A Story of Two Wolves

I’ve been re-reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. I originally read it in college as part of a Psychology course. I found the book to be highly relevant and very instructive. If you get a chance, I highly recommend picking up this book and reading it, particularly if you are struggling with troubles in your life.

Nothing puts your life in perspective than realizing just how much more other people have suffered. You quickly realize that most of the tribulations of your life are minor in comparison. Many problems that people get irritated about and even lose their temper about on a daily basis are inconveniences when put into perspective of all the things that can go wrong.

As I’m reading the book, I find a section just over halfway through that I found quite sagacious:

“From all this we may learn that there are two races of men in this world, but only these two – the ‘race’ of the decent man and the ‘race’ of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people.”

In every setting we find people who are both decent and indecent. You find both the teacher who inspired you and the one whose class you dreaded. We see this every day in every place we go.

I’d been thinking on the quote from the book for a couple of days when I stumbled on a reference of a Cherokee legend about two wolves. The longer version is quoted below:

“An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, ‘Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.’ He continued, ‘It is as if there are two wolves inside me. 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, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.’

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, ‘Which one wins, Grandfather?’

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, ‘The one I feed.'”

There is much in common in these two ideas. Even though they were laid down at very different points of time, they both ring true of the eternal struggle of the human condition. Feed the good wolf or the bad wolf, be the decent person or the indecent person. We struggle with this choice every day.

We very often must face people who have fed the bad wolf. They take with no regard for consequence, they wear their anger on their sleeves and are short-tempered.

While we all have days where we are not our best, I would like to hope that those who read these words would rather be the decent person and feed the good wolf. We see these people every day also. They are empathetic and kind. They help those in need, they help and support those around them.

Strive to be the person who feeds the good wolf.




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