The black wolf and the white wolf

There is a story I like to tell to my clients, participants and friends. It’s about a wise, old Cherokee Indian. Because I felt like writing about it I just did some Google research and I realized that I unconsciously changed the story slightly. Which is nice, I guess. It means that the story is alive. I also found that there is a second chapter but let me start with the beginning.

A group of Cherokee children has gathered around their grandfather. They are filled with excitement and curiousity. That day there had been a quite tumultuous conflict between two adults and their grandfather was called to mediate. The children are eager to hear what he has to say about it.

One of the children pops the question that puzzles him. “Grandfather, why do people fight?”. “Well” the old man replies “we all have two wolves inside us, you see. They are in our chest. And these wolves are constantly fighting each other”. The eyes of the children have grown big by now. “In our chests too, grandfather?” asks another child. “And in your chest too?” asks a third one. He nods, “yes, in my chest too”. He surely has their attention now. Grandfather continues. “There is a white wolf and a black wolf. The black wolf is filled with fear, anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The white wolf is filled with peace, love, hope, courage, humility, compassion, and faith. They battle constantly”. Then he stops. It’s the child that asked the initial question that can’t handle the tension anymore. “But grandfather, which wolf wins?”. The old Cherokee simply replies, “the one that we feed”.

Nice story, isn’t it? It is not so hard to resonate with the “feeding” of anger, jealousy, envy and greed. These emotions can really have power over us and we can see how we keep fueling them and feel how hard it is to “snap out of it”. What also sounds pretty convincing and hopeful is the idea that we have a choice. We can stop feeding the black wolf and start feeding the white wolf at any given moment. It’s the whole spiritual path, or the path to happines and fulfilment in a nutshell. And I don’t know about you but the third thing that definately speaks to me is that it’s a never ending battle. Not that I like it but I surely resonate with it.

Stop feeding the black wolf. Feed the white wolf. It’s that simple. But it ain’t easy.

When hearing this story many people realize how utterly and completely their world is dominated by the black wolf. We are driven by greed and fear, our economy is based on the idea of scarsity and in order to survive the black wolf will go far to obtain the biggest part of the pie he can get.

Fact is that most of us have a very underdeveloped white wolf. Makes sense, it was hardly fed. The white wolf is weak, skinny and small. “If I show my white wolf at work, it will be murdered within seconds” is a common reply from executives I coach. “There is no place for the white wolf in our company”, they say. And of course, I believe them, in the sense that I can see that the vast majority of businesses and corparations are completely run by black wolves.

But I found out something really cool about the white wolf. Where the shoulder height of the black wolf can reach a maximum of 32-34 inches (80-85 cm), the white wolf can grow into the size of a horse. When a well developed white wolf enters a room filled with back wolves something changes. The underdeveloped white wolves realize they are potentially a lot stronger than their black bullies. All of a sudden they got back-up. And every strong white wolf will back his weaker brothers and sisters up. Always.

The black wolf is primarily self-serving and mainly interested in staying ahead of the other wolves at any cost. He is the survivor. The white wolf is interested in the development and empowerment of all his white brothers and sisters and sees himself as a mere vehicle to spread loving kindness. He is led by his cause. It doesn’t feel like a choice or an obligation, he just surrenders to the call of this life force. It just feels natural.

It’s tough to get your inner white wolf healthy with a strong and cunning black wolf around that is eager to steal as much food as possible. But please be perseverent. Then one day you will notice that the white wolf has become equally strong. That is the tipping point. Allthough the battle continues the white wolf wins more and more fights and keeps getting stronger. Like Neo in The Matrix.

Contrary to the way black wolves relate a white wolf never has to be afraid when he meets a stronger white wolf. They are natural allies. So the best thing you can do is first start feeding the white wolf sneakily; do a meditation course. Meanwhile look around carefully and find the biggest white wolf around. Learn. Practice. Read. Study the black wolf. Stop being his bitch. Start winning.

Favorite white wolves: Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Dag Hammarskjöld, Martin Luther King.


    • Brett says

      Sorry if i sound like a dick or anything but i believe that both wolves must work in unison. If everyone was a “white wolf” it would be a dull world and the purpose of living would be very little. I do see the desire for all to be white wolves and i agree to a certain point. Im sure my opinion doesn’t matter but i just figured id share

      • says

        No your opinion does matter and I agree you are right. We need the white wolf to help us down the right path of life, but we need the black wolf to give us a twist in life. We need the black wolf to make the world go left the wrong way but we need the white wolf to make the world to go right the right way. Together the 2 wolves keep the world in balance.

      • says

        I have seen 2 visions recently. Very vivid. Both of a single black and white wolf half half and very strong yet agile and graceful. I keep finding info of a black or white wolf but none of a mixed wolf. I am sure it will make more sense on my 3rd vision yet I anticipate with excitement humbility and fear whilst sensing a new feeling of strength. Any input?

