Perhaps you’ve heard the parable of the Native American grandfather who was walking with his teenage grandson who, like many young men, was struggling to discern his purpose in life and the values that would guide him.
“Grandfather,” said the young man, “I feel like I have two wolves fighting within me. One is fierce and angry; the other is kind and peaceful. Please tell me, which one will win?” Responded the wise elder, “The one that you feed.”
That story comes to mind when in these days there’s so much anger, so many harsh words to be found in our nation and culture, our church and community. Sometimes the division appears even in our own families, fueled by dinnertime arguments over sharp differences of political opinions. It seems that the fierce and angry wolf is winning.
And the division is a problem we need to take seriously. Left unchecked it can lead to civil unrest, the death of democracy, a scandalous split of a faith community, and painful, permanent separation from our loved ones.
We realize that it’s not a new problem. St. Paul addressed the issue in his time: “Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit . . . Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Eph 4: 30-32)
As the wise grandfather suggested, the wolf that will win is the one that we feed. In other words, the emotions we feel, the words we speak, and the choices we make, are intentional. We have the power to decide how we will speak and how we will act, knowing that our words and deeds have consequences. We can either build up or tear down.
All this is not to deny the right we have, even the obligation, to speak the truth as we see it, and to confront immoral activity. Jesus certainly did that, and sometimes with harsh, condemnatory language. But, as his imperfect disciples we cannot claim the same unsullied moral ground as Jesus. Thus we need to temper our zeal with prudence, our righteousness with humility, and our anger with charity. The imitation of Christ requires nothing less.
Something to think about: In your thoughts, words and deeds, which wolf do you feed – the fierce, angry one, or the kind, peaceful one?