According to an Indian Cherokee legend: “There are two wolves in each of us. A villain, who lives in unhappiness, fear, worry, and jealousy, displeasure, self-pity, and resentment and a sense of inferiority. The other wolf who searches for peace, love, hope, generosity, compassion, humility and faith. Which one wins? The one you feed the most.”

The wolves depict the human soul

This Native American legend impressed me as it clearly depicts the human soul. Human beings are capable of great positive actions, generosity, compassion and heroism, but they can also be blinded by hatred and selfishness, by indifference towards one’s neighbor, or worse by violence.

We are taught good values in the family, at school, in the parish, or in other educational associations, and even in sports. But how much food is offered to the bad wolf? We can think of pornography, violence, hatred, prevarication, and gambling: everyday fare offered by television and the internet because they are more attractive.

To raise our mind to positive things, we need determination and will. Indeed, in each of us there is an intimate need for peace, truth, and goodness. So it is not true that man is fundamentally selfish and evil, or rather it is true but in part, but only depending also on many external factors, but within us, good also exists. In an evolving society, we have to encourage the good, fostering an ethics of civil co-existence, providing educational places for peace, and dialogue. Utopia? Maybe. But it is the longing for “utopia” and great ideals that bring out the best in us, and that would be feeding the good wolf.

Many scholars and intellectuals have also tried to answer this existential question, because the mystery of the human soul is always fascinating. Perhaps we can never come up with a scientific answer, but at least we can share our ideas. Machiavelli and Hobbes agreed on the wickedness of man, but I think that the human person at birth is like a blank page, neither good nor bad, but in need of care and love. When this does not happen, negative consequences come about on the psychological, affective and relational level.

A person’s education and history do influence choices, and human beings are often weak, and this fragility sometimes leads them to go out of track. However, this does not mean that one cannot start over again. Generally this happens when one meets a partner to share his/her situation with. I believe that everyone has a negative as well as a positive side. Reason can help us control our selfish instincts, but it is the heart that makes the difference.

I do not know if a human person is born genetically good or bad, but surely he is a person in need of relationships. Our existence depends on our ability to create constructive relationships with others, where each one gives and receives. Perhaps redemption from selfishness is offered to us by the need for others. Relationship with others can help us become generous and unselfish persons.

Marco D’ Ercole, Marina Gui and Ting Nolasco
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