There’s an old story that makes the Facebook rounds now and then. There are a few versions of it, but the gist is the same each time.
One bright winter day, a young Cherokee boy was out for a walk with his grandfather. Pausing to rest against a snowy winter pine, the grandfather looked at his growing grandson.
“A fight is going on inside me,” the wise old man said. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil, unhappy, and ugly. He is anger and greed. He spreads lies and deceit and pain.”
The grandfather paused. Gazing misty-eyed into the sea of trees, he continued.
“The other wolf is beautiful and good. He is friendly, joyful, loving, worthy, humble, and kind. He spreads inspiration wholeheartedly and has a deep vision beyond ordinary wisdom. But they are in constant battle with each other.”
Glancing back to the young boy he finished, “The same battle is going on inside you, my son, and inside all human beings.”
The boy thought about this. After a moment, he looked back at his grandfather and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf is going to win?”
The Grandfather smiled and grabbed the boy’s hand, leading him past the snowy pines.
“Whichever one you feed.”
The visual is really powerful: that each of us has these two fierce spirits within us and that we each can choose the victor. It reminds me of a saying I’ve read in many places, one that is attributed to a variety of speakers and is likely a combination of many statements throughout history: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Even if that battle is waged completely within our own minds, even if we aren’t under attack by outside forces or disease or oppressive elements, we are all still doing battle each day: the battle to feed the good wolf. The battle to do the right thing. The battle to be who we have the potential to be. The battle to live as our authentic selves in a purposeful life. Even when the battle is fought with joy and won in peace, it is a battle nonetheless that is worthy of notice and respect.
Today, take a moment to consider the battles you’re fighting, even those you’re waging against parts of yourself. Are you fighting depression, anxiety, identity, weight, sexuality, or behavioral issues? Try envisioning your battle as the two wolves: one determined to drag you down and spread discontent, the other a fierce champion focused on defeating the bad wolf for your benefit, for your well being. Remember that the good wolf is part of you. Think about how you can feed the good wolf, who is not only the symbol of all that is good, and well, and happy, and healthy inside you, but also the symbol of the tenacity, pluck, fight, determination, and strength that has gotten you through every rough moment of your life when that bad wolf has tried to drag you down.
We are all fighting hard battles. But as we are fond of saying here at Sanctuary Counseling, We Can Do Hard Things. And when we harness the power of that good wolf who lives within us all, we can do them fiercely and well and often and together.