There is an old Cherokee tale that you may have heard before. It goes like this:
An elder cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
The children thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old cherokee simply replied,”The one you feed.”
This tale started a period of serious introspection on my part. What things did I do for entertainment? What books, movies, music, and television did I enjoy and seek out? How did each affect my spirituality? I started to see that when I chose less-than-worthy material, my spirituality declined and it was easier to make other poor choices. When I chose good wholesome entertainment, my spirituality increased and it was easier to choose other uplifting entertainment.
However, there was always the constant pull from each direction and I felt like I was always moving. Unfortunately it wasn’t always in the direction I wanted to go.
It is much like navigating a hot air balloon. A balloon pilot can make horizontal movements by changing altitude. Wind blows in different directions at different altitudes. Balloon pilots need to make sure their balloons maintain the appropriate altitude or they will not arrive at their planned destination.
Hot air balloon navigation makes a great spiritual analogy. Hot air is needed to make the balloon rise, much like prayer, reading the scriptures, and obeying the commandments make our spirituality rise. Having no heat, as well as inaction and spiritual lethargy, makes us sink. If you sink, you will be blown in a different direction and arrive at the wrong destination. If you sink too far, you are in danger of hitting something and being injured or destroyed.
As I prayed and contemplated this further, I came across an address by Melvin J. Ballard (1873-1939), an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He gave the address in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City Utah on May 5, 1928.
“All the assaults that the enemy of our souls will make to capture us will be through the flesh. . . . The approach he makes to us will be through the lusts, the appetites, the ambitions of the flesh. All the help that comes to us from the Lord to aid us in this struggle will come to us through the spirit that dwells within this mortal body. So these two mighty forces are operating upon us through these two channels. . . .
But you never can tell how the battle is going to go unless you are taking good care of the spirit. We know that unless one takes proper food and exercise, speaking physically, there is no growth. If you would have a strong spirit which has dominance over the body, you must see to it that your spirit receives spiritual food and spiritual exercise” (Melvin J. Ballard, “Struggle for the Soul,” New Era, Mar 1984, 32).
The analogy of feeding your spirit is mentioned several times in the scriptures. In the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, there is a prophet named Jacob. He plead with his people to feed their spirits rather than the lusts of the flesh.
“Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness ” (2 Nephi 9:51).
My goal is to feed my spirit since that is the force I want to win. With my spirit strong, I can withstand the temptations that are constantly before all of us. With a strong spirit, I will reach the desired destination, which is to return to our loving Heavenly Father.
How are the choices you are making affecting your spirituality?
This post was originally published in November 2008. Minor changes have been made.