These words embed in our brains like a stake in the ground. Loosening that stake is like trying to untie a 6-ton elephant.
But God can help you. In fact, He already has. Here’s how.
Your Brain is Like a Baby Elephant
Here’s a great example. A man in an Arizona circus used to train animals for the movies. Somebody asked him: “Hey, how do you tie down that 6-ton elephant with the same sized stake you use for a baby elephant?”
“That’s easy,” the trainer answered.
“When they’re babies, we stake them down. They pull and tug thousands of times until they figure out they can’t jerk loose. At that point, the elephant’s great memory kicks in, and they remember for the rest of their lives they can’t pull away. So they quit trying.”
I’ve discovered that you and I think a lot like elephants. Especially when it comes to the past and habitual thinking.
How We Get Staked to a Lie
After we hear those hurtful words from someone we admire, it happens.
WHAM! We drive a mental stake into our minds that, like elephants, we carry with us even when we become adults. We never forget it. We never question it. We simply come to believe it.
Even as adults, the words change, but now they’re our own words. And the effect is still the same:
“I’ll never break free from that addiction to alcohol.”
“The desire is so fierce, it has to be God’s will.”
“I cannot control my craving or have victory over sin.”
“I can’t do anything right.”
Got one or two of those stakes stuck in your brain?
An elephant is literally chained to a past memory, but that doesn’t have to be true of you. I urge you to begin thinking more like a Christian and less like an elephant.
Here are a few steps that will help.
First, know the truth about your past. Before you believed in Jesus, when sin said: “Jump!” you jumped. It wasn’t just a matter of hearing lies from others and yourself. You had no choice, because sin was your master. Sure, you may have quit drinking, or smoking, or whatever—but you replaced one master for another. Smoking for unhealthy relationships, for example. But you were still staked down. No permanent victory over sin or compulsions. The same is true about anything unhealthy lie you believe about yourself.
Second, believe the truth about you now. Even after you believed in Jesus, sin still says: “Jump!” You tug against that stake and remember the past, so you stay tied. Not because you have to—but because you choose to. You don’t realize you now have a power through the Spirit of God to pull up that stake—to have victory over sin. Scripture says it like this:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. —Romans 6:12-14
Third, meditate on the truth and enjoy your future. The renewal of the mind is the secret to untying your elephant (Romans 8:5-6; 12:1-2). And honestly, sometimes it takes years. Don’t misunderstand that pulling up your stakes is as easy as three steps and a prayer. But victory over sin CAN happen with God’s power. You can have victory over sin, as well as over the effects of someone’s opinion of you.
Retraining Your Elephant Brain
Renewing the mind comes by reading and pondering Scripture, and by believing the truth that you are no longer a slave to sin nor to someone else’s judgment of you. You are free from sin’s power to make you sin. Regardless of what lies you hear.
I think that many of our stakes are those that (like the adult elephant) we could pull up if we’d try.
Read this carefully: We would see that through the strength of Jesus we’ve grown, we’re stronger, and the stake is nothing but the shadow of what once may have been true—but now is a lie from the devil—intended to hobble us from having victory over sin, from being effective for God, and from being fulfilled as a person. (Now read that again.)