THE WAY TO KNOW MEN—
FROM THE SIDE OF THE PATIENT
In order to know the condition of a patient, we have to consider this matter from two sides: From the side of the patient and from our side.
From the side of the patient, how can we determine his sickness? If we want to know a person’s sickness, we have to find the most conspicuous and unusual point about him. The unusual point is the most obvious point. No matter how hard he tries to hide it, he cannot keep it out of sight. A proud person will be found in his pride. Even when he is acting humbly, his humility still exposes his pride. He cannot hide it. A sad person conveys his sadness even when he smiles. The kind of person a man is dictates the kind of expression he displays and the kind of impression he gives to others. This is a fact.
The Bible describes man’s spiritual condition in many ways. Some have a spirit of wrath; others have a spirit of stubbornness or a contrite spirit. In fact, we can use all kinds of words to describe man’s spiritual condition. We can say that a man has a frivolous spirit or a downtrodden spirit, etc. What is the source of all of these spiritual conditions? For example, when we say that the spirit is stubborn, where does this stubbornness come from? When we say that the spirit is proud, where does this pride come from? When we say that the spirit is wild, where does this wildness come from? A normal spirit has no characteristic of its own. It has no characteristic other than to manifest God’s Spirit. We speak of a stubborn spirit, a proud spirit, a haughty spirit, an unforgiving spirit, a jealous spirit, etc., because the outer man has not been separated from the inner man. The condition of the outer man is the condition of the inner man. When we say that a spirit is stubborn, we mean that the inner man of that person has assumed the characteristics of the stubborn outer man. When we say that a spirit is proud, we mean that the inner man of that person has been covered with the proud outer man. When we say that a spirit is jealous, we mean that the inner man of that person has been shrouded with the jealousy of the outer man. This occurs when the outer man and the inner man are not separated. The spirit itself has no characteristic of its own. The characteristics of the outer man have become the characteristics of the spirit. When the outer man is not broken, the spirit takes on the characteristics of the outer man.
The spirit is of God and does not have any characteristic of its own. But when our outer man is aberrant in nature, the spirit is affected. The spirit can be proud or stubborn because the condition of the outer man is mixed up with the spirit when the outer man is not broken. When the spirit is released, the condition of the outer man tags on to the spirit and is released together with the spirit. A proud person tags his pride on to his spirit and releases it together with his spirit. A stubborn person tags his stubbornness on to his spirit and releases it together with his spirit. A jealous person tags his jealousy on to his spirit and releases it together with his spirit. This is why, according to our experience, we have proud spirits, stubborn spirits, and jealous spirits. These are, strictly speaking, not characteristics of the spirit itself but characteristics of the outer man. Therefore, in order to have a clean spirit, a man does not have to deal with his spirit; he only needs to deal with his outer man. The trouble is not with the spirit but with the outer man. The characteristics a man displays when his spirit is released tell us the areas in which he is unbroken. The kind of spirit we touch in a person identifies the characteristics of his outer man. It also tells us the areas in which he has remained unbroken. He has passed these things on to his spirit, tagging them and pegging them to his spirit. As a result, his spirit is bound and shrouded with the many conditions of his outer man.
If we know how to touch others’ spirit, we will know a brother’s need because the secret to knowing man is to touch his spirit. We have to touch the very thing that is attached to a person’s spirit. I do not mean that the spirit itself has anything that we have to touch. I mean that the spirit always carries something with it. Knowing the condition of a man’s spirit means knowing the condition of his outer man. We have to repeat: This is the basic principle in knowing a person. The condition of a man’s spirit is the condition of his outer man. Whatever the spirit manifests is a reflection of the state of the outer man. The characteristics of the spirit are the characteristics of the outer man. A brother may be very strong and conspicuous in a certain point, which strikes our attention as soon as we come into contact with him. It is the first thing we touch and sense, and we immediately know that it is from his unbroken outer man. Once we touch his spirit, we know his condition, and we know the things he is trying to show as well as the things he is trying to hide. We know a person by knowing his spirit.
(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)