Is leg-lengthening real? Is it fake? Does God really do that? Or is it just psychology?
If you’ve ever searched YouTube for videos of healing, you’ve seen it: Somebody sits on a chair or bench while another kneels in front of them. The kneeling minister holds the ankles of the sitting person and says, “Yup! Look at that — one leg is shorter than the other…” A few commands to grow, an overhead camera shot, and a few “wows” later, and you have now seen the feet even out to the same length.
I’m fully aware that I may be burning some bridges, losing speaking engagements, and potentially losing a lot of readers, but I feel the Lord has asked me to encourage purity and integrity in the healing ministry movement; and this is one of those issues that I feel needs to be addressed.
This is probably the hardest article I’ve ever had to write — mainly because it’s an indirect critique of some of my closest friends and partners in ministry. Leg-lengthening is incredibly popular. I’ve seen it done by people I would consider to be mentors of mine. I’ve seen it done by really great friends. I’ve seen it done by pastors who invite me to speak in their churches. And I’ve seen it done by people who I know truly love Jesus and have genuine hearts of love and compassion for people.
But I haven’t been able to escape the Holy Spirit’s nudge to address this issue:
In the vast majority of cases I’ve encountered (though admittedly not all), leg-lengthening is fake.
The hard part is, in the vast majority of these fake healings, the ministers involved are completely innocent and honestly believe what they’re seeing to be a real miracle. In fact, I’m sure there are many of you reading this who are saying, “I know what I saw, and I know the legs I’ve been involved in lengthening were legit miracles.”
I’m not trying to take away your experience, squash your joy, or plant seeds of doubt in your heart. I simply want us to be honest with ourselves so that we can walk in integrity before the Lord and above reproach in the eyes of the world.
A Brief Disclaimer
Please hear my heart: I’m not trying to be a wet blanket, and I’m not wanting to hurt anyone’s faith. In fact, that’s why I’ve been holding back on writing this article for well over two years now. (And it’s also why I’m front-loading this article with so much verbal “cushion.” Sorry for the length; I feel it’s necessary.)
I know of churches who have “leg-lengthening parties” and get together just to grow each others’ legs out. I know several people who have told me that leg-lengthening was the first miracle God ever performed through them. To be perfectly honest, my greatest concern is that this article could shatter someone’s faith or cause someone to back out of healing ministry altogether. I pray that doesn’t happen and that your faith for genuine miracles is, in fact, strengthened.
Simply know this: I’ve been aware of this issue for a few years now, and it hasn’t stopped me from witnessing thousands of genuine healing miracles. If you’ll hear me out and commit to an increase of integrity on this issue, I believe you’ll become more effective in healing ministry than you ever have been.
Please don’t allow this article to discourage you. Rather, allow it to propel you into the genuine work of Jesus in the earth.
Additionally, for those readers who don’t know who I am, I’m a healing minister myself. I travel the world training Christians to minister healing in Jesus’ name, and I’ve personally witnessed over 4,000 miracles since I started ministering healing in 2009 (mostly through people I’ve trained). I’m not writing from the perspective of some disgruntled, heresy-hunting skeptic. I’m writing from the perspective of a practitioner who has trained tens of thousands of people — both in person and online — to minister healing in Jesus’ name. I’ve been personally healed multiple times of incurable conditions. I believe firmly in the present-day power of Jesus to save, heal, and set free.
But you won’t find any videos of me on YouTube growing legs out. And here’s why…
First, the Deliberate Hoaxes:
For the sake of getting this issue out of the way, it’s important that we address the deliberate fakes that are out there. At least one charlatan has confessed to faking leg-lengthenings by sliding the heel of a person’s shoe forward or backward to produce the visual effect.
There’s no question in my mind that there are folks out there who are deliberately bent on deceiving people, and they have made a mockery of true healing ministry with cheap parlor tricks and deceptive sleight of hand.
This article isn’t about those people, though. In fact, I don’t even feel these folks need to be addressed here except to say that this is one way of producing the visual effect of leg-lengthening without anything supernatural occurring. My concern is not with them; rather, it’s with those of us who simply don’t know any better and think something is happening that isn’t. My concern is with well-meaning, Jesus-loving Christians who are simply unaware of the science behind legs “growing.”
It Really Looks Real, and I Don’t Blame You for Believing It
If you’ve ever held two ankles in your hands, commanded one leg to grow, and watched the person’s foot impossibly shift to become even with the other foot, you know what a surreal experience this can be. But just because something is surreal or unexplainable in the moment doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a miracle.
