One of my favorite stories is that of an old Cherokee who was teaching his grandson about life. This is how I remember it.
“Child, you should know that there is a battle waging within every one of us. Even you.”
The boy had loved hearing stories about the men out hunting, wars between villages and the honor of protecting their land. His eyes grew big trying to imagine such a battle going on inside of a person!
“Edudu, (meaning grandfather)” the boy asked, “How small must these warriors be in order to fight inside a body like mine?”
“Oh, the battle is taking place between deux wahyas, two wolves, and they have the potential to be quite big,” his grandfather replied, “but their size is determined by you.”
The boy grew increasingly interested.
“One of the wolves is Evil. It snarls in anger, jealousy, and greed. The hair rises on its back with resentment, inferiority and lies. As the wolf wares out the ground beneath its claws stalking back and forth, its eyes burn with ego.”
The boy crawled in under his grandfather’s arm where it was cozy and safe.
“That wolf sounds scary! I have it inside of me?” the boy shuttered.
“You do,” replied his grandfather. “It can influence you to be unpleasant to others and to yourself.”
“I wouldn’t want it to consume me,” said the boy.
“On the other hand,” his grandfather continued, “The second wolf is good. Calmly, it sits full of joy, peace, love, and hope. It’s comforting thick coat soft with humility, and kindness.”
“Like being nestled under your arm, Edudu!” the boy laughed.
“As the first wolf anxiously paces and drools with rising tension, the second wolf simply watches with empathetic eyes of truth.”
“I love that wolf. I have it inside of me too?”
“Yes,” the grandfather said, squeezing the boy. “and, it inspires you to care for others and yourself.”
“Edudu,” the boy asked, “Why are the wolves fighting?”
“Because, one of those wolves knows that you can make a big difference for good. You can help others through the love you have to give.”
The old man’s grandson lit up, feeling great about what he was capable of, “But, what about the other wolf?”
The grandfather’s smile slowly faded, “The other wolf wants to keep all of that from happening.”
The boy thought about it, furrowed his little brow and asked with all earnestness, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man gently took his grandson by the shoulders and looking him in the eyes he quietly replied, “The one that you feed.”
For me, this is a story that triggers my senses. I can just see the tense snarling and pacing of that evil wolf. I bet as you think about it you too are able to relate to what that feels like on the inside. I can also imagine the comfort of the soft coat of the other wolf’s kindness and compassion, like pulling a beloved blanket around you on the days you’re needing to feel cared for.
It’s important to recognize that this battle will always be going on, especially when it’s so much easier to feed the first wolf. We cannot simply banish it because it will not go away. But, like the boy, we certainly don’t want to be consumed by it.
Giving into our fears and allowing them to paralyze us feeds that wolf. Feeling empowered by our anger and/or negativity to a point where we are lashing out or criticizing others feeds that wolf. Even believing the lies that we are not good enough to matter to anything or anyone and that we can’t really accomplish anything anyway feeds that wolf. As it gets stronger it gets more vicious and garners more influence. Its teeth grow sharper, coat coarser and its eye meaner. Are you looking into those eyes? Maybe that’s what people see when they’re looking into yours?
On the other hand, the good wolf will never turn away from you either. Unfed, it may not have the strength to fight as hard or be able to overwhelm the evil wolf on its own, but it will never leave your side. That means there is always hope. It means you are never to far gone within your depression, anger or anxiety. We can take those fears, those worries, those doubts and move forward anyway. That’s how you feed the second wolf.
Feeding the good wolf is harder. It takes more effort, confidence and motivation. It takes believing that God has a plan and purpose for you, that through the spirit you are not alone and that you are beautifully made in God’s image. It takes faith that God is doing something miraculous even when you can’t see immediate results. It takes persistence even when you don’t understand why God is leading you in a certain direction or is asking you to operate outside of your comfort zone.
Sure, feeding this wolf is challenging and takes energy, time and fortitude. But, can’t you feel the calm peace of its comfortable fur growing fuller, and the kindness and love in its eyes? Those are the eyes of our savior! Are you looking into those eyes? Are people seeing Jesus when they look into yours?
As the first wolf gets weaker and hungrier it will no doubt fight harder. It is important to acknowledge it is there and keep progressing so that it isn’t lurking behind the corner ready to pounce when you have times of struggle. Finding fulfilling progress means working at your faith and enriching your spirit. You are no longer an infant in need of being spoon fed. You must take the responsibility of feeding yourself.
Fill yourself up with prayer, worship, scripture, acts of service and positive relationships. Through these actions of love and gratitude to God, the darkness can be held at bay and the good in you will grow stronger and stronger.