There is an old tale of a grandfather speaking with his grandson. He tells the grandson that inside of you there are two wolves fighting. One is “good” and is empathy and kindness. The other is “bad” and is fear and anger. When the grandson asks, “which one wins?”, the grandfather responds with “whichever one you feed”. I don’t think of the wolves as bad and good, instead the wolves feel more like selfish and selfless. One wolf is for your benefit, protection and pride in the self. The other is love, empathy, kindness and is all related to our connection to something outside of our “self”. With us crossing into the second half of the year and into July, it made me think of this story, how we can relate to the two wolves and an idea on how we can live with them.
The “bad” wolf isn’t intentionally bad. It can act out of fear, anger, or in response to something it interprets as a threat to try and protect itself. There are times when we need to protect ourselves and there is nothing wrong with acting defensively. It may hurt others to protect itself, and the unfortunate truth is this only creates more pain and fear. If we are feeding this wolf, we can get lost in the fear of things outside of our control and protection. Feeling alone, defenseless and afraid is where this wolf gains its power.
The “good” wolf on the other hand acts selflessly. It knows empathy, kindness, and intentionality will provide for it. It knows it really can’t protect itself and that the beauty in life comes from the impermanence. The “good” wolf knows that we are all torn into these two parts, and can see when the other wolf is triggered, in others and self. If the “good” wolf is being fed, it is actively breaking the cycles of trauma, pain and fear. It gains its power from connection, love and empathy.
I do not see there ever being a “winner” between the wolves, just eternal spiraling together. What happens when we provide care and understanding for both wolves. When we are in a situation and the “bad” wolf is awake, if we can calm the “bad” wolf, recognize why it is triggered, then this can be a place for immense growth. Without balance between the two wolves, we can easily miss out on the things that truly can provide happiness, safety and the opportunities for us to lift others up with us.