May 3, 2022

Loving Much vs Loving Well

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Have you ever felt the frustration and bewilderment of why your love for someone pushes them away or why your beloved feels harmed by your best intentions?

Loving Much ≠ Loving Well. We can love much and harm ourselves and others if we do not also learn how to love well.

In this episode I share how loving well is something we simply cannot do unless we heal and integrate our core selves from the unconscious traumas we may have accumulated in our lives. 
You can find the video of the original sharing (without introduction and praxis)  from this episode on YouTube here.

Share this episode via thisepisode page.

(00:00:23) - Introduction
(00:06:09) - Loving Much VS Loving Well
(00:08:35) - What Does Loving Well Look Like?
(00:14:26) - Do I Really Need Expert Help?
(00:21:47) - Our Core Self
(00:26:25) - An Invitation
(00:28:53) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
(00:33:44) - Conclusion
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to my sharing earlier, was there anything that particularly resonated with you? What was it?

- Can think of an instance in which you feel that you have loved much?
- What relationship comes to mind?

- In what way may you have loved poorly this person that you love very much?
- List one or two ways that you suspect you're not loving him or her well. What is it?

For full details of this reflection prompt, please see transcript.

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Even when we're trying to be loving and compassionate, for a lot of us, without realising, that's actually a response of anxiety – that's actually a trauma response – so to speak, where we are people pleasing. Right, we want to come across as very compassionate and kind and understanding, but really, really, it's because we want there to be peace.

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Hello again, dear listeners. Okay, so, at this point, we have, in recent episodes, covered what inner child healing is. I've shared a bit about how going through inner child healing has impacted me. How it has helped me to, you know, second guess myself less, to be more confident about my own intuitions and judgment and how it has helped me grow in moral courage.

I've also spoken about, you know – in a separate episode – how inner child healing helped me really embody and deepen my experience of my relationship with God and my relationship with myself, right. How it moved the relationship from being a cognitive one – a largely just kind of, this is what I believe, to something that I really experienced in my body; a truth that is lived and experienced. And how important that is in our life and in being human. Because we are not just, you know, minds and intellects.

We are embodied beings. We have emotions and sensations. And when we know something to be true, the deepest belief that something is true – it's not something that we just know in our heads, but our whole body believes in that. I know that you know what I'm talking about. If you just think about something that those times when you just know something to be absolutely true, your whole body agrees with you, right?

Whereas there are times when, let's say, you know something to be true, or you want to believe something to be true, or someone tells you know, a version of an event and maybe you want to believe that person, but something in you is not in sync. You know, it's like your body is not on board or something in your gut is telling you that, no, I don't really, really believe this.

And we can often end up shutting that voice up, right. The voice that disagrees with what our mind maybe chooses to believe. So, I intend to also do an episode on sharing about how inner child healing practically impacts the way I can relate more authentically with others in a more healthy way that honours their freedom, as well as my own – their dignity, as well as my own.

I want to be able to share a little bit about the before and after, you know, in a more specific, concrete way with you. But before we come to that, in today's episode, I want to lay the groundwork for that by pulling the threads together and revisiting something a little bit more basic, okay.

And what is that thing that's more basic? Well, it's about being in relationship. And in this episode, you're going to hear me talk about the difference between loving much and loving well is a distinction that I didn't use to make. I always used to assume that loving much would mean loving well, and I was always very perplexed as to why is it that I could try so hard and love so much.

And from my perspective, be doing a lot and, you know, sacrificing a lot for someone that I love. But why is it that the results – the results were not life-giving. It didn't seem to help us become, you know, freer in our relationship, but there just seems to be more enmeshment, more unhappiness, lack of freedom.

Sometimes the relationship can even become toxic, right? So, what you're going to hear in this episode is a recording from a video that I made about loving much versus loving well. I invite you to listen through the audio recording of the video and stay on for the praxis prompts at the end. And of course, if you would like to watch the video as well, you can find the link to the YouTube video in the show notes for this episode.

