How To Tame the Wolves and Heal the Lepers Within Us: Conquer Your Inner Demons and Change Your Life

by Julie Canfield
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Everyone has inner demons. Fears and shames, which hunt and haunt us, sometimes lead us down the road to a depressive, unproductive state of mind. Knowing that we all suffer from this doesn’t help us deal with them. Understanding them does.

Wolves are our fears. They prey on our innermost being. They nagged us, bite at us, and hunt us. When they can, they keep us corralled instead of roaming free. The fear that they will overtake and devour stops a person from taking chances.

Lepers are passed acts that make us ashamed. They are what keep us from feeling personal worth. Like Leprosy, which eats at the flesh, these soul rotting feelings tell us no one will like us; no one will trust us if they learn about this or that from our past. No one wants us.

Lepers and wolves work together to bind us to live life on the outside edges, distant and not a part of. They keep us from wholeheartedly embracing and enjoying it thoroughly.

St Francis of Assisi also dealt with wolves and lepers, just not in an entirely metaphorical way. Yet what he learned from his dealings has taught lessons on how we should handle ours.

In the village of Gubbio, a hungry old wolf terrified the townspeople. It preyed on their livestock, and anyone of them may be next. St Francis went to where the wolf was. He watched it and thought about its actions. Why was this wolf eating their livestock? What made him hunger for tame animals, not ones they required his hunting prowess?

Francis’ observations lead him to this discernment; The animal was hungry and therefore needed to eat, but he was too old to hunt wild animals. Those that were more docile fulfilled this physical need.

The villagers were afraid. They needed to feel they and their animals were safe to roam.

Francis suggested the townspeople leave food for the wolf. He would then be feed and have no need to attack and devour their sheep and chickens.

Because they addressed their fear, the people of Gubbio conquered it.

When we face what we are afraid of,( poverty, homelessness, taking the next step in a relationship, stepping out of our comfort zone into the unknown), we place our wolves in a pen. They may not leave, but we have control over them. They can only come out if we let them. Sometimes they become our allies.

How do you know your wolf and defeat it?

If you push away, you do so because you fear it.

Push back to remove the fear, establish self-trust, feel inner peace.


Know your Fear.

Afraid of being financially broke, then stop spending foolishly, buying on credit, and adding to your debt. Buy for your needs, not for your wants, and put the extra cash away for an emergency.

Want to keep a roof over your head? Pay your housing bills first and in full.

Relationship issues? If you want love, you must give love. When you hold back on the person you are in a relationship with, they’ll keep their distance and look for love in other places. Yes, you may feel something they don’t, but you won’t know that until you speak your inner feelings aloud and state what you would like from them. Sometimes your heart will be broken; more likely, you’ll find they too have been afraid to leap in with you. Conversation, based on honesty, will keep the relationship, even if it only stays at the friendship level, viable and living. You will have many loves come in and out of your life. You can never have enough friends.

Can’t leave your comfort zone? Is there inside you longing for something more like starting a business, changing careers, seeking a better job? Those feelings of discontentment aren’t going to go anywhere. Commit to taking the right steps to make the change you seek. Not all changes thrive, but you can’t know if yours bring contentment unless you don’t take a leap of faith and try.

When you conquer yourself, you defeat your Alpha wolf.

Inner lepers keep us tied down to our past mistakes and our perceived inadequacies. Not one of us is perfect, and each has made more mistakes than we can remember. It’s what we learned from mishaps that keep us from repeating them. Some mistakes, though, are shameful, embarrassingly so. Yet, they are in our past and make us who we are today. Not everyone excels at everything. We all have different talents, skills, gifts. However, we want to present to the world that we are perfect, can do everything at the highest possible level, that failure for us, is not conceivable. Others are flawed and inferior, but not us.

In past times, lepers were shunned. They were forced to live as outcasts, not seen as fit for human companionship. Even families were known to turn out those who had this disease. Inner lepers convince us that we will be cast out and forced to live alone.

Modern science defeated Leprosy. Practicing Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese philosophy of embracing flaws and imperfections is the contemporary cure for lepers within us.

Wabi-Sabi is based on the Japanese principle of valuing an object’s marks of wear. It is why they keep a piece around even after it has been broken. Wabi-Sabi highlights and justifies the practice of Kintsugi. That’s when a broken piece is not thrown out, but repaired. Kintsugi believes cracks and repairs are only an event in the life of an object. Brokenness does not mean it should be swept up and tossed aside. It should be repaired, healed artistically, and revered for its usefulness.

Embrace your failures, love your flaws, and imperfections. See them not as chains holding you back but learned lessons that have made you the person you are today.

No one becomes who they are meant to be without some breaks, cracks, failures, happening to them. Those who embrace the idea of being flawed, imperfect beings, who accept their faults and wear them as badges of honor, are the ones who lead lives of contentment filled with joy.

Isn’t that what we all want in life?

Julie Canfield

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