I want to be careful again here because I’m going to talk about some pioneers of healing ministry who paved the way for so much of what we do today. Since I would prefer to honor them for what they did right, and since they’ve passed away and are no longer ministering, I don’t see a need to name names or call them out on it.
With that said, there was once a married couple who — like me — taught Christians to minister healing in Jesus’ name. In many of their meetings, they would inform everyone that most people have one arm and one leg slightly shorter than the other. They would then have people stretch their arms out like airplane wings and, with elbows locked straight, slowly bring the palms of their flattened hands together in front of them. Keeping the hands pressed together, a brief bend of the elbows would reveal that — sure enough — the finger tips were not perfectly aligned, indicating that one arm was apparently shorter than the other.
The next step was for everyone to extend their elbows once again (with hands still pressed together) and command their short arm to grow in Jesus’ name. Within moments, there would be a shift of the palms, and the person would find that their fingertips now met perfectly together, indicating that their arms were now the same length.
For many people, this was incredibly faith-building. For many, this was the first “miracle” they ever saw, and it gave them faith to believe for more.
NOTE: To be fair, this couple also had some legitimate testimonies of limbs growing multiple inches and backs aligning in such a way that nerves were released and people were cured even of obscure things like deafness and blindness immediately afterward. This article isn’t concerned with the occasional legitimate cases (though I will continue to reiterate that there are times when leg-lengthening is real). I’m writing instead about the vast majority of what I see today being called miraculous. My observation is that the legitimate cases are typically buried and lost in the sea of illegitimate cases.
My Personal Experience and Discovery
I remember reading this couple’s book a few years before I ministered my first healing — desperately wanting to be used by God in healing ministry. There was an entire chapter devoted to lengthening arms and legs. I followed the instructions described above — airplane arms and all — and was shocked that it worked for me too! The problem is, when I stretched my “wings” out a second time and brought my hands together as I had done in the beginning of the exercise, I found that I once again had a discrepancy. And this time, my arm was even shorter than last time! It actually turned me off to healing ministry for a couple years because I realized this technique was bogus.
As it turns out, there are three things at play here:
- No one is perfectly symmetrical, and it’s very likely that you do have a slight discrepancy between each arm and each leg. But God designed our bodies to function just fine like this, and it’s not anything to worry about.
- Even if your arms are perfectly symmetrical, it’s very unlikely that you’ll bring your hands together perfectly aligned, which means you’ll almost always have one extending further than the other (and which hand it is may even change each time you try it!).
- Slight, subconscious actions called “micro-movements” — as I’ll explain them in a moment — are easily influenced by thoughts and are the most common explanation for most of the leg-lengthenings happening today.
What are micro-movements? When I was about twenty, I used to perform at kids’ birthday parties (I’m sure that’s an image you never thought you’d have of me!). I would sing songs with my guitar, do some puppet acts, make balloon animals, and toss in a few sleight-of-hand illusions to entertain the kids.
As a teen, I found sleight-of-hand to be fascinating. I used to practice card tricks over and over, and I loved reading books about the secrets behind classic illusions. I’ve always been a fan of seeing how unexplainable things actually work.
I remember one of those books talking about a fun way to mess with your friends. The trick was to have a pendulum of some sort — perhaps a watch on a chain or just a rock tied to a string. The challenge was to have your friend hold the end of the string with their arm extended in front of them, and then they were to make the pendulum move using only their mind. The instruction was to “keep your hand perfectly still and simply think about the pendulum rotating either clockwise or counterclockwise.”
Inevitably, no matter how hard a person tried to keep his hand still, if he thought about the pendulum swinging in a clockwise circle, it would begin swinging around within about 15 seconds. And then if he started thinking about it swinging counterclockwise, it would suddenly change course and circle the other way.
There was no magic involved, but it certainly felt magical to those who couldn’t figure out how it was happening. It was nothing more than subconscious micro-movements. The human nervous system is simply wired in this way, causing us to move little bits without realizing we’re moving.
And perhaps now you see how the finger tips met each other with just a little bit of thought. All I have to do is slowly shift my extended arms to the right or left, and the fingertips on each hand will naturally slide forward and back in relationship to each other. And maybe you also see now how the bottoms of a person’s feet will even out with just a little bit of thought. The arms and legs are not actually growing. All that happened is a combination of micro-movements that produced a visual effect.
