A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me… it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, hatefulness, and lies. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, humbleness, kindness, friendship, generosity, faith, and truth. This same fight is going on inside of you, and inside every other person, too."
The children thought about it for a minute. Then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The Cherokee elder replied, "The one you feed."
Thing of it is, this is applicable to so much more than a simplistic "good vs. evil" parable. It can apply to anything! Like, say, social media. "Don't feed the trolls" is a mantra that's been around since the '80s at least. In more recent times, I've seen a pattern where some prominent person on Twitter (for example) gets pinged by an asshole and, instead of muting the asshole and moving on with their life, the person either retweets with what they feel is a smackdown, or otherwise engages.
Result? All the assholes start coming out of the woodwork, and suddenly prominent person is flooded with obnoxious messages, all of them looking for attention. The prominent person may feel like they were "shining a light in dark corners" or turning up a log to reveal all the bugs crawling around in the muck or whatever, but all they really did? Was feed the bad wolf. They now get to spend hours/days/the rest of their life wrestling in the digital mud with these idiots. It sucks, yes, but the prominent person invited them in.
This doesn't apply to people who are harassed by assholes merely for being themselves– "Internetting While Female" does not count as feeding the bad wolf, for instance. That's another discussion all together. But people like Wil Wheaton engaging in snark fights, and then having to spend the rest of the day far away from the internet because they effectively cast Summon Asshole? That counts.
This topic is fresh in my mind currently because this year is going to be about broadening my reach and impact in the world artistically and (for lack of a better term) commercially, and I'm already having to be very careful about what (and who) I respond to and where I engage, because I can clearly see the ripples of different types of energy trying to get in. Some are positive, and many are amazing... but more than a few are not.
One of the problems with the bad wolf is that, being bad, it often tries to disguise its true nature because it knows anyone with a modicum of awareness and self-esteem will reject it. What starts off as a seemingly fun and innocent or even benevolent interaction can sour quickly, and it's important to pay attention when that happens. What you thought was a pleasant chat with the good wolf can turn out to have been the bad wolf trying to finagle an invitation the whole time.
If you get fooled by this, it's not a failure on your part– it's the bad wolf being bad. The old saw should go: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you again and stop it, you jerk." But when you realize that it's the bad wolf at work, you need to shut it down quickly and decisively. In my own case, that means even calling out or disengaging with people who are my own fans, if they try to turn my work into something dark or mean. You can be funny without being mean, and you can be smart without being snide or toxic.
What you invite into your life, you will get more of. That's just how the universe works. So make sure you're inviting the good stuff in. :)
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