How to Win the Fight Inside All of Us

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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too,” he said.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”

The first time I heard this story I was crossing the Atlantic at 40,000 feet and feeling a bit nervous about the turbulence. Hearing this moral tale grounded me in that moment and it has stayed with me ever since.

The question I had when I got off that plane is which wolf will I feed today?

The Dark Wolf

The grandfather gives us his list of life’s dark aspects:

  • Anger
  • Envy
  • Sorrow
  • Regret
  • Greed
  • Arrogance
  • Self-pity
  • Guilt
  • Resentment
  • Inferiority
  • Lies
  • False pride
  • Superiority
  • Ego

That is a hit list of some of the worst qualities we can feed into our lives.

The key word here is feed. Have you noticed that if you “feed” these traits that they will indeed grow larger?

Let’s take resentment for example. If I deal with my feelings of resentment right after the incident occurs, than the situation can be handled without too much trouble. Handling it right away allows me to admit my feelings, find a way forward and resume my life as normal.

On the other hand, let’s say I chose to ignore my feelings and I left the resentment sitting there for a couple months. Well, now I have a problem. A few months have passed, nothing is resolved and now the whole situation feels unmanageable. That tiny seed of resentment has grown into something much larger than the initial issue. I have fed the darkness and now I have created a monster.

Or, using anger as an example, we can find ourselves “fanning the flames”. If I become angry and I continue to let situation get worse, I am letting the fire grow. Add another angry person into the mix and the whole thing can explode. The anger feeds itself until the fire consumes everyone around it.

This is true for all the dark elements on the grandfather’s list.

A little bit of envy creates the green-eyed monster.

A small bit of ego builds false pride, which creates a superiority complex.

Sorrow, left alone, leads to misery.

Greed yields gluttony.

Arrogance generates vanity.

Self-pity brings sadness.

Guilt produces shame.

Inferiority brings a feeling of weakness.

Lies build deception.

We all experience these dark moments in our lives. It is natural and it is expected. The important question is how you deal with them.

Do not let the darker moments linger. Left alone they will grow into the worst forms of themselves.

The Light WOLF

How about the lighter side of life? Here is the list of positive traits from the grandfather:

  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Love
  • Hope
  • Serenity
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Benevolence
  • Empathy
  • Generosity
  • Truth
  • Compassion
  • Faith

Lucky for us, in the same way you can feed and grow the dark, you can also feed and grow the light.

If you feed your faith, it will grow into a hope that sustains you through the darkest times of your life.

Empathy turns into benevolence, which brings compassion and generosity into the world.

Joy generates comfort.

Peace leads to reconciliation.

Love brings appreciation.

Serenity produces calmness.

Humility grows into modesty.

Kindness develops into grace.

Truth gives us principles.

The only trait that I think is missing from this list is gratitude. I know that I need to practice gratitude everyday. Gratitude creates the joy in my life.

Which One Will Win?

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
-Brené Brown

The Cherokee grandfather is honest about the fight between darkness and light that is happening inside him. Each morning brings the same struggle to us all. Some days are easier than others, but the challenge is always there, even in the smallest moments of the day.

If the world around you is feeding the dark, remember that you have a choice. Light casts out the dark. You can feed hope into the world’s most gloomy spots, winning the battle with one small action at a time.

Feed the light and you win the struggle.

2 Comments

  1. Really enjoyed reading this – it’s so true – we need to focus on the positives so they will grow. If we focus on the negatives it’s a downward spiral. Thanks for the reminder of this.

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