The Relationship Handbook
The Relationship Workshop
Workshop Audio CD Bundles
Amazing Relationships eZine
Relationship Coaching
In-House Training & Speaking
Contact Kevin B. Burk
Kevin B. Burk on Facebook


Feeding the Wolf

by Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.

A traditional Native American story describes a boy who was feeling angry and upset at an injustice, who goes to his old Grandfather for advice. The Grandfather tells the boy that he, too has felt these feelings of hate and anger. The Grandfather shares that he has also realized how these feelings have no effect on his enemy, but they do cause him great pain.

“It is as if I have two wolves living inside me,” says the Grandfather. “One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.”

“But the other wolf,” Grandfather continues, “fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. The smallest thing will send him into a fury. He cannot think because his anger and rage are so great; however for all its fury, his anger changes nothing.

“Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looks into his Grandfather’s eyes and asks, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

His grandfather replies, “Whichever one I feed.”

The lessons in this story are powerful, and echoed through many spiritual teachings and religions. One of the most famous bits of advice in Christianity is “Turn the other cheek.” Buddhism teaches the path of the Middle Way. Hinduism advocates non-violence in all things. Even some of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi have demonstrated the power of the path of peace.

Many of us on a spiritual path understand and embrace the principles of love, non-violence and non-aggression in every area of our lives right up to the point when someone cuts us off in traffic on the freeway.

Even though we may accept the truth that forgiveness is essential to our long-term health, prosperity and joyful experience of life, many of us continue to nurse our old wounds and grudges as if they were cherished family heirlooms. A part of our consciousness may be able to consider the fact that we, in fact, are the only ones being punished with our grudges, but that small voice is inevitably drowned out by the howling of the angry wolf within.

We listen to the voice of this wolf, and we believe that our anger and our rage serve a purpose. While it’s true that we can harness the power of our anger and use this energy to help us break through to new levels of self-expression, we rarely do this. Instead, we keep the fires stoked and turn the energy back on ourselves.

We may accept that it is possible to defend without attacking, but we fail to realize that if we do not work consciously with our anger, it will always attack. If we express it unskillfully, it will attack others, and if we repress it, it will attack us.

On some level, we believe that the anger and resentment we carry within us is exacting revenge on those who have hurt us. The truth, of course, is that we are the ones that carry the burden of our own anger and resentment. Our angry thoughts only have the power to hurt us.

Since this is the case, forgiveness has nothing at all to do with absolving the people who have hurt us. Forgiveness is a purely selfish (and self-loving) act. The people we resent don’t experience our resentment: Our thoughts and emotions never leave our heads and bodies. These people are not being punished by our thoughts: we are. When we forgive them, we give ourselves permission to stop hurting ourselves with our anger. We set down the burden of hate and the belief in separation, and as soon as we do, we experience less pain and suffering.

So many of us know this to be true. We understand the logic and the power of forgiveness. We’ve experienced the emotional, spiritual and physical toll that our anger and resentment exacts from us. And still, we find it difficult—and sometimes seemingly impossible—to forgive. The deeper the wound, the older the hurt, the harder it is for us to let it go.

Why is it so difficult to forgive for so many of us? Because the still, small voice that reminds us of the truth of the power of forgiveness is drowned out by the cries of the angry wolf inside us.

As with so many things in life, in order to create big changes, we have to begin with small steps. We must become aware of how strong and powerful each of the two wolves within us is; we must own the fact that our choices and actions have created this dynamic; and finally, we can choose which wolf we feed, and which wolf we starve.

Each time we react in anger instead of responding from love, we feed the angry wolf and make it stronger. This includes every time we’re cut off in traffic and every time we yell at the television because we’re frustrated with our politicians and elected officials. Every time we respond to any situation, we’re feeding one of the wolves within.

The smallest choices we make in our lives can have the greatest impact. The more we choose to forgive, the less we choose to take things personally, the more we feed the peaceful wolf within. As the peaceful wolf grows stronger and the angry wolf grows weaker, it becomes easier for us to make the loving, non-violent, peaceful choice, even in more challenging circumstances.

And, because the past does not influence the future, it doesn’t matter how well-fed the angry wolf is right now. If we stop feeding it, it will weaken.

As the voice of the angry wolf dies down and the angry wolf grows weak from neglect, it becomes possible for us to forgive the older grudges and heal our deepest and oldest wounds.

Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life. Visit for a FREE Report on creating Amazing Relationships.

©2006 Kevin B. Burk, all rights reserved. If you would like to reprint this article in your publication, web page, or eZine (which you may do for free!), click here for details.


[The Relationship Handbook] • [The Relationship Workshop] • [Audio CD Bundles]
[Articles & Excerpts] • [eZine] • [Relationship Coaching] • [In-House Training & Speaking]
[Contact Us] • [Media Resources]

©2009 Kevin B. Burk, All Rights Reserved