In today’s world, the choices you make matter more than ever
The following story popped up in my Facebook feed AGAIN. I brushed over it. After all, I’d seen it plenty of times before. I already knew this…. Didn’t I?
Then the woes of the world crowded in on me – recession, racial tensions, doom and disaster. What is the answer? What can I do? I went back and reread this story, this time with eyes ready to see and a heart ready to listen… and suddenly the message felt especially relevant.
It’s a message of not only knowing, but DOING.
There are a few versions but all with the same meaning.
Here’s the story I’m talking about -
The Original Story
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."
Follow Up Actions
These are powerful words ... but words are only as powerful as the actions they inspire.
You’ve probably seen this story doing the rounds on Facebook too. Most of us nod our heads sagely, hit the Like or Love emoji, perhaps Comment or Share it to spread the wisdom.
That’s what I’ve been doing, and thinking that I’m ‘doing my bit’. Today the hollowness of my inaction struck me. Sure, someone might have an epiphany and make some change as a result. But I have no control, no responsibility for anyone else’s behaviour. Only my own.
If I don’t make some change in my behaviour, what good do the words do?
How do we feed the right wolf? What does it mean in terms of transforming my thoughts and actions. I’m not a bad person … but I could be better…
Before change comes action, and before action comes thought.
Here are some of my thoughts around this proverb, thoughts that inspire me to change my thinking, change my actions –
Sorrow … it’s a natural emotion. I never thought of it as evil but can understand why you would be advised NOT to feed the wolf of sorrow. Feel it and let it go … don’t feed it.
It’s the same with some of the other things listed as evil. They will raise their ugly heads and demand our attention. They remind us we are not perfect, that we are only human.
See the wolf, recognize it for the evil it is. Then send it away, reject it. Resist the temptation to throw it a few scraps of self-indulgence. Chase that vicious creature away with its tail tucked between its legs. Just DON”T feed it.
Not feeding the Evil Wolf is NOT about ignoring what is going on in the world or just giving it lip service. It’s about choosing to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It’s about choosing to feed the Good Wolf.
That’s why the proverb lists so many positives, so many choices we can make to help good triumph over evil, so many opportunities to feed the Good Wolf ….if we stay aware.
It’s neither possible nor advisable to put our head in the sand. There is so much happening around us - Covid19, riots, protests, new laws, so many changes causing fear and uncertainty. We must be aware so we can choose wise actions instead of simply reacting.
It all comes down to our choices not only about what we read or watch, but how we react. We can choose to act rather than react.
Good vs Evil
The story of the wolves also made me ponder the whole ‘What is Good and what is Evil?’ question.
This is an extract from a blog on Psychology Today by Steve Taylor Ph.D. entitled ‘The Meaning of Good and Evil’.
You can view the full blog here - https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/out-the-darkness/201308/the-real-meaning-good-and-evil
“What do we really mean when we use these simplistic terms, ‘good’ and ‘evil’?
‘Good’ means a lack of self-centredness. It means the ability to empathize with other people, to feel compassion for them, and to put their needs before your own. It means, if necessary, sacrificing your own well-being for the sake of others’. It means benevolence, altruism and selflessness, and self-sacrifice towards a greater cause — all qualities which stem from a sense of empathy. It means being able to see beyond the superficial difference of race, gender, or nationality and relate to a common human essence beneath them.
All of the ‘saintly’ people in human history have these qualities in abundance. Think of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, risking their own safety and well-being for the goal of gaining equal rights and freedom for Indians and African Americans. These were human beings with an exceptional degree of empathy and compassion, which overrode any concern for their own ambitions or well-being.
‘Evil’ people are those who are unable to empathize with others. As a result, their own needs and desires are of paramount importance. They are selfish, self-absorbed, and narcissistic. In fact, other people only have value for them to the extent that they can help them satisfy their own desires or be exploited. This applies to dictators like Stalin and Hitler, and to serial killers and rapists. I would argue that their primary characteristic is an inability to empathize with others. They can’t sense other people’s emotions or suffering, can’t see the world from other people’s perspectives, and so have no sense of their rights. Other human beings are just objects to them, which is what makes their brutality and cruelty possible.”
So Which Do We Choose?
Relating this back to the Cherokee proverb, people lacking in empathy are more likely to feed the wolf of Evil whereas people with empathy will more often choose to feed the wolf of Good.
We are humans, each imbued with human flaws. Yet each and every day we have the choice as to whether we allow our flaws to inflict pain on ourselves and others.
We can choose joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.
Our choices matter, not just to us but to everyone around us, those who watch us, those who follow us. Set a great example, make the world a better place on an ongoing basis, help good grow in the world.
The goodness in human beings emerges when we are connected — when we connect in empathy with one another. So many troubles of the world are a result of disconnection.
Make a difference – fatten that puppy right up with the milk of human kindness. As we feed the wolf of good, there is less room for the wolf of evil. Crowd out the hate and fear in the world with love and hope.
Choose to feed the good wolf. Connect to the world with empathy.
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