Which One We Feed

One of my favorite parables is Native American, specifically Cherokee. I bet you’ve heard it, but to recap:

By Scott Flaherty [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A grandfather tells his grandson that people have two wolves battling inside of them. One wolf is full of hatred, jealousy, pride, regret, anger. The other wolf is love, empathy, joy, humility, kindness, generosity.

The grandson asks which wolf wins.

The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”

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Yesterday at a Donald Trump rally, a man asked him if we can get rid of Muslims. He went on to assert that President Obama is one, and not even an American one at that.

Trump answered, “You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.”

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At a campaign event preceding the 2008 election, John McCain answered a similar question from someone who said she was scared of Obama because he’s an “Arab.” McCain answered,  “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.”

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Source: Washington Post

As the anniversary of 9/11 rolled around this week, social media did what it does best: reduced a complex situation to a single picture and a hashtag (#NeverForget). Several of my wise friends commented that we have forgotten – not the grotesque images of planes crashing into buildings and people jumping from skyscrapers, but the sense of oneness and unity we all felt in the days following the attacks. The sense of community, of common good, that our shared humanity is bigger than anything that might divide us.

A couple of days later, I read this article about Jon Stewart going to DC to push for First Responders’ health care. And I think maybe my friends were right: we have forgotten.

These folks should not need a celebrity advocate.

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My brother Matt writes a blog. If you’ve ever read it, you might wonder if we’re really related, or as someone once asked, what Thanksgiving dinners are like at our house. It’s all good – I know we’re both just two blind folks describing different parts of the elephant.

And he presents his points in a principled manner. I’m firmly committed to the idea that good people can come to different conclusions with complete integrity.

A couple of years ago, he wrote about a book called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. On his blog, he describes the book and the first agreement, be impeccable with your word. In Matt’s summary, he asks the following questions:

Do I speak about myself and others with respect, or do I scorn and belittle? Do I discuss what I know to be true or do I spread ‘half truths’ and gossip?

Do I write thoughts with the objective of getting closer to the truth regardless of who agrees or do I write thoughts that make me popular? Do I revel in positive achievement, or do I take pleasure in discussing failure? Do I engage in building people up or breaking people down. Do I prefer honest debate or back-biting satire?

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In other words, which wolf am I feeding?

By Doug Smith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It sure is easy to see which wolf other people feed, isn’t it?

But about your own wolves…

Every time you fire off an insulting comment on social media, yell at the television, condemn “those people,” you are feeding one of them. The problem isn’t isolated to Donald Trump rallies.

In every interaction, make it a goal to feed the wolf you want to win. In a big, out of control world, it’s your best move.

It’s the only one that matters.

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