This is just one of the delightful images that came up when Googling “people acting like animals.” Why you may ask, would anyone want to google such a thing? Pure enjoyment reasons aside, the image search was in fact inspired by a quote from one of the books I’ve been reading lately: Prince Caspian of the Narnia Series.
“Such a horrible idea has come into my head, Su…wouldn’t it be dreadful if someday in our own world…men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”
Spoken by Lucy in Prince Caspian by CS Lewis
I’ve read the Narnia series once before, but, this time, this line struck me like an arrow to the heart or a punch to the gut. I was in awe of the relevance of such a quote, both in CS Lewis’ time and perhaps even more so in ours.
We live in a society where our animalistic desires are praised and virtue, compassion, and generosity are contained to convenience where it can least affect our first and foremost right to pleasure seeking and self interest. We are a society of entitlement. Believing we are always and everywhere entitled to what we want. We’ve abandoned the need to ask such questions as, “How will my actions affect other people? Is this for the greater good? Is this helping me to live abundantly and become the best version of myself or is it merely providing immediate gratification? Is my choice selfish?” and focused solely on one simple determining question when choosing whether or not to pursue something, “Will it please me? Do I want it?”
You can see this simply by watching or reading the news, but unfortunately, recent events have also given me a front row seat to broken humanity, to “people acting like animals,” thus the pondering on such topics. While we share a great many characteristics and needs in common with our brother animals, there is a major factor that separates us from them. We alone were created in the image and likeness of God. What does this mean? Well, it means that while we are creature (like other animals in need of food, shelter, reproduction), we also have a unique soul (like God in that we are free, able to love, able to be selfless, we have choice and compassion, suffering and joy).
Another favorite from recent reading has been the following fable of a Cherokee Chief talking with his grandson, quoted in The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he told the young boy, “a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil, full of anger, sorrow, regret, greed, self-pity and false pride. The other is good, full of joy, peace, love, humility, kindness and faith.”
“This same fight is going on inside of you, grandson…and inside of every other person on this earth.”
The grandson ponders this for a moment and then asks, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”
The old man said, “That’s easy…the one you feed.”
The truth of this statement is applicable to all we do. Including the person we will become. We will become, not the person we “dream” of being, but a person made up of each of the characteristics we’ve chosen to feed each moment of each day. So, if we continue to feed our animal instincts in place of love, self sacrifice, compassion and generosity, then we cannot be surprised when we become people driven by pleasure and immediate gratification instead of thought for others and for the common good.
In the saints, we see individuals who have chosen ceaselessly, growth in love, humility, service, compassion, wisdom, purity, relationship with God, contribution to their community. In many of the news stories, we often see the culminating effect of individuals who have repeatedly chosen self pity, anger, selfishness, envy and greed. More often though, I wonder if many of us fall into some middle category: sometimes feeding the wolf of goodness and other times fueling the wolf of self interest.
I believe that what our brothers and sisters, fellow humanity needs most from us, as believers, is simply for us to act more human. First, to begin to remedy the areas in our own lives where we are not choosing to grow in goodness, love, compassion, truth and life. Because the truth is, that while society tells us that we will be most “free” when we are looking out for ourselves and the things that will bring us pleasure, the truth is that we are never more free than when we are giving of ourselves for others, thinking of their well being before our own, conquering the temptations and sins (that claim they’ll bring freedom and pleasure, but in fact only ensnare us). Experience, not only faith, tells me this truth.
So which wolf are you feeding and which one will you choose to feed from here forward? May we all grow to be people of integrity and love.