In fact, leg-lengthening via micro-movements is an old parlor trick from about a century ago that has somehow resurfaced in recent times among well-meaning Christians who are convinced that Jesus is capable of doing the miraculous (which He is). Unfortunately, it’s typically still just the human brain in action.
Who’s Doing the Thinking?
While I don’t really have the science to prove it, I believe that in the standard leg-lengthening scenario as we see it today, we’re actually witnessing two people having subconscious micro-movements at the same time. While I hate to draw the correlation to something tied to the occult, it’s a bit like a group of people using an Ouija board — no one is quite sure who is moving it, and everyone swears they’re not moving it, but it certainly wouldn’t be moving at all if no one was touching it. There’s a synergy about what’s happening that makes both people feel as though they didn’t personally force anything to happen.
The person whose leg is “growing” is thinking about it growing and thereby making tiny shifts of their own (shifting their feet, say, from left to right) while also making it easy for the minister’s micro-movements to line things up exactly. At the same time, the minister is watching the feet intently, longing for the foot to come out; and with one hand on each ankle, they slowly and subconsciously — through micro-movements — swing the legs a tiny fraction of an inch left or right to bring things together into exact alignment. Neither person thinks they’re doing it because neither person is exerting enough energy to make the effect happen.
The illusion is so flawless, and the expectation is so high, that neither party realizes it wasn’t actually a miracle.
What about Spinal Re-Alignment?
I’ve had a lot of friends in ministry tell me that they believe in most cases, arms and legs aren’t actually growing, but rather there is a re-aligning of the spine and back muscles. Even the pioneering couple I referenced earlier talked about this and the strange results like relief from nerve pain and even the healing of blindness, deafness, and other things.
On one hand, I suppose that’s fine, but I have two very simple and basic concerns that I’d like us to consider:
- If you believe that what’s happening is a realignment rather than a literal “growing,” why are you commanding the legs to grow? And why are you using phrases like “one leg is shorter than the other”? Wouldn’t it be more honest to say, “I think your back is out of alignment, and I’m going to command it to straighten up”?
- Given what you now know about micro-movements, I can’t imagine a case where the proper method for straightening out a misaligned back would be to hold a person’s ankles and command the legs to even out.
I have seen Jesus heal many backs — even setting a woman free from scoliosis — without ever touching their ankles. Simply do what the Bible says: lay hands on the person (Mark 16:18) and minister healing in the gentleness, love, and authority of Jesus. One could even argue that in the cases where “leg-lengthening” or “arm-lengthening” do bring legitimate results, it may have been merely circumstantial, and the healing only happened because a believer laid hands on them (not because of the popular method). Healthy healing ministry is actually easier than all the methods we might otherwise try anyway. Keep it simple.
Is It Ever Real?
Absolutely! There are many people out there who have had to throw away their therapeutic platform shoe and buy some regular sneakers simply because their leg truly did grow. I once saw a woman who had been impaired all her life because Polio had stunted the growth of one leg when she was a child, and the Lord supernaturally stretched her leg out to the same length as the other one, allowing her to walk normally.
When we were filming our movie, Paid in Full, one of our interview subjects told us how his girlfriend — now wife — used to have one leg an inch shorter than the other. When they told it to grow, it actually grew two inches, making it an inch longer than the other leg. The guy ministering said, “Well, do you want to be taller or shorter?”
“Taller!” she answered.
And then the other leg grew out to match the first one. The best part of the story, though, is that she’s now legitimately an inch taller than she used to be, and her medical records and driver’s license testify to it!
I know I said earlier that you won’t find me growing legs out, but that’s not entirely accurate. You won’t likely ever see it on YouTube or Facebook, so that much is true. But if someone comes up to me with a platform shoe and says to me, “One of my legs is shorter than the other,” then I will take them seriously and command that leg to grow. I have no problem with that, and I have no doubt that Jesus does indeed work such miracles.
Interestingly, in the one case where God used me to legitimately grow someone’s shortened leg, I didn’t sit them in a chair or cradle their ankles. I actually didn’t even know they had an issue with their legs. I was ministering to them for something else entirely, and they later reported that they had to buy normal shoes because they couldn’t wear their custom ones anymore after I had ministered to them! Apparently God can do it without anyone holding the person’s ankles.
