The Story of the Giraffe and the Jackal

(adapted from the Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves)

Marshall Rosenberg (The Big Giraffe) was talking to an NVC Class about the battle that goes on inside people. He said, “I feel as if have two forces fighting in my heart. One force is the jackal.  It judges, blames, and always wants to be ‘right’.  When it’s in charge, violence may be the result of its actions.  

The other force wants to celebrate life, connect with others, and live in compassion.  When it’s in charge, everyone has the opportunity to meet their needs.  I call it the giraffe.”

One student was anxious after hearing this because he wanted clarity, so he asked, “Which force will win the fight in your heart?”

Marshall answered, “The one I feed.”


What’s the moral of the story?

  • We can choose in each moment which energy we want to live in. It’s our choice whether we live in the energy of the loving giraffe or the judging jackal.  It’s up to us.

But there’s more…

  • We have the choice to feed both of these parts of us. Not only can we feed our internal giraffe by practicing Nonviolent Communication, we can feed the jackal by empathizing with its unmet needs.  This process converts our lowly jackal into a baby giraffe.

There’s even more…

  • The process of translation allows everyone to win. The giraffe contributes its ability to stay in compassion, search for creative solutions, and stick its neck out.  The jackal also contributes its wisdom by revealing the needs it wants to meet when it behaves in a way that may lead to violence.  Knowledge of these needs liberates us to find new ways to meet them and bring more compassion into the world