06/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Feeding Two Wolves: The Struggle Between Good And Evil

"So far today, dear God, I've done all right. I haven't gossiped, haven't lost my temper, and haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. But in a few minutes I'm going to get out of bed and I'm probably going to need a lot more help."

This humorous prayer has a lot of truth in it. We all struggle with what the Eastern Orthodox church calls "the passions." Passions are obsessive emotions, attitudes, desires and ways of thinking and acting that blind our dealings with ourselves, with each other and with God. They are perversions of the good and useful impulses which take away our freedom for genuine love.

A strong desire, for example, to serve the poor, to seek justice, to love the seemingly unlovable would not be described as "passions" in the spirituality of these monastic fathers and mothers because of their relationship to love. On the other hand, anger, gossip, self-serving over-religiosity, condemnatory judgmental attitudes, callous indifference to the well-being of others, obsessive hatred and the like would be considered "passions."

In a sense it is what we spiritually and emotionally feed our hearts and souls daily in the little things we do and think over a long period of time that distinguishes a healthy, loving, God-centered passion from the self-destructive perversion of the good and useful impulses which take away our freedom for genuine love.

I share with you the following parable which in one form or another has a place in a number of faith traditions including Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

One day a Holy father told his disciple about the spiritual battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good...It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The disciple thought about it for a moment and asked his spiritual mentor "Which wolf wins?"

The Holy Father simply replied, "THE ONE YOU FEED".

"There is no victory more glorious than to

be victorious over one's self and sin.

There is no crown or triumph without

victory, and no victory without struggle

against the passions"

-St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

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