What do you have trouble believing?

Maybe you’ve heard people say, “I’m not an exercise person.” “I’m simply not good with money.” “I’ve never been creative.” “God knows, I’m not a leader.” “You know, I don’t really matter that much.”

Most of us are all too familiar with a little voice in our heads that whispers things like that about us. They’re called limiting beliefs. It’s a dark mental quirk, really. We can fall into a habit of thinking that is false and degrading, but we refuse to give it up.

There are a surprising number of PhD’s who don’t think they are very smart or parents of beloved, chronically ill children who say they aren’t very caring. Of course, these things are not true, but when we rehearse them over and over again in our minds, they become true for us. We start operating that way.


There was an experiment by a group of researchers studying the conditioning process. They placed a large pike and many minnows in an aquarium. Pike is a game fish that is normally found in fresh water, and it thrives on minnow dinners. Naturally, the pike gobbled up those little minnows in a heartbeat.

Scientists then put a pane of glass across the middle of the aquarium to separate the new minnows added on one side of the glass from the pike on the other side.

Instinctively, the pike would run up to the glass trying to get the minnows and violently hit his head, getting nowhere. He’d see the minnows, but he couldn’t get to them.

Sometime later, the scientists pulled out the glass. The pike swam freely all around the minnows, but he didn’t eat a single one. Why? He had been so conditioned by the glass and its limitations, he just assumed he couldn’t eat minnows anymore.

Eventually the pike died of starvation, even as minnows swam around him and bumped into his head and mouth. He had been conditioned to believe that he could no longer eat them.

Locate the Pane

What is the pane of glass across the middle of your mind that makes you believe you can’t do something?

Does it come from what someone told you a long time ago? Some painful event in your past? Some failing that keeps dogging your mind and undercutting your confidence? Scripture says,

“For as [one] thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)

It’s been said, “When we argue for our limitations, we get to keep them.” But I like how pastor Steven Furtick follows that up, “When we agree with God about our potential, we grow into it.”

What is the single greatest limiting belief in your life?

Once that is clear, ask yourself these questions:

  • Has this ever been true?
  • Is it true now?
  • What is holding me back from letting go of this false and degrading belief?

Let Go

When you’ve answered that last question, open your hands with your palms up, and say, “God, I’ve held on to this belief far too long. I’m letting go of it now. I humbly ask you to remove it from my life.”

That’s a prayer God loves to answer.

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Roger Ross

A native of Cambridge, Illinois, Roger has served as a pastor in Texas, the British Channel Island of Guernsey, and Illinois. While in Illinois, he led teams that planted two new churches and served for 10 years as the lead pastor of one of the largest United Methodist Churches in the Midwest. It was his privilege to serve as the Director of Congregational Excellence in the Missouri Conference before coming into his current role with Spiritual Leadership, Inc (SLI).

Roger now comes alongside pastors, non-profit leaders and their leadership teams as an executive coach, specializing in leadership that inspires change. As a side gig, he loves teaching evangelism and church planting as an adjunct professor at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas.

Other passions of his include SCUBA diving in warm blue water, Krispy Kremes, board games with family and friends, and traveling in different cultures. He also has a weakness for golf.

Roger is the author of three books, Meet The Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith, Come Back: Returning to the Life You Were Made For, and Come Back Participant Guide, all through Abingdon Press.

Now for the best part. Roger is married to Leanne Klein Ross. Leanne grew up around Bloomington, Illinois where the two of them now reside. God has blessed them with two adult children, a son-in-law, several tropical fish, and one adorable granddog.