If you wake up most mornings feeling anxious and depressed, it may be because you’re caught in a trap. Our world is full of snares and deadfalls, but the very worst of them are those that appear to be something else. Let me tell you a true story about traps. Then perhaps you’ll see what I mean.
Way down on the South Sea island of Borneo, the natives catch monkeys in a very unusual way. Most of the monkeys are sold to zoos, so the hunters avoid using ordinary traps which can cause disfiguring injuries. Instead, they hollow out a football-sized coconut, leaving a hole in one end just big enough for a monkey to slip in its hand. Inside the hollowed-out coconut, the natives put delicious green bananas, the monkey’s favorite food. They screw a strong eye-bolt into the solid end of the coconut. Then they fasten a chain to the eye-bolt, and tie the other end of the chain to the roots of a nearby tree. The trap — for it is a trap — is almost ready. Just before they leave, the natives scatter more green bananas around the jungle clearing. Then they return to their villages.
When a troop of monkeys comes swinging through the rain forest, the sharpest-eyed among them will usually see the green bananas in the clearing. He’ll signal the troop to halt, and they’ll descend, jabbering and chattering, to scoop up their favorite food. When all of the freebies are gone, almost inevitably, one of them will pick up the baited coconut, put his hand through the hole in one end, and clutch the bananas inside with his fist. However, when he tries to pull out the delicious fruit, he quickly discovers that the hole in the coconut is too small for him to withdraw his banana-filled hand. All the monkey has to do to escape is open his fist and let go of the bananas. Then he can easily pull out his hand.
Alas, the greedy monkey almost never does the logical thing. He tries to carry off the coconut, but of course, it’s chained securely to a tree. He struggles, he screams, he rages, he foams, he tugs and pulls at the coconut until his wrist is raw and bleeding, and he himself is exhausted. When the natives come back next morning to check their trap, they find a battered, broken-spirited monkey who’s been caught by his own fist.
Human beings don’t put their hands inside of coconuts. But many a person, old and young alike, finds himself trapped by possessions, a job, an addiction, or a relationship which acts just like the coconut. Like the South Sea monkey, he’s greedy for things he really doesn’t need.
The coconut may be a job that he doesn’t like, but which provides him with extra money for consumer goods that are, in the long run, no more important than bananas.
The coconut may be a lavish home or apartment, or an ultra-expensive automobile whose monthly ransom takes all his time and money.
The coconut may be alcohol or the so-called recreational drugs, whose siren-like lure conceals jagged, treacherous reefs.
The coconut may even be another human being: someone who is systematically stifling and smothering all the best that is in him.
Think about YOUR life for a moment.
If you find yourself trapped by something you really hate, then your fist is inside the coconut. If you’ve been caught a long time, it may seem inconceivable to you that you could ever get loose again. You may indeed have to swallow gallons of pride, and pay what appears to be an extremely heavy price, either emotionally or financially, for your freedom.
But if you’re REALLY trapped, now or in the future, and you hear footsteps coming through the grass — and you know they’re coming for you, remember one thing:
You can always open your hand and let go.