Okay, hi! I want to share a little bit about my own motivation for pursuing this interior journey with so much persistence. Any of you who have already embarked on this journey, you know that it's not for the faint of heart. And there are times that you really feel like, you know, it's so difficult that you might be tempted to give up. But why don't you give up? – For those of you who still hang on –

– who do whatever you need to do to get the support that you need. To help yourself continue this journey, even if you need to sometimes pause, you know, chill a bit. What's the reason you want to keep on going? For me, at the very – I think at the core of it or the heart of it, it's because I wish to love well.

I wished to love well. Now, loving well is not the same as loving much. Okay, this is something that I've been pondering on for many years, as I went on my healing journey, as I looked at my own personal history and the relationships that have formed me. And here's the truth that I didn't know when I was younger. I didn't know this – that there was this distinction between loving much – which is loving a lot – and loving well.

So, what do I mean? I think we all have that experience in our life where, you know, we feel a lot of affection for someone or we adore someone or we really care a lot for someone, right? So, it could be – if you're a parent – it could be a child. It could be a pet, it could be a good friend.

It could be someone that you're mentoring, that you're caring for. It could be someone that you love a lot. Okay, that's what I mean by loving much. And you wish – you know, when you love a lot, you will the good of the other. I mean, you want to help the person flourish, right? You know, generally when you love much, we do whatever we know, you know – to show that other person, or the other that we love him or her.

But it is, at the same time, possible to love poorly, even as we love a lot. So, for example, if we have poor boundaries, we may actually be getting enmeshed with the person that we love much, right. We may become co-dependent with the person that we love much. We really will good of the other. But if we are not well ourselves, we have no clear boundaries.

We end up not setting the other person free to be him or herself. We bind that person to us because we need to have that kind of enmeshed connection, right. That is – that comes from our wounds – usually wounds that we are not aware of ourselves. So, consciously we can be loving much. You know, if you're a mother, you could be thinking well, I'm sacrificing so many things.

I'm sacrificing so much of myself. I've given up so much of my life for my child. I love him a lot, or I love her a lot. But you may not realise that the way that you're loving your child is harming him. So, what's that – you can love much, but love poorly. Okay, what would loving well look like? Loving well would honour the dignity and the personhood and the independence of yourself, as well as the person that you love. There can be healthy, inter-dependence, right?

So, that means you, yourself and you're the person are really clearly distinct individuals who have your own personhood, your own identity apart from that relationship. Freedom to pursue what each of you discern is the best for you, right – freedom to explore, to make mistakes, to learn, to grow. And without undue stress to conform to one another.

But also, without such disconnection that there's no relational attachment, right – that there's no relationship. Because boundaries – since we're talking about boundaries – can be either too clear or too – what's the word? Too impermeable. So, boundaries can be too impermeable, where it's too rigid, right? Where then there's no connection.

Or it could be too porous or non-existent, and then everything is kind of enmeshed. So, neither extreme is healthy, right. And at the same time, I want to say, it's not so simple as "I want to practice better boundaries than I can". Our capacity to have healthy boundaries, to have flexible boundaries that can adjust according to the situation, depends a lot on our own wholeness, our own integration, our own security and our own belovedness.

And right there – right there is what I mean by; I choose to make this interior journey – I choose to seek guidance and help, you know, counselling and therapy and spiritual direction. You know, I learn all these things because I want to be more whole, not just for the sake of being whole – although it is true that I've come to believe that I deserve wholeness, right.

That every person – every person is really created for joy, okay – for wholeness so that we can love well and receive love and also love one another well. So, I am worthy of the effort that it takes. Yes. If I don't believe that I'm worthy of the effort that it takes, I would not be doing a lot of what I'm doing.

I would not be investing in, you know, workshops, in therapy and spiritual direction if I didn't think that I was important enough for that. But if it was just for me, you know, sometimes I honestly would be probably a lot more laissez-faire.

