Is Man Wolf or Sheep?

Posted on October 27, 2015 by Robert Ringer


The question of whether man is wolf or sheep has been around for a long time and, not surprisingly, there are strong opinions on both sides.

It’s certainly not hard to understand the sheep side of the argument. The majority of people are easily influenced by institutional leaders, whether they represent the state, the church, corporate America, or other. They’re like gullible, half-asleep children, willing to submit to anyone who speaks with a tone threatening enough to scare them or pleasant enough to persuade them of the moral necessity of a cause.

Thus, they follow the directions of their leaders and obediently do what they’re told. Here we are in the 21st century, and young men and women still dutifully volunteer to go off to war, notwithstanding the blood and destruction that seems never — at least not in the past seventy years — to lead to peace.

In past centuries, it was even easier than today to see the sheep side of man. Tyrannical dictators like Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, while becoming increasingly bloodthirsty as time went on, were able to charm their subjects into obeying. In fact, most tyrants, no matter how ruthless, actually harbor a sincere conviction that they have a moral duty to make decisions for their flocks. (Or perhaps even kill them in order to save them from their misguided thinking.)

It would be nice to assume that the wolves are a small minority and the sheep are in the majority, but history doesn’t really support such an assumption. True, the wolves are intent on calling the shots. But it’s also true that the sheep are willing, if not anxious, to follow.

The wolves, of course, are masters at inventing stories about the nobility of their causes, an imminent threat to freedom, or their nations’ violated honor in order to get the sheep not only to go along, but to act like wolves themselves.

Men like Stalin, Mao, and Hitler were not able to carry out mass genocides on their own. They had willing accomplices who tortured and killed for them, in many cases with great pleasure. How can sheep be so easily persuaded to act like wolves unless it’s embedded in their nature to do so?

A psychiatrist at the Nuremberg trials, G.M. Gilbert, analyzed the willingness of sheep to obey wolves by saying, “Self-deception is not merely a defense mechanism of the weak, the immature, the inadequate, and ultra-suggestible. To a large extent, it is part of the normal adjustive process of the human quest for security in a world of conflicting values.”

We see this phenomenon in the United States every bit as much as in countries ruled by a dictator or oligarchy, though genocide has not yet become an integral part of our way of life (except, of course, for the unborn). With the rapid advancement of the welfare state, American sheep leave little doubt that they want their leaders to remove the burdens of responsibility from their shoulders, even if it means losing more and more of their freedom. And to keep such an unsustainable system in place, it seems self-evident that the wolves will ultimately have to resort to extreme violence.

Thus, we are at a dangerous crossroads in America. Evil forces have perverted the country’s once cherished values and fundamentally changed the nation into an anything-goes cesspool of immorality. The two-party system is a sham that has not only made it possible for this to happen, but to eliminate any serious dissent.

Oh, sure, there’s a lot of tough talk and name-calling in Washington, but when all is said and done, no one in government is prepared to take drastic measures to put an end to the evil policies thrust upon us by the political class.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is infanticide. What politician has the moral courage to advocate that the death penalty be invoked for anyone taking part in the murder of defenseless, unborn (and sometimes born) babies? Growing up, I was taught that the death penalty was the punishment for murder.

So make no mistake about it, cruelty and sadism are not unique to war. They thrive in everyday life as well, beginning with bullying at all levels in school — not just by children, but by many teachers as well.

Once the sheep leave school and enter the workforce, they discover, to their dismay, that the same cruelty and sadism thrive in the workplace, where prestige, power, and money are at stake. And the more prestige, power, and money that are at stake, the more vicious the workplace bullying becomes. Wolves thrive in such an environment, while sheep live lives of quiet despair and stress.

So, which is it? Is man wolf or sheep? Paradoxically, it seems he is both. He’s a wolf to his fellow man, but a sheep when it comes to obeying other wolves. Perhaps this explains why so many notorious school bullies are themselves victims of bullying.

Unfortunately, the very nature of sheep is that they lack principle and courage. They want to avoid thinking about the fact that the wolf is a killer who can be restrained from devouring sheep only through the use of force. As a result, history has been written in blood and violence.

Against this backdrop, it takes a strong individual not only to hold convictions that are in opposition to the majority, but to stick with those convictions and ignore the lemming parade as it passes his door. The sad truth is that such an individual can’t do much to put an end to the brute force that is used time and again to bend man’s will.

But what he can do is use his free will to stick to a personal moral code of nonaggression and refuse to go along with the evil actions of others — including, and especially, those of institutional leaders. Through his exercise of free will, he can choose to be vigilant about not allowing himself to become a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If you are among the minority who are able to accomplish this on a consistent basis, I congratulate you for your heroic efforts. We each have to save our own souls before we can begin to figure out a way to save the masses from the wolves.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.