While at middle school, I once read “The Necklace,” a short story written by Maupassant, the plot of which remains fresh in my memory. Mathilde, the heroine of the story, is vain and looks forward to living the high life. One time, she and her husband are invited to a great dance. In order to make people look up to her, Mathilde borrows a pretty necklace from her friend. As expected, she looks radiant and cuts a wide swath at the party. After the party, when her vanity is greatly satisfied, she suddenly finds that she lost her friend’s necklace. For that reason, Mathilde and her husband have to raise money everywhere to buy a diamond necklace which is the same as her friend’s and return it back. After that, the poor couple toil away ten whole years to pay the debt.
Mathilde, just for her vanity, wastes her best times and energy, spending ten years repaying the debt. This is really thought-provoking! Then what about us? Aren’t we, who also seek to live with dignity and satisfy our vanity, the “Mathilde” in real life?
When we see our relatives, friends and classmates one by one buy houses and cars in the city, and enjoy others’ admiration everywhere, though we don’t have enough money, we, for the sake of our face, even borrow money or take out a mortgage to buy houses and cars. Though gaining dignity for a short time, we become mortgage slaves, and have to spend a decade or even several decades paying for vanity. It is true that gentility without ability is worse than plain beggary.
Some people, in order to have a beautiful face and a slim figure as a star, spare no expense to have cosmetic surgeries and trim the fat. For those who have successful surgeries, the beauty they obtain would only remain for a few years while the suffering caused by the after-effects could bother them forever; as for the others whose surgeries are failures, they could live the rest of their lives in regret or, even worse, lose their lives.
Is being looked up to and admired by others worthwhile for us to spend half a lifetime repaying a debt and even sacrifice our lives? This problem perplexes us, but no one can rid himself of it; we still can’t help but charge forward on the wrong path. What on earth makes us live in such pain?
Later, I see these words from God: “If people keep having such ambitions, always wanting to turn themselves extraordinary and superior, different from others, and special, then that is a problem! First of all, the source of your thinking is wrong. ‘Extraordinary and superior’—what kind of thinking is this? ‘Stand head and shoulders above the rest,’ ‘defy all comparison,’ ‘flawless and impeccable,’ ‘fine beyond compare,’ ‘forging a unique path’—when used in people’s pursuits, are these phrases good or bad? (Bad.) ‘Outstanding,’ ‘excellent,’ ‘special talent,’ ‘powerful presence,’ ‘charming personality,’ ‘irresistible,’ ‘celebrated and great,’ ‘idolized’—are such words any good? Are these goals that people should be pursuing? (No.) Then what are they? (Satan’s path; they represent the pursuit of becoming the archangel.)” (“The Five Conditions People Have Before They Enter the Right Track of Believing in God”). This passage has clearly exposed the root of our pursuing for the satisfaction of vanity. Influenced by Satan’s viewpoints like “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,” we regard face and status as the most important things, so that we wholeheartedly seek to be a perfect and great person who wins the honor of others. When we see others lead a respectable life with a house and car, we, afraid of being looked down upon and laughed at, try all kinds of ways to disguise ourselves as a person of position and wealth while swallowing the pain in secret; when we see some people, young and beautiful, can be the center of attention wherever they go, we, for the purpose of being irresistible and surrounded by others as well, choose to have cosmetic surgeries at our own risk, regardless of the debt we may bear and the harm our body would suffer. Not only Mathilde, the heroine of the story, but each and every one of us in real life is pursuing superficial reputation and status; however, behind the temporary dignity and glamour is untold heartbreak and suffering; what we get in the end is nothing but emptiness.
Life is short and time is fleeting; rather than pursuing the glamour that can’t be seen or touched, we should submit to God’s sovereignty, accept His arrangement for our fate and appearance, and be an ordinary person, walking one step at a time to realize the true value of life. Just as God says: “Wherever one is, whatever one’s job is, one’s means of living and the pursuit of one’s goals bring one nothing but endless heartbreak and irrelievable suffering, such that one cannot bear to look back. Only when one accepts the Creator’s sovereignty, submits to His orchestrations and arrangements, and seeks true human life, will one gradually break free from all heartbreak and suffering, shake off all the emptiness of life” (“God Himself, the Unique III”).