As people come to me with their personal and relationship problems, one of the most recurring themes I hear is the desire to get more love from a particular person or group of people:
"My husband never wants to spend time with me."
"I really want a relationship with this woman, but she just doesn't seem as interested as I am."
"My parents always favor my sister over me."
"My wife never wants to have sex."
"My boyfriend didn't call."
"I wish my boss paid more attention to me."
"My children are so ungrateful."
Most of us spend a significant portion of our lifetimes trying to get the attention, respect, gratitude, affection, and so on—the love—of other people, and it can be quite exhausting. With a change in perspective, however, we can be released from this tiresome and futile effort.
On occasion, when I was a boy, I visited my grandfather's farm and worked in his fields and orchards. He grew some wheat, and once I remember that he pulled some grain from a stalk, rubbed it between his hands, and tossed it in the air. I asked him what he was doing, and he explained that rubbing the wheat between his hands separated the kernels from the overlying husks, or chaff. Then, when he tossed the mixture into the air, the wind blew away the lighter chaff, allowing only the kernels to fall back into his hand. Sure enough, when I looked into his hand, only kernels remained.
Today this process is automated, but for thousands of years people laid the wheat out on threshing floors where they beat the grain with sticks or their hands. Then they threw the wheat into the air, allowing the wind to blow away the chaff, leaving the kernels that would sustain their lives for the months and years to come. This process of the air separating the kernels from the chaff is called winnowing.
A similar process occurs when we tell the truth about ourselves. As we share the truth about our mistakes, flaws, and fears with the people around us, it's quite a productive act on our part. It's as though we toss our friends, family members, and others into the air—nonviolently, of course—and allow the truth we have spoken to separate the people who are capable of loving us unconditionally from those who cannot. People who are incapable of loving us unconditionally are offended by who we really are—or they're disgusted or repelled by us or simply not attracted to us—and our telling the truth therefore does us the great service of separating these people from the people who are attracted to who we really are.
As we tell the truth, therefore, we simply winnow those who can love us from those who cannot. The truth saves us all the time and effort of trying to convince and persuade people to like us. It saves us from a lifetime of earning and buying the "love" that, in the end, turns out not to be love at all but only an imitation of the real thing—which is therefore worthless. Anytime we make any effort to get people to like us, in fact, we are reaching out into the wind and grasping for the chaff, to bring it into the mix with the kernels of wheat. As we do this, the kernels often slip through our fingers, leaving us with nothing but chaff. How could we possibly be more foolish?
Most of us are so afraid to tell the truth about ourselves, and yet it is the truth that will separate the wheat from the chaff in our lives and in our relationships. The truth will make us free, and will bring us love and joy.