A Native American elder was asked how she had become so wise, so happy and so respected.
She said — “In my heart there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate.
It all depends on which one I feed each day”.
Simply put and so profound! With so much in the media about violence and intolerance among people of different countries and religious beliefs, this story that I read in a book discussing happiness, love and wisdom came to my mind. Many wolves of hate leap up day in and out, grabbing space on news channels and in print (in shootouts, stabbing and other acts of violence). The wolf of hate snarls at persons close to us (at home, work, classrooms) and at those at a distance. Reading a bit more, I understood that while the wolf of hate gets mileage and publicity the wolf of love is actually stronger, having been developed over millions of years (it’s just that we forget to feed it each day). The brain is capable of a lot of empathy and has survived harsh conditions in the past — cooperation is woven into our brain and forgiveness, fairness, concern, generosity, empathy are part of it. We are reminded about how the wolf of hate tends to shrink the circle ‘us’ leaving us only with the self. The outcome is that the brain routinely categorises people into us and them, preferring ‘us’ and devaluing ‘them’.
Examples of situations where there can be lack of empathy:
- Getting annoyed with a friend who has a different point of view from our own
- Calling a teacher names because she stammers
- Making fun of an aunt who has a physical disability
- Demanding that our friend/ family help us (without checking if they can do so)
In the above situations, we can decrease our differences or hatred by developing empathetic skills.
How Can Empathy Help In Our Daily Lives?
- Bias, discrimination, violence and intolerance can be dissolved with empathy
- Empathy helps us to improve interpersonal relationships and value others’ opinions
Training Ourselves To Be Empathetic: According to Tibetan monk Dalai Lama, empathy is an important tool that not only enhances compassion and love but helps us to deal with others at any level. If we have some difficulty in a relationship or in accepting a viewpoint, putting ourselves in the other person’s place and seeing how we would react to the situation is a starting point. For this we need to be creative and imaginative with a capacity to temporarily suspend our own point. This process brings awareness and respect for another’s feelings and is an important factor in reducing conflict with other people. Can we nourish the wolf of love and nurture empathy towards those around us, recognising the rights of each person, their views and ideology?
Remember, not feeding the wolf of hate is an option in our daily lives.