David Whitesock

Social Entrepreneur | 2015 Bush Fellow

Which Wolf are You Feeding?

Recently, I was introduced to a parable that was new to me. It's the parable of two wolves and it goes like this:

An old grandfather told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment. The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and bravery.”

The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

My introduction to this parable was somewhat happenstance. I follow Simon Sinek on Twitter (author of "Start with Why"). He tweeted an interview he did with a podcast called "The One You Feed". I needed something to listen to for a three hour drive and queued it up on the iPhone.

Instantly, the parable and the premise of the podcast resonated with me. I was so struck by the parable and how I had applied a form of the parable to my life over the last decade, that I completely reworked a speech I was to give at the end of my three hour drive at a drug court graduation.

The parable of the wolves worked wonderfully for the drug court speech. Here were a number of individuals, some graduating the program and others at some other stage, but all faced with the great weight of the court as they work through significant life changes.

We can easily commit ourselves to the doom of failure, especially in a criminal justice like situation, if our focus is not on feeding the good wolf. The given is that life with the restrictions and requirements of a drug court are tough, but the alternative is worse, right?

That's quite the tricky question, actually. For some, time in jail or prison is relatively easy compared to having to face real life.

Even for the average person out there, the tendency may be to go through life choosing the path of least resistance. This person makes safe choices in life, which over time, equate to a steady, but anemic feeding of the good wolf. Thus, this person may never quite reach their full potential.

My philosophy over the last 10 years has been see the path of least resistance but not to take that as the given path. Many told me not to go back to college just six months after getting out of jail and being very early in my addiction recovery and new life. I listened to their advice, but was not satisfied with such a safe option. Sure, I might limit or eliminate the danger that could trigger a relapse, but frankly, relapse was no longer a fear for me. For years of fighting addiction and cycling through periods of treatment and recovery, everyone put the fear of God in my mind that a single relapse was the end of the world and the the only way to win was to fear alcohol and everything associated with alcohol.

That fear was feeding my bad wolf. 

When I started college, I immediately began counseling sessions at the student counseling center.  Through that consistent counseling, I learned and improved upon an ability to identify positive and negative energy, people, places, and things. With practice, I got real good an assessing situations and people and running them through a personal cost-benefit analysis. If the scales tipped in favor of being a positive impact on my life as I was constantly defining it, then I would further explore the situation or relationship. If not, I graciously found ways to reject negative.

This was me starving my bad wolf and feeding my good wolf.

It worked. 

My life dramatically improved. I accomplished goals many didn't think were possible. I took risks, but not without intentionality and thought.

This process continues to this day. I just have another way of viewing it.