In preparing to lead a discussion about prayer practices, I came across a tale that illustrates the battle within us for how we choose to live life. It speaks of two wolves that live in our minds—one wolf is negative, wearing anger, envy, jealousy, greed, arrogance, resentment, pride, inferiority, superiority and ego. The other wolf is positive, wearing joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The two wolves battle within us, and the one that wins is the one we feed.
Which wolf do you feed? It’s worth looking at the traits listed above and evaluating your general disposition. It may not be a comfortable exercise. Most of us would rather look for the wrong in others rather than seek it in ourselves. When one ventures into self-assessment, it’s not always a pleasant journey! Teresa of Avila, in her book, The Interior Castle, which describes the journey toward union with God, describes the ugliness and unpleasantness we discover in ourselves as we first set out on this journey.
Advent is a season where we are called upon to change, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. Are we willing to change? Or when confronted with the invitation to change, the recognition that there are less than desirable traits within, do we shrug our shoulders and say “That’s just the way I am”?
Feeding the positive wolf, if it is to me more than a veneer, must begin by recognizing how easily the negative wolf masquerades as savvy, shrewd and clever. When pride, jealousy and greed are painted as self-promotion, self-protection and self-sufficiency, we may fail to see the way we are feeding the negative wolf.
Philippians 4:8 is a scriptural description of feeding the positive wolf: From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely and all that is worthy of praise.
Why does any of this matter? Because the wolf doesn’t simply stay in our minds, as thoughts. Thoughts become words and words become actions and actions become our character. The wolf in us, positive or negative, comes out of us. It does not stay hidden away, and if it is a negative wolf, what we are feeding is likewise devouring us!