As fallen humans we all live in a state of alienation that is the result of identity confusion.
Both theology and psychology realize this reality and both work to resolve this confusion between the true self and the false self. One is born out of a theology of the Imago Dei and the other from destructive narratives we are fed from birth. So what determines which identity wins out over the other? This insightful Cherokee story sheds light on the spiritual battle that rages inside each and every one of us.
The Two Wolves
A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life.
He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me… it is a terrible fight between two wolves.
One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, hatefulness, and lies.
The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, humbleness, kindness, friendship, generosity, faith, and truth.
This same fight is going on inside of you, and inside every other person, too.”
The children thought about it for a minute. Then one child asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”
The Cherokee elder replied…
“The one you feed most.”
Paul shares a similar insight in Romans 7:14-25:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Can you feel the tension? It’s the battle for our soul. This idea that we are omnipotent gods is the classic serpent’s myth from Genesis and the root of all of our troubles. (Gen. 3:5) This illusion of omnipotence, even when subconscious, alienates us from the five loves of God, self, others, creation, and our enemies (we’ll explore these in another series). This is the deep soul sickness we all suffer from.
What habits do you have that feed the wrong wolf?
What needs to happen for that to change?
So, what disciplines do you practice that feed the right wolf?
What are the fruits of those disciplines?