An old, often-told story goes something like this:
A boy said to his grandfather, “It feels as though there’s a fight between two vicious wolves raging inside of me.”
“The first wolf is full of anger, self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness. The second is full of hope, empathy and courage.”
The grandfather said, “That same fight is going on inside all of us.”
The boy thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Well grandfather, which wolf will win?”
The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.”
The point is that we can’t ever banish or remove the first wolf, since we can’t exist in pure bliss (except maybe through ingesting a whole lot of drugs). That wolf is always there, always ready, always watching us. The fight, and the wolves, are eternal.
We can’t simply will bad feelings to stop existing. They can’t be excised from our being. Nor should we even want that (personally, I like being a well-rounded person with a gamut of emotions, not some fluffy PMA hippie).
What we can do is act in spite of these negative feelings. We can take those fears, those worries, those doubts and move forward anyway.
Is it scary? Hell yes. But consider what happens if we let the first wolf paralyze us. We do nothing, we accomplish nothing, we launch nothing. There’s no momentum or forward movement because all our time is spent feeling (and feeding) the big, bad wolf.
Besides, what do you accomplish by telling yourself you’re not worthy? What do you achieve by stopping yourself from trying something new before you even start?
Now, imagine that what the first wolf tells you isn’t true – that in fact you are worthy, ready and good enough. Instead of doubting yourself, you can try and learn new things, expand who and what you know, take risks and chances where some might actually pan out. Sounds pretty dang awesome if you ask me.
A lot of which wolf you feed comes down to ease. The first wolf is much, much easier to feed – he lives on cheap and quick fast food, whereas the second wolf only eats expensive whole, plant-based foods and has gluten and nightshade allergies.
It’s so much easier to do things like complain, begrudge, procrastinate, dismiss, put down or ignore. That’s the first wolf’s plan: to encourage the easier and seemingly better option. Those things take almost no energy because they don’t require real action of any kind.
It’s much harder, scarier and more time-consuming to do things like learn, teach, inspire, trust, listen or launch. The second wolf starts out with a huge deficit because of it. Those things take so much energy because they take effort, work, guts and momentum.
Either way, we end up believing the narratives we tell ourselves, based on which wolf we feed. Yes, feeding the second wolf is more difficult and requires action. But, it’s also how we get to enjoying our life and feeling proud of things we’ve done. We feed that wolf by trusting our guts, proceeding in spite of our fears and sharing what we create with the world.
PS: The wolf story came from either the Cherokee Nation or from Billy Graham’s The Holy Spirit: Activating God’s Power in Your Life. Source conflict aside, it’s still a great story to ponder deeply on a Sunday morning.