It’s story time!
The following story is based on a Native American tale. According to my research, it seems to be of Cherokee origin. The version I am using was written by Vicki Smith and can be found on several sites dedicated to Native American lore. The original seems to have been passed down by oral tradition and cannot be attributed to any one person.
There was a grandfather. His little grandson often came in the evenings to sit at his knee and ask the many questions that children ask.
One day the grandson came to his grandfather with a look of anger on his face.
Grandfather said, “Come, sit, tell me what has happened today.”
The child sat and leaned his chin on his Grandfather’s knee. Looking up into the wrinkled, nut brown face and the kind dark eyes; the child’s anger turned to quiet tears.
The boy said, “I went to the town today with my father, to trade the furs he has collected over the past several months. I was happy to go, because father said that since I had helped him with the trapping, I could get something for me. Something that I wanted.
I was so excited to be in the trading post, I have not been there before. I looked at many things and finally found a metal knife! It was small, but good size for me, so father got it for me.”
Here the boy laid his head against his grandfather’s knee and became silent. The Grandfather, softly placed his hand on the boys raven hair and said, “and then what happened?”. Without lifting his head, the boy said, “I went outside to wait for father, and to admire my new knife in the sunlight. Some town boys came by and saw me, they got all around me and starting saying bad things.
“They called me dirty and stupid and said that I should not have such a fine knife. The largest of these boys, pushed me back and I fell over one of the other boys. I dropped my knife and one of them snatched it up and they all ran away, laughing.”
Here the boy’s anger returned, “I hate them, I hate them all!”
The Grandfather, with eyes that have seen too much, lifted his grandson’s face so his eyes looked into the boys. Grandfather said, “Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
“But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me, one is white and one is black. The White Wolf is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. But will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
“But, the Black Wolf, is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.
“Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy, looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes, and asked, “Which one wins Grandfather?”
The above story touches every person differently. I thought I would share how it touched me, and perhaps my friends, lurkers and semi-regular commenters (as few as you might be) would be kind enough to post their reactions. Here is mine:
I love this story because it speaks to my heart. Years ago, I was in the process of ending a relationship. He did not treat me well, and I was an unhappy shell of my true self. I locked my heart behind a cold, pessimistic, hateful wall of pure willful insolence and ignorance. I was determined not to allow myself to be hurt again. I hated my ex for the lonely, scared, insecure person I had felt he’d made me into. I placed the total blame upon him.
At the time, I considered my reactions to be perfectly justified. Just look at how he treated me, I thought. I am justified in my hatred for this man! I allowed my hate to consume me, even becoming physically ill when I had to endure his presence. After he left, I’d shake like a nauseated leaf.
It was at about this time that I found the story of “The One I Feed.” I cried when I read the line “But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. ” I had been poisoning my heart by allowing my hate for this man to consume me.
It took some time for me to fully come to terms with the damage I had allowed myself to do. I’m not a big Dr. Phil fan, but I think the wisest thing I’ve heard the man say is that “We teach people how to treat us.” We really do; then we claim to be victims. We are only victims of our own willingness to accept abuse. I had continually allowed abusive behavior, and thus taught my ex how he was permitted to treat me.
I did not and do not consider myself at fault, but I know I had a role.
These days I find that I feel wiser in some areas, and quite ignorant of others. I realize every day how much I don’t know or understand. One of the areas of confusion is wrapped up around the willingness of so many to allow others to continually affect the well-being of their hearts…and even more their willingness to keep on feeding that black wolf. For some, the feedings are carried out in a willing and gleeful fashion, as if they truly think that they will find happiness in the hatred of another. They say cruel things in a public forum, spread rumors, and wring their hands in anticipation of the distress of their target.
Such behavior makes me pity the person who cannot extract their focus from someone who really cannot hurt them unless they allow it. It makes me think “If I were hit by a bus tomorrow, would I want my last actions, words, and feelings to be ones of hate, insecurity and revenge?”
I think not. For that reason, I choose to feed the white wolf. I hope you will, too.