.4