Southern Duality

Duality: an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something (“the photographs capitalize on the dualities of light and dark, stillness and movement”).

People are round, and by this, I don’t mean their shape. In literature, round characters have depth and are not bound to being just one way, which would be called a flat character. Real people are like this in that we have a duality. No person is ALWAYS happy or ALWAYS angry, etc., but instead, people have different emotions and moods that can change depending on a myriad of stimuli.

There is light, and there is darkness in everyone. I like to look at it through this old Cherokee story:

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 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 simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This is a truth that has echoed throughout the Bible in the New and Old Testaments. This is what Paul meant when he spoke about the Spiritual and fleshly natures, the new man and the old man. We have to make the conscious decision almost constantly to put aside the old man, the way of the World, and choose to do the will of God.

There is a duality in God as well, though it is very different from the duality of man. God is both “good” and “severe” to us, but the choice is on us as to which we receive. Paul tells this to the church of Rome when he says to “consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off (Rom. 11:22).”

It is just like the role of a parent. A parent cannot always be “good” because then the child will think there are no consequences for his or her actions and will rebel. A parent cannot always be “severe” because then the child will fear the parent, which can lead quickly to hatred, instead of love. There must be a balance in our approach to our children as God has toward us.

Niccolò Machiavelli, the 16th-century Italian philosopher, wrote in his most well-known work The Prince that princes (and we can extend this to all leaders/authority figures) should strive to be both loved and feared. This is the balance that I spoke of; however, Machiavelli went on to say that “it is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Many today, including myself, forget the punishments God has wrought on mankind over the centuries most likely because He has chosen to step back and not “be” here in a way that is tangible. We have no pillar of cloud and fire. We hear no thundering voice of God giving judgment. This does not mean that God does not judge. Like any good parent, our Father knows our deeds and will call them to account in good time. If we continue to strive to do His will, we will have a representative to stand in our stead and tell the righteous Judge that our debt has been paid.

So, as you go through your day, which “wolf” are you feeding? Are you making choices that bring the “goodness” of God, or the “severity”?

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.