Laissez-faire about, you know – okay, it's no rush, you know? I mean, I'll get around to it when I get around to it. But it's because I noticed when I'm not whole, I get into unhealthy patterns of relating to people.

And often the people that I love the most, right – I love much – can be hurt or harmed by me without my intention. And how do I know that? Well, to the extent that I'm open to hear what they can say to me, and to the extent that, I suppose, the relationship is at least healthy enough, that the other person is able to tell me honestly how they feel about our relationship.

I can tell that a lot of times that effect of my actions of my loving is not what I intend. So, while I love much, I see that my loving much sometimes is not loving well. And instead of setting people free to be themselves, you know, to see them flourish, I see them diminished, sometimes, or feeling bound to me, or having to choose between that friendship or relationship with me, versus happiness or joy. You know, it's not – there’s something not quite right there.

So, what prompted me to do this little sharing today – recently, quite a few of the people that I've been speaking to across different contexts, you know, just friends or people I have been journeying with informally, and as well as clients. I have seen varying degrees of this resistance to the idea that, I need expert help. Okay, I need expert help particularly in the area of counselling or psychotherapy.

Sometimes, it's this sense that I can't be that broken or surely, I'm able to figure things out myself. I'm willing to learn. I'm willing to maybe, read books, right? surely, I can help myself get better. And this is what I have to say about that. Yes, it's not that you can't make any progress at all in interior journey on your own if you are really learning and listening, you know, on your own.

Right, so, you're willing to read and all that. But you cannot know what you don't know, right? The whole point of this journey is, even when we are aware that something's off, we don't really know what is it that's holding us back, that is keeping us handicapped, broken. And progress can be made a lot more effectively over a shorter period of time and more safely if you have an experienced and qualified guide there to help you.

Okay, so, something a little, not, you know – kind of innocuous. And it's an example I've used before in one of my earlier podcast episodes in Becoming Me. If you're someone who takes physical fitness really seriously, right – you can go and, you know, work out on your own, right.

You can go and swim on your own. You can, let's say – you know, follow Pilates or yoga via videos on the TV. You could go to the gym and start using the gym equipment. Sorry for that expression, but I personally think, you know, it's not a very good idea to do these things, unless you have been taught first by someone who's experienced how to do these exercises, whether it's at the gym or swimming or yoga, Pilates – whatever, whatever sports – so that you won't hurt yourself while you're doing the exercise, okay.

And not just so that you won't hurt yourself – so that the work that you are putting in can reap maximum benefits, right. In that realm, I mean, like if you're swimming, you can be expanding a lot of energy and be very, very tired and not really swim very long.

If you use the right strokes, if you know how to roll like a log, for example – it's okay if you don't understand what that means – but let's say when you're doing the front crawl or freestyle – there's a way when you know how to do it right. It becomes more effortless, and you can cover greater distances with a lot less energy lost.

Right, so, that's exercise. If you hurt yourself or if you find that you're suffering from some kind of physical ailment, right? I mean, you can try and toughen up and maybe just pop some, you know, Panadol and painkiller and hope that your body just recovers on its own. And sometimes for minor things, it can – I mean, it does, our body does have the capacity to heal itself, right.

But there's a certain line, where if you really want not just to survive, but to thrive – and you are able to recognise that you are hurt, perhaps worse than you thought you were, you're not just going to try and do it on your own, right? You're going to go see a medical expert. Well, that's the same thing for the interior life – whether it's spiritual development and spiritual growth, learning ways of prayer, of connecting with God.

And you know, so many people say, I don't feel anything. I don't feel I can connect with God and then they leave it at that, right? Do they really desire enough to ask the questions such as what ways – are there other ways that I can pray, for example, that can help me deepen my desire for God – deepen my connection with the scriptures or, you know, help me to know who I am in this relationship with God?

If we don't ask these questions and then we don't find the resources. And if we don't look for seasoned qualified guides. Okay, so, by qualification, I'm not just talking about paper qualification. Okay, because really, sometimes there can be people with paper qualifications, but they have not really qualified in being a good guide.