    • Frost says

      I agree to an extent.You need the white wolf to know the black, and the black wolf to know the white. You can’t know one without the other.

      • says

        That is true the White wolf does have a caring heart but the Black wolf has seems to not have a heart at all. But we need them both to balance this world you are your own wolf you choose which way to go or you can make you own path.

    • says

      But who will feed the black wolf. You can’t follow the same paw print that someone else has made. You must make your own path your own paw prints. You can choose to follow one of the ways, or you can choose to make your own, It is your choose.

    • says

      It may look like a wolf to some people. It may look like a wolf to others. It doesn’t matter what it looks or what it is, what matters is that it teaches a lesson for all. That was kind of funny though good notice.

  1. connor says

    i dont get why people always say that the black wolf is so mean sometimes in the end the black wolf can be the nicest the white wolf isnt always the angel…. i like the moral of the story but i dont like how it makes the black wolf look bad

    • says

      I agree the black wolf is the one who balances our life the white wolf is the one that shows the bright side and tries to make us forget the dark side. Even the Black wolf has feelings you know at least give the Black wolf a chance.

  2. says

    I first heard this story told by the brillant John Kehoe at a seminar. It is great to re-visit it after an encounter with a physical manifestation of a black wolf posing as a white one! I am a white wolf and this encounter has made me a stronger white wolf where at first it seemed to make me weaker as I let my black wolf get the better of me through the process for a time. It is great to be reminded that I am led by my cause. It doesn’t feel like a choice or an obligation, I do just surrender to the call of this life force. It does just feel natural. I am the author of a children’s book that I wrote to re-teach a philosophy that is common to Indigenous cultures to the masses on Earth because that is what the life force beckons me to do. I will keep feeding my white wolf as neurologically, the pathways that we exercise are the ones that become stronger. This story has a basis in medical science too! I love it!

  3. david says

    There cannot be a truce or a working in unison between the black and white wolves they have opposing needs . Beware the voice that says there is room for both , it will be the voice of the black wolf . Feed the white wolf only .
    There can be only one victor , your choice.

  4. says

    I do like this story, it’s been one of my favorite for a long time but I wanted to let you know that those black and white “wolves” in your image are Arctic Foxes, not wolves. I just think it makes your page look a little silly.

  5. Vithal C Nadkarni says

    This is not a nitpick from a nitwit please…but do take the trouble of getting the spelling of the Great Soul (Mahatma) Gandhi right please! It is NOT Ghandi. What’s otherwise a very thought-provoking piece gets marred by this bit of sloppiness.

  6. says

    Thank you for showing the way, the right, The white wolf way. I believe the story is true and the wolves are real as others may not. I call the Black Wolf Loki, and the White wolf Nikki. I choose Nikki because in Ancient Greece Nikki is the Victory Goddess. I believe that inside all of us Nikki will rise, instead of Loki. I also believe that Loki will still be there to try to convert us to his side and destroy Nikki, But through thick and thin Nikki will stand by and protect us. Loki will never stop trying, but Nikki will never stop protecting. You might think your feeding the White Wolf but, that’s what the Black Wolf wants you to think. Don’t let the Loki win but it is you’re choice on who you let win if I were you I would help Nikki win. By doing good deeds, doing small deeds can make a big difference. As you do good deeds Nikki grows stronger to defeat Loki but every time you do something for your own selfish needs Loki grows stronger. Which paw print will you follow?

  7. M. says

    I like how you interpreted the story of the wolves, tho it is believed that the story took a different turn (which I will paste down below). What the old Cherokee tells his grandson in this story is that both wolves win. You see, many people see the black wolf as ‘evil’, whereas I have been thought that there are always two sides to éverything. For instance let’s take fear, fear exists soly because we know our boundries, we take caution in our actions because we know they have consequences. Fear keeps us sharp, which is not bad but you have to keep it in balance and not let it rule over your life. The same goes for all ‘good’ and ‘bad’ qualities. Ofcourse I truely agree that people should feed their white wolf but in my personal opinion you should keep both the white and the black wolf in balance. When you come across a weakness of yourself, try finding the strength in that but when you come across something that you are strong in, try to see that if you feed it too much it could also become a hinderance in your life. When you find that balance and accept both ‘wolves’ you will find peace with yourself.

    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, “They both win.”
    “You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and always fighting the white wolf.

    But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all. You see son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance.

    Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission is life. A man who has peace inside has everything. A man who is pulled apart by the war inside him has nothing. How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”

    • Sunset says

      Thank you so much for including this. I saw I comment similar to this somewhere else with 2nd half of the story -which is quite difficult to find- about the importance of feeding both and no matter how much I tried couldn’t find it again. Where did you find the full story of this??


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