A Fable: The Elephant and The Rope

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it. ~ J.M. Barrie Click To Tweet

Many years ago, a young man who had always wanted to visit the circus was finally afforded the chance to do so. As he was passing by the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not.

Spotting a trainer, the young man approached him, asking why these magnificent mammoths just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They think the rope can still hold them, so they give up long before they reach maturity.”

The young circus-goer was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck, held right where they were, by one flimsy rope.