The Winnowing Way

Winnow - to separate or distinguish the valuable parts from the worthless parts.

Winnow – to separate or distinguish the valuable parts from the worthless parts.

I believe I am a good person. I mean, overall. I endeavor to be honest. I don’t and won’t steal. I detest deceit, subterfuge, and cruelty of any kind. I have given back to my community on many levels by freely giving of my time and resources.

Sure, I’m far from perfect. I have made mistakes TNTC (to numerous to count). Big, huge, hairy mistakes. In my active alcoholic years I stole, lied, subverted, committed cruel acts and took from people more than I gave. The exact opposite of my behavior now.

My bad behavior certainly wasn’t the result of the way I was raised. It was something I did to myself through the choices I made. I had drowned my better self in a river of alcohol. My mind set had changed as a result. I wasn’t expressing or honoring my core values when I was drinking. The bad behavior came to represent some worthless part of me.

I see people under similar circumstances in my practice. They suffer, as I did, because of the choices they make. The more bad choices they make and the poorer their choices become, the more they degenerate into their lesser selves until they are no longer themselves at all. Not their true self.

I see people terribly afflicted and affected by job burnout, life burnout, toxic relationships, lying, cheating, sloth, drugs, or alcohol. They tell me just how bad circumstances are for them.

They tell me with anxious faces and urgent voices. They ask for some medicine to make things better. There is no drug to make it better.

When I suggest that they can change their lives, turn them completely around and head in a new direction I am often met with resistance. I am told it would be too difficult or impossible to change.

Some tell me it is too late for them, or that they don’t have the right degree, or enough money, or enough time, or enough help in order to change their circumstances. When all they really need to change is their behavior through the choices they make. They tell me, “You don’t understand!”

But, I do understand. I have felt exactly the same way at many points in my life. I had those same thoughts, once upon a time.

Things are different now. They have been for many years. It started when I became sober, some 25 years ago. I believe, in spite of many setbacks along the way, I have become a better person since then. I know this is true because of the amazing results I have seen in my own life.

I became sober because I simply decided to separate myself form my bad behavior by making better choices. Since then, I have sought my truer self by honoring my core values more and building on those strengths instead of giving in to my weaknesses.

Looking back, I had the power to change things for the better all along. So does everyone else. 

Recently, I spotted a word I had not seen or used in a very long time – winnow.  It means – to free (grain) from the lighter particles of chaff, dirt, etc., especially by throwing it into the air and allowing the wind or a forced current of air to blow away impurities; to separate or distinguish the valuable from the worthless parts.

There are forces, currents of change which can free us of all the chaff, dirt, grit and grime we have accumulated in our lives as a result of the choices we have made. These forces slam against us like a mighty wind as huge hairy mistakes, tragedy, loss, great personal pain, or outright failure. They help to free the more valuable parts of ourselves from the worthless parts, if we choose to let the worthless parts go. That, is the winnowing way.

How have you been able to use the results of bad choices or forced change in your life to your advantage? If so, how?


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2 thoughts on “The Winnowing Way

  1. Great post Clark! I love when old words come to have new meaning for us. Your quote reminds me of The Wizard of Oz when Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy she had the power to go home the whole time. 🙂 Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the strength – through friends, family, our faith and ourselves.