Monkey See, Monkey Do

I read a book once that told a story about an experiment with chimpanzees.  The chimps were isolated in a room with a rope hanging from the ceiling. There were bananas at the top of the rope. Each time a chimp would climb the rope, the scientists sprayed it with a water hose. The chimp would frighten and jump down. After each chimp had been sprayed, the scientists began to replace one chimp with another that had not been sprayed.  When the new chimps saw the bananas, they started to climb, but the others immediately grabbed them and pulled them down, scolding them for even trying. The scientists replaced each chimp with a new chimp until the room was filled with chimps that had not been sprayed.  The new chimps were pulled down and scolded each time they had tried before, so they stopped trying for the bananas.  The experiment worked. The scientists were left with a room full of scared chimps.

We've all heard the cliche - you can do anything you put your mind to.  For the most part, that's true. No, I'm never going to be a professional basketball player, but then again, I've never had that dream. When people say that we can do anything we put our minds to, it's usually because they've done something very significant that was near impossible, and they want others to feel what they feel. When I hear someone say that, the cynic in me wants to yell, "That's not true!" But no one that has ever been in that position ever left room for cynicism in their life.  If you look at any great athlete or actor or doctor, they didn't get to where they are without honest confidence in what they are capable of. 

The problem with finding confidence is that we depend on others too heavily to give it to us.  And plenty of people are willing to limit you, mainly because they wouldn't have the confidence to attempt what you're trying to do. The sprayed chimps pull you down because they're afraid you'll be sprayed too, or worse, you'll reach the bananas.  We get these messages everyday.  It's not likely that someone is telling you everyday that you're a failure, but they don't have to.  People live out their lack of confidence in themselves and others.  And we absorb this line of thinking. 

If you don't tell yourself who you are and what you are capable of, others will.  They will set the standards for your behavior and limit your potential.  Yes, this sounds cliche, but it's true. For more on confidence, check out an earlier post - Is Confidence Biblical?


Anonymous said...

This is where humility and confidence in Christ (Phil.4:13) is the best position a Christian can take. :)

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