Okay, and sometimes, there are people that may not have the formal qualifications, but through their life experience and giftings, both natural and spiritual – you may find that they are guides that can help you make your journey too, right – even if it's not in a formal capacity. But we need to look for the help that's tailored to our need.

And I want to say that even the spiritual life, those of us who let's say, want to, you know – we want to love well because let's say, because of our faith and because it teaches us – our faith teaches us we are called to love God and neighbour as we love ourselves. So, even if the start is because of faith or religion – or because even if it's not religious – and it just being by being a good human being, right – we want to be able to be caring people, to be kind and compassionate people.

But we don't know how to do those things because we can't love well, even when we love much. Then it all comes back down to the state of our core identity. Right, so, in one of my earlier podcast episodes – in episode four, which is a very foundational episode – I always keep coming back to that. It's called Living from the Inside Out.

Authentic and integrated living, right, requires us to be able to live, not just on the surface level of our lives, where everything happens and requests a meet of us, you know, relational issues, jobs, all the crisis and things that are happening. They're all at the outer layer of our life – circumstances constantly change and we are often challenged, right?

And my circumstances and environment is maybe more peaceful and quiet, you know, life is easier – we feel that life is easier. But that's all still out on the surface of our lives. In the inner layer of our lives, where our emotions, our thoughts and our body kind of like speak to us – it tells us something deeper.

Not just what's going on, on the outer layer of our lives, but what these things mean to us and how we are responding. Or are we feeling, for example, afraid or threatened. You know, it gives us important information about how we need to navigate the external environment, right.

[00:21:47] OUR CORE SELF
But this inner layer, it needs to be interpreted, right? Our thoughts, our emotions, our physical sensations – I mean, it needs to be interpreted and it needs to be brought together by a core self that's – now we're at the deepest level of our core self. And our core self is our identity. When our identity is very wounded and very dependent on tranquillity on the outer layer, right –

– very dependent on affirmation and approval of others. When our identity, our core is very brittle and fragile, we yearn to be liked and to be loved. We fear deeply to be rejected and abandoned. So, then our actions, the way we respond to the environment, the way we respond to the outer layer of our lives, will often be defensive, or grasping or aggressive.

Right, because we're acting out of fear. We're acting out of insecurity. Even when we're trying to be loving and compassionate, for a lot of us, without realising, that's actually a response of anxiety – that's actually a trauma response – so to speak, where we are people pleasing, right?

We want to come across as very compassionate and kind and understanding. But really, really, it's because we want there to be peace. We are afraid of conflict around us because conflict just stresses us out. We cannot really, truly be authentic if we're acting out of fear. The only way for us to be authentic and courageous and brave – which also includes being vulnerable, but not being afraid of being vulnerable – trusting that loving well, sometimes means being uncomfortable and making others uncomfortable.

And the way to do that is to have a strong and integrated core identity. And all of us start off with a wounded core identity, right? So, even in this process of connecting with our core self, and then responding from remembering who we are –

– it's not a static thing. If we don't go through healing, our core self will always still just be that broken and insecure, right. We'll just be constantly going through cycles of fear and defensiveness or aggression or people pleasing.

But if we get more integrated, we will see the change. We will see ourselves becoming more confident, more secure, more secure about who we are and more able to know the difference between loving well and loving much. We begin to be able to make that discernment, you know, in every relationship or a context – what would it look like?

Or what would it mean to love well, even if our loving well, may not always be received well, okay – at that moment. We can have the confidence that we are being true to the best that we can do. And also, that we have the support and the mirror – the mirroring of people we can trust. So, we're not just acting out of blindness.

We are aware that we do have blind spots. We know that we can never love perfectly. So, loving well is different from loving perfectly. No one can love perfectly, except God. But we are awakened to our blind spots and that just changes everything. You know, it gives us a lot more humility about how we love, we are more willing to acknowledge; I'm sorry, this is the best I can do.

