How Unlearning the Past is like Untying a 6-Ton Elephant

God gives 3 steps to freedom from the lies that hold you back.

We’ve all heart it. When we’re young and impressionable, some unthinking, insensitive person says it to us. Maybe it’s a parent or a teacher. Or someone of the opposite sex. Or a preacher.

The secret to untying your 10-ton elephant.

(Photo by SuperJew. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.)

They tell us things like:

  •  “You’re stupid! You’ll never amount to anything.”
  •  “Your nose is ugly.”
  • “You are going to hell for that!”
  • “You’re not very good at what you do.”

Ever heard words like that? I sure have.

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?

You can untie your elephant.

(Photo by William Scott, via Wikimedia Commons.)

3 Steps to Untying Your Elephant

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.

Go ahead, pull on those stakes.

(Photo by John Walker (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons.)

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.)

Immerse your mind in the truth of the verses quoted above, and with the strength that God provides, start tugging at some of your stakes.

There’s no need to work for peanuts in an Arizona circus.

Question: What lies were you told in the past that staked you down? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • ptl2010

    Feedback from ChristianBlessings


    remso says:September 11, 2012 at 6:21 amIn a moment of depression recently I said, “I have failed at everything in life.” I know that is not true, but unlike many of the pastors I have had I do not have 1500 dollar suits; I do not even have a suit at this point. But I am keenly aware, that under pressure, I have collapsed and failed when I did not want to; at least I do not think I wanted to.
    I do know that God is bigger than all that junk and in truth I do not believe it matters. I have a love and relationship with Him that is far deeper than most anyone I have met, and I am stunned for there is no secret, I spend time in his word and I become entwined in his embrace. It is an embrace that I fought at first, but now I cannot live without. He loved through the worst of times and I will spend eternity with him.
    No, nothing else on this earth really matters.
    The answer to your question is: I do not know what it is that has defeated so many times, but I know that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, I will be changed, and healed, and be what I know I was made to be, the son of the King.meetingintheclouds says:September 11, 2012 at 12:12 pmEvery day, usually several times a day, for about 11 years (11-22 years old) I was told that I was an ugly freak; totally evil; that no one would ever want me, so I might as well do the world a favour and kill myself.
    I didn’t believe it was a lie. It was true. I was evil. I was ugly. No one had ever loved me and no one ever would. I considered killing myself. I had a huge pylon picked out that I considered driving into at full speed. I copuld do it when no other traffic was around, so no one else would be hurt – but what if I didn’t die and became a cripple? That would be even worse!At 22 years old, 8th June 1958, after a week of being haunted by words I had heard and didn’t understand – “Christ died for your sins / your personal Saviour” – God stepped into my life, showed me the Lord Jesus paying the penalty for MY sin, gave me understanding and faith to believe, and my life changed completely. I was a different person.However, that mental abuse received for so many years, still affected me. It was part of my make-up. It was me. I knew I was a much loved, blood-bought child of the living, perfect God, adopted into His own family. I knew His presence and His leading and His power in my life, but I still had problems of self-worth. I still found it extremely hard to meet people or to talk with people.But – praise God – in time those chains were broken. They still rattle at times, but my God is an amazing God who delights to undertake for His children and give us the victory.What an amazing God!

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  • Pastor Dave, Galveston, Tx

    Wayne, many thanks for your great word pictures of our struggles in life and you intimate view of the solutions that a loving God has through the Lord Jesus. Please make 2013, a year of continuing the sharing such awesome truths… Pastor Dave

    • Thank you, Pastor Dave. My heart and goal is to continue the blog ministry. I appreciate your support and encouragement. May the Lord RICHLY bless your ministry in Galveston.

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  • Well I was told my nose was ugly so i had it operated. I was told I was dumb. I was told I was fat. i was told I would never be more than a secretary. i was told I was insecure and had a complex. I was told I could never learn how to cook..that’s just the beginning…..

    • You’re not alone, Cindy, in having heard those cruel words. So often, the words reflect much more on the person saying them than they do on us. I hope you’ll take to heart what I’ve written in this post and pull up those stakes! God bless you as you press on in the truth.

  • Jeanelle Sims

    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).

    Through the strength of Jesus I have come to understand that my old nature has been nailed to the cross with its lies, it does not mean that I do not have to remind my self of that truth every day. Shadows are not the real thing.

    • That’s exactly right, Jeanelle. So often and our lives, ee have wasted years running from shadows.

  • Michelle thick

    I think im going through something right now i mean i have to pull a steak. For the past 2 weeks i have quit reading the bible and have been down. My thoughts have been crazy. Iv still communicated with God and i feel his presence. But i dont understand why im here. I have struugled with this all my life
    Thanks for this read i feel i needed to read this because im struggling with a steak from my past. My childhood was rough. Thanks for bringing me back to reality and Reading Gods word. I will ask God to help me know and understand why i get to this place often.
    God bless

    • You’re welcome, Michelle. Just this morning I was reading in Deuteronomy 17 about how the king was to spend his whole life reading the Scriptures in order that his heart would not be turned away. The same principle is true of us! We must stay in the word in order to stay close to the Lord. We will never have one without the other.

      • Michelle thick

        Thanks and i wrote that quote down so i wont turn away again.and have that read when my steaks start weighing me down. Read this carefully: quote. Very powerful.

    • Jeanelle Sims

      Michelle, I have prayed for you today. I have found when I have prayed and ask The Lord to reveal Himself to me in His word, He is most happy to do it. More than anything He wants us to know Him personally. He is our anchor to hold us steady in the storm of those lies that the enemy uses to bring us down. Those lies have been nailed to the cross!!!!

      • Michelle thick

        Thank you so much. God is always there to pic us up. I will stay in his word.
        God bless


    this is great topic Wayne,unbelievably match my current situation,i don’t have a mindset like what i was in the past,all the bad things,rejection and comparisons, that my relatives and even my own parent used to throw at me in the past don’t have any effect to me anymore right now,but there is a problem though,i meditate for the truth but i’m not yet be able to enjoy the future,because i have to fight my desire to take the matter on my own hand regarding punishing those who used to hurt me in the past,that’s tough Wayne,because i’m still wondering how could they who are my own family and relatives did that to me,yes i’m still struggle to forgive them in the deep of my heart Wayne,anyway this a good subject for almost everyone because unfortunately it happened often in the past and is still happening worldwide in this last day,God bless you Wayne.

    • I understand that struggle. In the Old Testament, Joseph also suffered betrayal and disappointment from his family. But he was able to forgive them because of his perspective of God’s sovereignty. I think we can do the same (Gen. 50:20).

  • Jocelyn Collins

    I was told I want saved if I didn’t speak in tongues.

    • How tragic, Jocelyn, that you heard those words—which are patently false. The Apostle Paul said it himself: “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they?” (1 Corinthians 12:29–30).

      Those who claim that tongues are a necessary sign of salvation are putting a burden on others the Bible never does.