Good Wolf / Bad Wolf
A traditional Native American story describes a boy who was feeling angry and upset at an injustice, who goes to his old Grandfather for advice. The Grandfather tells the boy that he, too has felt these feelings of hate and anger. The Grandfather shares that he has also realized how these feelings have no effect on his enemy, but they do cause him great pain.
“It is as if I have two wolves living inside me,” says the Grandfather. “One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.”
“But the other wolf,” Grandfather continues, “fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. The smallest thing will send him into a fury. He cannot think because his anger and rage are so great; however for all its fury, his anger changes nothing.
“Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looks into his Grandfather’s eyes and asks, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
His grandfather replies, “Whichever one I feed.”
Have you experienced these wolves inside of you? If not, I congratulate you. For myself, I have certainly made friends with both of them. Over time, I too have come to realize that the angry wolf harms ME, and does not harm my “enemy”. Even if I act upon the angry wolf’s recommendations, my actions seem to hurt me more than they hurt someone else. On the other hand, the Good Wolf soothes me and makes me better able to handle the problems I face. Which one do I feed? I work to always feed the good wolf.
One of the significant truths that I have come to believe is that a lack of forgiveness can keep anger alive in us. It keeps us angry, it raises our blood pressure, and it makes us less likely to handle everyday problems with grace and dignity. We tend to hold on to our unforgiveness, believing that holding on to that unforgiveness somehow harms the “enemy”. In my experience, holding on to that unforgiveness really harms me, while at the same time my “enemy” may not even be aware of (or care about) my unforgiveness. I’ve come to believe that it really boils down to a simple choice: Do I want to live my life with internal peace and daily enjoyment, or do I want to hold on to and act on my unforgiveness? If I want internal peace and daily enjoyment, I need to let go of the anger, the sense of injustice, and my unforgiveness. I can’t have inner peace and unforgiveness at the same time.
Secondly, many people I have talked to relate an experience of feeling like a doormat when they consider simply forgiving their “enemy”. In truth, extending forgiveness does not mean we should forget. In reality, in our state of forgiveness, we can still make daily choices about who we want to associate with, and who we will trust. If we need to protect ourselves or others, we can do so without the sense of inner rage that can accompany unforgiveness. Our protective action can simply be a responsible action that results from our desire to take care of our individual selves and others.
Lastly, I think that this holds true not only on a personal level, but also holds true for society as a whole. Does that serve us well, or simply keep us from living a life of inner and outer peace?
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned. “
Something to think about……