In Chinese culture, giving face (miànzi面子) is crucially important in a social setting. Either you are willingly or unwillingly “giving face” to others, it means that you show a certain degree of respect to another person, of his/her doings. “Giving face” is reciprocal. This time you “give face” to the one person, most likely that person will “give face” to you in return. However, sometimes “giving face” is quite demanding. When you do it unwillingly, you have inner struggle by showing respect on the surface and curse that person inside your heart.
The LDS Church focuses organizing a lot of activities to tie people together (FHE, ward activities, activities organized by the axillaries, such as Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Elder’s Quorum, Primary…etc.). Even though Church members have been counseled on focuses on the Gospel teaching instead of organizing numerous activities for the members and the community, activities are still a favorable choice for wards to connect its members.
Sometimes when an activity is promoted in the Church, we find these responses:
- Someone who is really interested in going and is perceived as a very active member in the Church;
- Someone who is not interested in going, but still going because he/she has been invited by their leaders. Sometime these people feel obligated to go in order to give face to the leaders and to themselves;
- Someone who is not interested in going and will not attend these activities. They are perceived as non-involving members and on the road to less active (Yes, it seems like you have to meet the culturally-made requirement to be active members by attending all Church services and Church activities, be hard-core!)
For some, it is crucial to “save face” so that people won’t think that they are being less active by not attending activities. For some, they “give face” to their leaders or their good friends who invited them to an activity that they are not interested in going. Sometimes, non-church related activities organized by members caused even more serious issues. I have once talked to a sister and she told me that she was asked to join an amateur class. She did not want to join but she was convinced by a member to join. I asked her why she did not refuse, she said because she did not know how and did not want to hurt that member. She even told me that several members who join that class felt the same way. I was speechless.
Can we be more liberal in regarding activities’ attendance? Members who organize activities should never force, or judge those who do not choose to attend. Members who decide not to attend an activity should never feel they should “give face” to the organizer or obligated to the members by attending an event that they are not interested in. Never use this as a way to show your faithfulness to the Gospel. I doubt if our faithfulness is judged according to the frequency of activities’ attendance.
Be true to yourself.