“A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.” – George Bernard Shaw 

The pendulum swings, the beast rears its head, the battle rages within us and outside of us.

The struggle between good and evil is a notion as old as humankind itself—the stuff of mythology, children’s fables, fantasy, religious cosmology and, in some way or another, nearly every book or film in existence.

These aggrandizements of the struggle paint it as something far beyond us, something only for heroes and deities. But it’s something every one of us must grapple with. Strip away the romance and the theatrics and the battle between good and evil is really only a battle between yourself and your better self. However, multiply that inner struggle by every person living and it becomes as epic as the stories make it out to be.

Maybe it’s hard for you to take mythology and terms like “good and evil” seriously. It’s understandable. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that we don’t go through our lives deciding whether to give or to take, to create or destroy, or to close off and protect our egos or open up and risk vulnerability so we can change for the better. We face these choices many times in just one day.

So, who’s winning?

It’s tempting, maybe even reasonable to assume that evil often prevails. News reports are mostly about bombings, wars, crime, corruption, greed and on and on and on. Humanity seems to be in a constant state of conflict. We tend to split ourselves between us and them, me and “the other,” and we justify heinous crimes against each other in response. Plus, there’s often present a mentality where doing some small evil will go unnoticed—as will some small good—so making the selfish, ego-driven choice seems easier and more beneficial.

On the other hand, humanity is still here. We’ve had ample opportunities to eradicate ourselves, but we haven’t. Plus, amidst the barrage of bad news, we often forget about the day-to-day good things that accumulate. Millions of times a day, a father takes his daughter to the park or his wife out to dinner, or the recent high school graduate choses enlisting in the Peace Corps rather than the military, or friends help each other move into a new house, or a son takes his elderly mother to the grocery store. Maybe these things aren’t “newsworthy” because they’re so common.

It gets bigger. I’ve heard of hospital doctors risking their careers to admit patients with no insurance under fake names. My grandfather told me stories of how allied bombers were instructed to avoid dropping bombs on historical monuments, museums, hospitals and orphanages in Germany during World War II—a tiny light in the crushing darkness.

I’d say most of the time, the light outshines that darkness.

What’s it got to do with you?

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about goodness in this blog—and check out a couple over on WK’s blog as well—but this time, something’s come up and I was having trouble deciding how to write about it. Then I talked to a friend.

He gave me a somewhat religious perspective, so naturally I was skeptical at first. But he told me about being in jail, in fear of being deported back to Mali, and reading the Bible. He told me how it calmed him down and tuned him into his surroundings and himself. He said he started making the right decisions, distancing himself from the wrong ones, and how he began to notice on some deeper level what was going on around him with his fellow inmates, his family, lawyers, guards and judges. And thankfully, he was able to navigate his way out of his predicament.

Me, tending to think about these sorts of things from a THEE perspective, took it to mean that somehow my friend had used his awareness; he had jumped a level of consciousness, so to speak.

And this is how we do it; this is how we become better people. We are a discordant lot. Again, the struggle between good and evil is really the struggle between ourselves and our better selves—the two dogs the old Indian spoke about. A part of us is grounded in the physical world, concerned with survival and status and self-protection. But the better part of us exists in the light, to create, and as a tiny, but significant part of the whole. And that part of us is why goodness can always win.

I’d love to hear your stories, readers. Anything that caused you to somehow just see beyond your basic self? It doesn’t have to be connected to a religious text or anything at all. How did you find your better self?

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