There is a parable commonly attributed to the Native American Cherokee tribe which says that virtue and vice fight for supremacy inside us all time.
A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred, and fear.
The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second. Then the boy asks, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
The grandfather quietly replies, “The one you feed.”
This version of the parable is adapted from the podcast aptly named “The One You Feed.”
Each of us has something about ourselves we wish wasn’t true. I don’t mean that time you tripped in front of your middle school crush. I mean, qualities and behaviors that you know are hurtful to yourself and others: Anger, pride, jealousy, cynicism, retaliation, resentment, violence, impatience, selfishness, etc. We come by these vices in many ways, but while there are a million excuses, there is no excuse for treating the ones we love poorly. We try to do better, but old habits die hard.
Maybe the best way to cut ties with these vices is to stop feeding them.
Have you ever heard the saying “You get what you give”? The attitude you put out into the world often comes back to you. This is one way that negativity is fed.
For instance, you act out in pride or anger and you hurt someone else. Often what they send back to you is negative: defensiveness, disappointment, dismay, etc. The cycle of negativity continues. It creates a negative atmosphere around you. You get so used to this environment that you forget this isn’t the only way to live. There are people out there who aren’t surrounded by misery.
How do you surround yourself with positive energy? There’s always something to be grateful for, even if it’s simply the fact that the sun came out today. Hold onto that gratitude and share it with others. Your example helps them to find that same appreciation in their own life.
Optimism isn’t easy to come by. We get worn down by stress and soon we’re not operating as our ideal self — we’re just trying to get through the day.
But perspective is easy to come by. It’s not just that life could be worse — it’s that life might never have been.
A human is an unlikely thing. After 4.5 billion years, a rocky, wet planet is inhabited by a bunch of busy people. The universe itself doesn’t even notice this. It keeps making stars out of clouds of dust and ionized gases. Those stars keep dying. Their planets and other satellites keep orbiting. All of space keeps spreading out further and further away for no reason, as far as we humans know. And it doesn’t quite matter since the longest human lifetime is a blip to a 13.8 billion year old universe.
Given all that, are your faults really that huge? Do the ways in which you’ve been wronged or slighted in this life really compare?
Today you had a really great cup of coffee. You made your friend laugh. You called your mom. You thrilled your dog with a tennis ball. You can’t move mountains, but you can make a difference to others. Recognizing and utilizing your strengths helps you keep your atmosphere positive. It also feeds the good wolf.
Which wolf do you feed?
Wolf photo available from Shutterstock