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The Elephant in the Room

by Holly Swafford


If there is one thing that characterizes an elephant, it is its majestic strength. In fact, elephants are the number one strongest land animal in the world. However, just a couple of weeks ago in my Education Psychology class, I learned something about these marvelously powerful animals that I haven’t stopped thinking about.


Sis. Barnes, the professor, showed a video about the theory of learned helplessness. This concept applies to humans, but the video demonstrated it with elephants. This psychological process is used by circus trainers to control an elephant’s great strength.


When an elephant is still young and helpless, they begin training by tying the baby elephant to a tree with a rope. The little elephant can pull as hard as he wants on the rope, but he is unable to break it. As the elephant consistently fails to escape the rope, he eventually stops trying. One day when the elephant has attained mature strength, the trainers will still be able to tie him to the tree with the rope because he doesn’t know that he is strong. He still feels unable to break the rope, although it would only require a simple tug on his part now.


We can be a lot like these elephants at times. We try and try to overcome a temptation or endure a hardship until we are all worn out from failing. We feel unable to break the “rope” that is hindering us.


Ropes can be many things. Insecurity can be a perilous rope. You may not think that you

are good enough or pretty enough to be accepted by your peers, and so you isolate yourself and criticize yourself until you come to the point that you can’t recognize the unique gifts that God has given you. This becomes a chain that keeps you from being what God created you to be. God made you the way that you are for a reason, and He did not set you up to fail. Just like God has given the elephant its amazing strength, He can give you strength as well.


You may not live up to the expectations you have for yourself or that others have for you, but that is not Who matters anyway. Start trying to live up to the expectations God has planned for you, and His strength will make up for where you are weak. Pray that He will give you the strength to overcome self-doubts, temptations, addictions, relationships, or whatever your “rope” might be. God’s strength will not allow you to fail.


I can’t portray the sweetness of God’s strength any better than the lyrics of this old

chorus does:


His strength is perfect when our strength is gone

He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on

Raised in His power, the weak become strong

His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect


Being able to depend on God’s perfect strength, makes all the difference in the world when you feel too weak to go on. No matter how many times you may fail, keep trying! Learn to lean on His strength instead of lingering in helplessness.


If I could reemphasize a verse I quoted in my last post: “It is God that girdeth me with

strength...so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms” (Psalm 18:32, 34). You may believe

that you are weak and helpless, but the omnipotent God can empower you with a strength that can break, not just a rope, but steel!

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