There is a Native American story that has long been meaningful for me. It is a conversation between grandparent and a child:
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said: “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that you feed.”
I have reflected on this story for a while. It is meaningful, the notion that our “wolves” are not finalized, but fed. We feed them. We nurture them, and we grow them. The victory of the “wolf” is tied directly to our own nurturing of them.
And yet I also want to push beyond the story a little bit. I now see the wolves as perhaps less of a dichotomy, more mingled, more intertwined.
And they have to do with fear and kindness.
I used to be fearless. Or, at least, I believed I was. As a young man, I felt brave, immune to fear, even fearless. I thought bravery meant inability to experience fear. I believed fear meant weakness. Now, I am not so sure. I look at the news everyday. I know I am vulnerable. Look at my children, and wonderful what kind of world I have brought them into. I look at these beautiful souls, laughing, giggling, playing, and know that if they hurt, I my world falls apart. My heart opens to the shooting in Oregon, these are all of our kids. I look at fifty shootings in Chicago in one weekend, 2300 this year. These lives matter. The heart looks at a Palestinian kid shot in Hebron, another killed in Jerusalem. Heart sees Jews stabbed in Jerusalem. Heart breaks here Heart breaks there. My friends are wondering out loud if they should have brought children into this world. We are afraid. I am fearful yes, full of fear these days. I have been wondering about this fear. Wondering how to live with it. I know that the world as it is today is not how it has to be. Confident that the universe is ultimately a moral universe, bending towards justice. But the arc is sooooo long that the end is not in sight. Yet I trust that kindness and sharing will have the victory in the end. As to how we get there, less sure. Rumi teaches me that in life we either walk the path of fear or the path of love, but we cannot be on both paths in the same breath. These truths I know. But the fear is real. I have come to accept this fear. To welcome this vulnerability. For the first time in my life, I admit to myself: yes, I am afraid. We are vulnerable. Reaching deep into my heart, High towards the Spirit that animates me I speak to this fear: You shall not have the last word. I am not fear itself, I am not bound to fear. At this very moment, yes, I am afraid, vulnerable. This fear is a guest. It will stay in the keravansaray of my heart for a few days, years. A permanent guest, he is not. Eventually he will leave. Until then, yes, come in fear. Be at home. You, fear, are a shadow of love. A love for all that I hold dear, and what could happen to them. You are like an eclipse whose shape is nothing but the shadow of our own selves. In the meantime, as fear and vulnerability set in, I know that while I am afraid, this fear need not define me. You will not exhaust who I am. I am afraid, but I am more than fear. There is something in me more than this fear. Strive I do for a new brave not in spite of fear; not the absence of fear, but the commitment to hold on to love In the presence of fear. My heart will be the venue to witness victory of this new bravery. It begins with a refusal. I refuse. refuse to believe that all hope is gone refuse to believe that mercy is gone refuse to believe that our conscience is a fossil. As long as there is a God, there is hope and love. We are not meant to live as too many of us are living. As hate-filled and violent as our world is today, I refuse to give in to hatred. We are going to stick with love, because the alternative is unlivable. It is love that is ultimately divine, and it is through this love that we will form the beloved community. Yes, fear is real. Love is More. More Real. More Divine More luminous More. I choose the More. We are going to stick with love. Love over fear. This is the wolf that I want to feed, today, Everyday everywhere here, Now.