The Wolf You Feed
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I read that just before Christmas, and for some reason, it rattled around in my head for a long time. It kept bothering me why it resonated with me so much. It wasn’t until I was thinking of my New Year’s resolutions (which never stick) that it occurred to me. Simply put, the parable is about the slow accrual of deeds that make you the person that you are. It’s about the slow and gradual corruption of one’s self through apathy and lowered expectations. It’s not huge acts of evil that makes a common man bad, but a lifetime’s worth of misdeeds. Looking back these past few years, I believe that I’ve done more good than bad, but that ratio keeps sliding more and more toward even. A part of me would like to think that it’s just me growing up, seeing the world in shades of grey instead of black and white, but I know that it’s also just a cheap excuse.
I’m a big believer in self reflection, but I’m also wary not to get too caught up in it. When I think about it, I know that my own standards which I hold myself to have been set lower. That maybe, is unavoidable, but I know that things that I once thought were not exactly alright to do, I don’t even blink at now, and a part of me fears that the erosion of those small things will lead to the beliefs that I hold sacrosanct to one day be somehow diminished.
In short, I worry that the darker wolf is gaining ground. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a bad man per say, but I don’t see the man that I want to be. If I’m relating to the parable, I’ve fed the other wolf for far too long.
Improvement is always going to be hard, and usually comes at a cost. But being able to look at yourself in the mirror and being proud, it’s worth it.
So which wolf will win?
“The one you feed.”