Maybe the "evil" wolf doesn't have to starve

A dear friend recently reminded me of a little parable that I like. Perhaps you've heard a version of it before:

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 like the story because it reminds me that I am not alone in experiencing that internal battle, and that I have a great deal of choice in how it plays out. I am not the victim of my life story, but the narrator. It's powerful stuff.

That said, I have trouble with the "good" vs "evil" set up. For one thing, I don't think anger, envy, sorrow, etc. are evil. Sure, they can cause major suffering if I let them run the show, but does that make them evil?  I don't think so.

I don't think starving them to death is the right goal, either. Never mind that it's impossible -- these human traits are hard-wired and will be with me until I die. Because of that, attacking them is an attack against myself. And attacking myself -- even the parts I don't particularly like -- doesn't feel good.

Not to mention, get desperate and start attacking when they're hungry, making them a much bigger threat than they were to begin with.

As an alternative, I would propose to the little grandson the Abraham Lincoln approach: Rather than trying to destroy the evil wolf, make it your friend. Take all those "good wolf" qualities you already have, lavish them on the "evil wolf", and watch that so-called evilness melt away. 

  • Listen to what the angry wolf cares about, what it's trying to protect. 
  • Reassure the greedy wolf that it will be taken care of, that it will have enough.
  • Help the self-pitying wolf see that it is stronger than it thinks it is.
  • Remind the arrogant wolf that it doesn't have to be better than anyone else in order to be valuable.

There is no part of you that wouldn't benefit from your loving attention, no imperfection that doesn't also contain a gift.

With love and gratitude for ALL parts of you,

p.s. The "good wolf" approach works when dealing with the other people in your life, too.