The Cherokee story of the Two Wolves

This was a story narrated by Hannah Moore at the 12th International Conference of the European Forum for Restorative Justice, 29-31 May 2024, Tallinn, Estonia; I don’t recall all the rich details of Hannah’s narrative, so I adapted from the Internet.

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?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

My commentary:
There’s at least two faults in this story.

  1. The assumption that we know which wolf we are feeding, and that people who let the bad wolf win are knowingly and willingly feeding it. I think that often the Evil wolf may appear to be Good, while the Good wolf is perhaps seen as weak, so we feed the Evil wolf thinking we are feeding the Good wolf
  2. This is even more crucial: We are not the only ones feeding our wolves - other people are also feeding our wolves. This can happen directly (like Gríma Wormtongue and King Théoden of Rohan in Lord of the Rings) but it can even be indirect - when we see Evil wolf actions around us, our Evil wolf is strengthened. Likewise with our Good wolf.

There is also an alternative version of the story where we should feed both wolves - but the above caveats would still apply.