I have learned to eliminate as many psychological factors as possible when ministering to short limbs. A friend recently came to me to say that he discovered one of his forearms was a half-inch shorter than the other. To prove it, I had him place his elbows on my dining room table, and then I held a drinking straw in a line across his two wrist-bones. Everyone could see that they were out of alignment (you didn’t even actually need the straw). I placed my hand on his shoulder and told the forearm to grow in Jesus’ name. The two wrist bones came into perfect alignment—elbows still planted on the table. Laying the drinking straw over the writs-bones again, it was perfectly level.
In fact, last year in Manassas, Virginia, a man came who said he had one foot a half-size smaller than the other, and he had to wear two differently sized shoes. Over the course of about 20 minutes, with his heels against the wall, we watched his foot slowly grow to almost the same length of the other (noticeable on the speckled carpet as one colored dot after the next slowly disappeared). The pastor at the church sent me these photos. She snapped the first one when we started praying. In both pictures, the guy’s heels are backed up all the way against a wall:
He also had limited bending ability in his Achilles’ tendon on that foot, but he can now bend freely with restored range of motion. And when he put his shoe back on, he was shocked to find that his toes were all the way at the end of it.
I’m all for the legitimate miracles, and they do indeed happen. In fact, based on my observation, it’s probably safe to guess that most (and perhaps all) of my friends in ministry who have done the typical leg-lengthening thing do have some legitimate testimonies that were truly miraculous and not mere psychology.
Unfortunately, what I see most often among my friends in ministry is that someone says, “God just told me you have one leg shorter than the other.” And then the person, with a confused face, answers, “Really?”
While I would never say such a conversation could never legitimately happen, I would be so bold as to say that in most cases, God didn’t actually say that, and we ministers are just unwittingly (or perhaps knowingly) playing the odds. And since most people aren’t perfectly symmetrical, and since (even if they are) the chances of bringing their feet perfectly together as we lift them are extremely slim, the so-called “prophetic word” always comes true. And then it’s confirmed by subconscious micro-movements, keeping us believing that it’s real.
Does This Even Matter?
It certainly does!
First, it’s confusing our sensitivity to God’s voice.
Consider the situation I just described. How do we learn discernment in hearing God’s voice if we’re constantly being reinforced in thinking we’re hearing His voice but really only thinking human thoughts? We think we had a word of knowledge when, in fact, we didn’t. Thus we remember what that “word” felt like when it came, and in the future we start to listen to our carnal mind instead of the mind of Christ.
Second, it’s also causing an epidemic of people NOT being healed and ministers hiding behind leg-lengthening to feel okay about it.
My friends—James and Jonathan—and I were once ministering together at a church. Since we had been invited as a team, I didn’t feel a need to facilitate things and spent the entire ministry time leading one young man in the congregation to Jesus.
As I sat with the young man, sharing what the Holy Spirit was revealing to me about his life and answering his questions about following the Lord, there was another man at the meeting who asked for prayer for his chronic back pain.
Back pain tends to be a common trigger for some people to try out “leg-lengthening;” and sure enough, they sat him down in the front row, picked up his feet, and told that short leg to come out until it did. Everyone who saw it happen was cheering.
We were having people testify as soon as they were healed, so my conversation with the one young man was briefly interrupted by the “healed” man’s testimony in the microphone.
He seemed like he was in shock — completely baffled. He couldn’t stop talking about watching his leg grow out. “I didn’t even realize one of my legs was shorter than the other, but I watched it happen! I just can’t explain it! It’s so crazy!”
I’m not sure if it was a nudge from the Holy Spirit or just my inner wheels turning as I heard what he said, but I shouted out from my place in the back of the church, “How’s the pain?”
“The pain,” I repeated, “How is your back? Is it healed?”
“Oh,” he replied, “No. My back still hurts.”
“Okay, then,” I shouted in reply, not having a microphone, “Back, be healed in Jesus’ name. Now check it out.”
The man began to bend and twist with wild excitement. “It’s all gone!”
It would have been so easy for us to settle for what seemed like a crazy miracle and send the man back home in pain.
In cases like this, leg-lengthening can scratch our itch for the miraculous and placate our desire for God’s genuine power. And unfortunately, like a pacifier in the mouth of a hungry baby, such situations have the ability to shut us up and make us think everything is okay when it really isn’t.
Third, and worst of all, is the reproach to Christ and the Gospel that I have witnessed as people spot fake leg-lengthenings and call them out.
