Two Wolves

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There’s a wonderful story from the Native American tradition that I remind myself of when faced with issues in my everyday life or when I consider the fate of the world. By nature I’m a positive person, glass is half-full kind of guy, but from time to time, like you perhaps, I wonder. The story is told in many different ways, but goes something along these lines:

An old grandmother is teaching her grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” she says to the boy. “It is a fight between two wolves. One is an angry, negative, greedy, self-pitying, arrogant, jealous and prideful wolf. The other is a joyful, generous, kind, peaceful, empathetic, and humble wolf. The two wolves are always fighting. And that same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought for a minute and then asked his grandmother, “Which wolf will win?”

The old grandmother smiled and said, “The one you feed, grandson. The one you feed.”

Which wolf will you feed today?

Which wolf will I feed today?

Which wolf will our nation choose to feed?

Which wolf will humanity feed?

Which wolf will the people of my parish feed?

The wise old grandmother knew that all people have within them the same struggle with the same two wolves. Neuroscientists say that the theory behind this ancient wisdom is supported by modern medicine. Brain studies show that human beings are apparently hard-wired for empathetic response, generosity and fairness; but we are also hard-wired for less altruistic emotions as well. Primitive emotions that enabled our ancestors to escape predators and fight enemies still spark in our brains in response to stress … and because of that we sometimes lash out at others … sometimes damaging relationships beyond repair. Those primitive fearful emotions feed the arrogant and jealous wolf and the “us vs. them” mentality that is at the core of so many of the world’s problems.

We don’t have to look far for examples of how people make themselves right by making the other person look wrong. I do it. You do it. Sadly, we all do it. Tribes, races, and religions do it. Corporations do it. Governments do it. Sometimes I see people in my own parish do it. Sometimes it seems like the bad wolf is winning the fight. But you also don’t have to look very far to see evidence of the good wolf. All around the world great work is being done.

How do we make sure the good wolf of humanity gets fed? I think one way is to remember that this is a group project – that we are all in this together. We need to build each other up and strengthen our capacity for feeding the good wolf. Each of us can be part of that ongoing effort. 

I think one of the reasons why this story touches my heart so much is that I am often blown away by how good some people can be. How quick they are to jump in, get their hands dirty and help solve a problem and serve another human being. I want to be like that. I want to be more like that. I think you do too.

Let’s be in prayer for each other.

Peace friends,

Chuck

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