There is an old Cherokee story, that of the white and black wolf, that has become popular in the white world, but is only half told.
In it, the grandfather is talking to his grandson about how inside of each of us lives a white wolf and a black wolf. The white wolf is all that is good about us, and the black wolf is all that is bad. The white wolf thrives on justice and peace and the black wolf thrives on anger, fear and hatred.
What the white world has adopted of this tale is this:
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.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
In the white world, the story ends like this:
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
In the Cherokee world, the story ends this way:
The old Cherokee simply replied, “They both win.”
and the story goes on,
“You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and always fighting the white wolf.
But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all. You see son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance.
Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man who has peace inside has everything. A man who is pulled apart by the war inside him has nothing. How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”