I love finding spiritual truths on which I can hang my hat. Life is complicated. People are complicated. Gaining some clarity about how to navigate our way through this ever-changing world is precious. Finding such spiritual truths can feel like a cool drink of water in a desert. I’ve grown particularly fond of stories in recent years as they tend to convey such truths in powerful and memorable way This one (purportedly) comes by way of the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans. Here it is:
Native American Story of the Two Wolves
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Story as Truth
Reflecting on our experiences, we can see the wisdom and truth this story contains. There are things we can do every day that feed our soul, our spirit…that Good Wolf inside of us. If we engage in practices that nourish this wolf, it will grow stronger and flourish. However, if we focus on pursuits that feed the “Evil” Wolf, it will begin to affect our well-being…and those around us! It’s like the old adage, “Garbage in, garbage out” or even, “You are what you eat.”
It reminds of this quote by Dr. William James, often considered the “Father of American Psychology.” He said, “Our experience is what we agree to attend to.” Thus, if we focus our attention on negative qualities or pursuits (e.g., greed, lust, anger, hate, envy), then our experience of life will reflect that. There’s that Evil Wolf again. However, if we focus our attention on things like kindness, generosity, compassion, beauty, then our experience will reflect this and the Good Wolf will thrive.
So, it is our responsibility to think daily about which of these two wolves we are going to feed. Make a list of activities that you can do to either feed either wolf. You can probably think of positive activities like helping a friend out, donating to a charity, exercising, getting a good amount of sleep (mind/body connection), practicing random acts of kindness, and so on that feed your Good Wolf. I don’t like throwing the word “evil” around as it pertains to our thoughts and behaviors, but I’m sure we can all come up with some thoughts and actions that…don’t nourish our spirit. Ruminating on negative thoughts about the self, the world, & others, jealous words, belittling others, drinking too much, junk food binges, and so on will feed the wrong wolf…and thus become our experience in life.
We should all do well to heed the wisdom contained in the story of the Two Wolves AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, put the wisdom into practice in our daily lives. Which wolf are you feeding? What can you do to nourish the Wolf of Good within you?