Because even as I'm learning to love well, I now recognised that a lot of times I love poorly, right – I mean, as in there are ways that I still am not able to love well, because I'm a work in progress myself. See, when I don't realise that the difference between loving much and loving well, if someone tells me that they feel that I'm not loving them well, I would just be very angry and defensive because I would just be pointing at look at how much I love you.

Look at all the things I've done for you, for example, right. Without the awareness that all those things that I've done, because I love much – may not be loving well.

[00:26:25] AN INVITATION
So, here's an invitation for you to consider – what is your motivation to be on this interior journey yourself? How important is this journey to you? How urgent is it for you, at this point in your life, to do what it takes to make progress in it? Because life is short and unpredictable and here's a hard truth –

– we are always acting out of our blindness, even when we think we're not. And when we act out of our blindness, we harm others, even when we intend the best. So, if you really want to love well, what's stopping you from making that possibly very uncomfortable step to acknowledge that you need help. And just one final thought – sometimes that fear of acknowledging that you need help –

– that need to just do everything yourself, to try and fix things yourself and to fix yourself on your own – that, right there, is very likely a response from your own wounds. Somewhere down the line, you had learned that you have to cope on your own. Okay, so, that is a mark of your wound. That is a symptom.

So, I pray that you will find that grace to not just remain stuck there and that you will recognise if the time is now and the door is opening for you, please don't delay. If anything, just take that next step, okay, to ask yourself, why are you wanting to make this journey and get really, really convicted about the reason. Because without that conviction, you're not going to move. Take care.

Okay, so, that was the sharing about loving much versus loving well. And here are the praxis prompts for today's episode. One: Listen – so, as you listened to my sharing earlier, was there anything that particularly resonated with you? What was it?

Two: Ponder – I invite you to ponder and ask yourself, if you can think of an instance in which you feel that you have loved much – and therefore you know, you kind of assume that you've loved as well as you could. But now you realise perhaps, while you have loved much, you may not have loved well – what relationship comes to mind?

Three: Act – now, knowing that there is a distinction between how much you love and how well you love, and being able to acknowledge, right, that you can love someone very much and yet at the same time, perhaps not love them very well. Here's something I invite you to do; now, that relationship that maybe popped into mind when I invited you to ponder, you know, what instance you may know in your own life, where you have loved much, but now realise maybe you may not have loved well –

– I invite you to note down for yourself, just for yourself – you don't have to tell anyone – in your own journal, perhaps, what way may you have loved poorly this person that you love very much? In what way might you have loved this person poorly – now that you're open to the possibility that you could love him or her very deeply, and at the same time, love him or her poorly. Maybe list one or two ways that you suspect you're not loving him or her well. What is it?

Now, just doing this step is a big one, especially if you have a lot invested in this relationship – especially if you have a lot invested in your self-image in this relationship. Okay, so, for example, in my own past, I always need it to see myself as a loving person. And because I needed to see myself as a loving person, it was very hard for me to be open to the possibility that I love poorly.

In fact, because in the past I couldn't tell, or I didn't know that was a distinction between loving deeply and loving well. I was all the more defensive at the possibility of loving poorly, because I thought that meant that I didn't love. And I couldn't accept that because I feel and I experience so much intensity and, you know, and the longing to relate to someone, to love someone well.

Okay, so, after I could distinguish that there is a difference – that I could love deeply, but loved poorly because of my own brokenness, for example, I began to be able to see the ways I may have hurt others and hurt myself, even as I was trying to love them. A big part of this interior journey into becoming more human, more ourselves, more authentic and whole is so that we can pour ourselves into our relationships and also be ourselves as we receive from others in relationship in ways that set us free, set others free and bring glory to God.

One of my favourite quotes is from a second century bishop, Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, who said that the glory of God is men fully alive or human – the human person fully alive. And really, we cannot be fully alive until we learn to love deeply and also love well.

[00:33:44] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. 

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!