After candidly sharing my concerns about leg-lengthening at a healing conference where I had been invited to speak, one of the leaders made a video of a conference attendee having his leg grown (and shrunken and regrown multiple times), trying to show how real it is. To his credit, he had the man sit in a chair and put his feet up on another chair in front of him (rather than holding the man’s ankles in his hands). This eliminated the minister from possibly causing any micro-movements himself. Multiple people took turns commanding each of the man’s legs to grow or shrink, and they did.
I have a great deal of respect for this minister and have seen his love for God and others, and I believe he was completely innocent in his motives — as were the others in the room. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean there wasn’t psychology or deception at work.
The conference attendee who received the “ministry” was noticeably emotionally-charged and totally expecting all this to happen. And everyone else in the room seemed focused on the bottoms of the man’s feet as each leg obeyed the commands to grow or shrink. But what everyone in the room failed to notice — and what many cynics and skeptics on Facebook did notice in the video — was that the man was partially holding himself up in the chair, and his hips were visibly shifting beneath him (and the shorts he was wearing made it obvious).
The comment section on this video was painful for me to read. Scattered among the excited comments and praise to Jesus were comments like these (with slight editing for readability):
- “His legs have the same muscles being worked that would be required to pull this stunt. I’m a Christian but not a fool.”
- “Please take this video down. This is not proof of any kind of healing. He’s just moving his leg in and out. Seriously, you’re not helping anyone with this video. You’re just making Christians look like kooks!”
- “You people can NOT be this stupid.”
- “Sheep to the slaughter!!”
- “Fools. This man’s a fraud!!”
- “I have seen this happen, so I believe; but this was not a healing. You could see this man moving his leg. Please, for the sake of credible witness to Jesus Christ, take this down. It will do nothing but become a mockery.”
- “All this did was completely invalidate everything [this minister] has ever said or will say, in my opinion. The guy clearly moved his whole hip…”
- “This video makes me sick.”
- “Disgusted! Use your discernment. So fake. Ugh!”
- “This is despicable. The guy is obviously moving his own legs. You can clearly see that he is holding the back chair legs for leverage. And you can see his core engage when he moves his legs… I’m disgusted. AND EVERYONE AROUND THE DUDE BELIEVES IT! How easily people are deceived in these last days…”
- “Why are there so many stupid people in the world?”
Again, I have nothing against this minister and would gladly preach alongside him again because of the genuineness I can see in his heart. But I hope and pray that he becomes more discerning with the videos he posts so that the true healings happening through his ministry are not ignored.
We need to live above reproach.
Bringing Purity to Leg-Lengthening
I would like to propose some guiding principles that can help restore integrity to healing ministry as it relates to leg-lengthening and limbs growing out.
- Don’t settle for psychology when people need real healing. The blood of Jesus didn’t purchase parlor tricks. Those things could have happened before the cross. Jesus poured out His blood to purchase sons and daughters who are able to look like Him through the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of their new, adopted roles as children of Almighty God. Pursue the genuine, and eschew the false.
- If a person doesn’t know they have one leg shorter than the other, they probably don’t need one to grow. If you think you’re having a word of knowledge about a short leg, feel free to ask the person; but if they answer “no” or “I don’t know,” let it slide and move on. A doctor would have told them by now.
- If a person does legitimately have one leg shorter, Jesus does want to grow it out, and He does have the power to do so through you! Do it however you feel led, whether you put them in a chair and hold their ankles or simply put a hand on their shoulder. Trust Jesus, speak His name, and let the miracle happen without any forced effort of your own. Just be aware that it’s easy to “see” a miracle when you hold their ankles yet not actually have anything happen. I personally recommend against that method because it’s too easy to be deceived.
- If you’ve posted videos of leg-lengthenings that likely fit the fake category, please take them down. Not only are they perpetuating the fake stuff by inspiring others to do the same, but, as this article is passed around, those videos may start to discredit your ministry; and that’s not something I would want.
- If you’ve trained other people in methods that lend themselves to fake leg-lengthenings, share this article with them so that they can mature in healing ministry too. The fake stuff is so rampant today that it’s hard to find a street-minister with a healing ministry who isn’t regularly growing out legs in Jesus’ name. Again, they’re not necessarily charlatans; they probably believe it’s real just as much as the recipients of the ministry. But that’s only because they don’t understand the psychology behind it.
My prayer — and the reason for my writing this lengthy article — is that we will bring back some credibility and integrity to true healing ministry. I know there are plenty of other things we all need to work on, but this one is an easy place to start with a simple fix.