There is a Cherokee Indian legend entitled “Two Wolves.” The story goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is in between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”
There are lots of voices that compete for our attention. They might be voices of positive encouragement or negative encouragement. They might be voices of joy or anger, of optimism or pessimism. They might come from other people or they might come from within ourselves. The question to ponder is this: Which voices are you listening to? Which voices do you feed into?
The voices change someone throughout our lives. When we are babies, the only voice we hear is the voice of our parents, maybe our grandparents. Whatever is happening in our home sets the tone. I remember when our son went to pre-school for the first time and I mentioned to someone how nervous I was—not about him enjoying the experience or being safe, but the fact that up until that point in his life, the only voices he heard were those of his parents—we controlled the tone of voice and the content of what was being said, and now someone else was going to have an influence and a voice in his life.
In childhood, we hear the voices of parents, teachers, and friends primarily. Hopefully, children also hear the voice of God, through parents reading the Bible to them, praying with them, and taking them to church. This is an important warning to parents—PARENTS are responsible for making sure that God’s voice is present in the lives of their children. A young child is not going to drive to church on his or her own. And even if a parent gets a child to church and Sunday school each week, if there is no praying in the home, and if the Bible is not being read in the home, then the voice of God will be drowned out by the other voices on the other six days of the week.
As children become teenagers, the voices of friends and the media start to become the loudest voices they hear. Many times in working with teens, when I ask them which voice is loudest for them in their lives, they will rank friends and media first and second, then parents, teachers, and God. The influence of friends and media dominates the other voices. One problem with this becomes the fact that the ideas of the friends and the media change constantly, and so listening to these voices while ignoring the stable voices of parents and most especially the voice of God leaves teenagers without a sense of stability. Everything seems to be constantly shifting.
Teens become adults and the voices shift again. The voice of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or the voice of a spouse becomes the loudest voice. The voice of parents becomes one of friend or consultant, rather than director. At some point in adult life, the voice of parents stops as they pass on. The voices of their own children become significant, but these are not voices of advice. Friends continue to have a voice. And it’s probably safe to say in the world today that the media has perhaps the most influential voice in shaping our thoughts and opinions. The loudest voices in life, for many years, have been angry voices. It has become virtuous to be angry (not even passionate because it goes beyond healthy passion) about something. And we go continually to sources to feed our anger, which becomes primarily the news outlets. Sadly, the voice of the media used to be for information. Now it is for influence. And because anger is seen now as a “virtue,” if one isn’t outraged about something, it seems as if one is lacking something.
The only voice that can be consistent throughout life is the voice of God. My parents have both passed away. I hear their voices only in my memories. I thankfully have a few mentors but I no longer am a student who hears the voice of a teacher every day. I have a few very close friends, but they are not full time in ministry. I hear the voice of my spouse every day, but not while at work. I have some close friends who are priests but they don’t live in my city so I don’t see or hear from them every day. The competing voices in my life, the ones that are present everywhere and at all times in my life, are the media and God. Family, friends and co-workers are not always in my office. However, the media is always a click away on the computer and God is always available through prayer and Scripture reading. So, I have to soberly ask myself, do I spend more time clicking away on the computer or on my knees in prayer? Which voice in my life gets fed the most? And which voice feeds me the most? Is it the voice of the wolf (the media) or the voice of the Lamb (Jesus)?
Voices of optimism or pessimism affect us. So do voices of encouragement or discouragement. It is much harder to feel optimistic or encouraged when the voices around us are pessimistic or discouraging. It is important to ask ourselves what kind of voices we are surrounded with, and what kind of voices we choose to surround ourselves with.
Our voices can also be influential—as parents, as co-workers, and as friends. Are our voices ones of encouragement or discouragement, do they bring peace or anger, do they reflect God? These are all sobering questions.
Which is the loudest voice in your life—parents, teachers, friends, spouse, media, God? The one you feed the most becomes the loudest voice in your life. And what kind of voice do you bring into the world? Will people hear God in your voice?
Lord, in prayer I raise my voice up to You. As I pray, Lord, please help me to hear Your voice. There are so many competing voices in my life. Help me to lead with the positive ones and drowned out the negative ones. Help me to hear voices of encouragement over the voices of anger, so that I can bring encouragement rather than anger to those around me. Most important, help me to always listen for and hear Your voice, and may Your voice be reflected in my voice and in what I say in the world. Amen.
It is crucial for our salvation that God’s voice is the leading voice in our lives. It is critically important to not let God’s voice be drowned out by the other voices in our lives. And that only happens when we spend time with God, so that we can hear His voice of love and hope, in a world that has somehow tried to silence both.