2 Things that Help Us Love Well

#1. Soul Keeping To love well, it's absolutely essential to get clear and go forward with what matters most. But with daily distractions, it's not always easy to identify and define which is why I so appreciated John Ortberg's book, Soul Keeping.


To consistently get clear and go forward with what matters most, we need to care for the most important part of us. Our outer world / life is what people see and what we achieve but the interior life is so much more significant. That's because it's the soul that gives strength, direction and harmony. Strength to do things right. Direction to do the right things. Harmony to discern what are the right things.

John's mentor was Dallas Willard and the foundational spiritual discipline that Dallas imparted to John was, "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." This is the single most important discipline to grow the clarity, conviction and commitment to love well.

Too often, especially in religious realms, the soul has been understood in the context of where it goes after death. But according to Dallas and John (to which I absolutely concur), "...our eternal destiny is not cosmic retirement. It is to be a part of a tremendously creative project, under unimaginably splendid leadership, on in inconceivably vast scale with ever increasing cycles of fruitfulness and enjoyment. That is the prophetic vision which eyes have not seen and ears have not heard."


That was John's initial response too.

What is the soul? 

To start, it is invisible so it's easy to neglect.

Soul, Mind, Will
Soul, Mind, Will

You are a soul, not just a self. Your soul makes you a person and not a thing. Your soul makes you precious, vulnerable, and yet authentically powerful. It is bigger than the will and actually the will resides in the soul.

The will is good for things that don’t involve deeply ingrained habits, patterns, and deeply rooted attitudes. The mind is a bit more substantial and effective in dealing with those things yet it is the soul that has the ability to shape both mind and will for real, lasting change and development.

The mind craves peace and does all it can to achieve it but if the soul is not well, it invariably experiences futility and unintended negative outcomes. But if the soul is well, the mind becomes preoccupied by thoughts conducive to love, joy, and peace.

So what is the soul?

It's the operating system of your life; you don’t notice it unless it starts crashing; it is made for connections and integration to synergize everything into a single, dynamic life. When our souls are well, we live whole heartedly connected to those around us. We find delight in simply being present, not having to do something for them. We are at rest from compulsions to do what we want and free from anxieties about what might happen or what others think.

However when the soul is unhealthy, disintegration occurs. We are disconnected from God and His design for wellness. This is the cause of depression and it perpetuates neglect of what matters most so we end up focusing on self - what we think is best, what we think is right, what we like. Rather than caring for ourselves, we become obsessed with ourselves.

What is the soul?

It's what takes all your senses, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires and sends it to your mind, to others, and even God. When it's cared for and vibrant, you live as you were made to be - connected to God and others. This most important part of you correlates, energizes, integrates all of yourself to show up and do whatever and wherever with whoever, whenever. It even contains your secret dreams, hurts, fears, traumas, losses, and joys. It's the part of you that journeys toward peace and rest as you intentionally and tenaciously eliminate things that get in the way of achieving what matters most.

It is the inner life; our inner universe.

And to truly care for it, you need to pay attention to its needs for it is the nature of the soul to need. If you try to not need, you'll end up neglecting your soul. 

Here are some of the soul's major needs: rest, a father, satisfaction, hope, a future, a center, freedom, a keeper (each person is their own soul's keeper), blessing, gratitude, to be with God / love, i.e.  In love's presence, obedient to love, in alignment with love. Pursue these and your soul is on the way to being blessed!

#2. Improve Emotional Health


Emotional health is the 90% of the iceberg below the surface of what people see. It is revealed by how well or poorly we manage pain, fear, worry, sadness and anger. Low health either avoids or attacks, which inevitably perpetuates and most often exacerbates those negative emotions. High levels will empower us to experience these tough emotions yet still be able to communicate and behave in ways that maintain trust and integrity.

If we're going to get emotionally healthier, we'll need to courageously slow down to get familiar with our underlying layers of insecurity, inferiority and insignificance along with the contexts (people and events) that created those layers. Only when we get a clearer, adult perspective on difficult, personal history, will we bravely and compassionately accept pain and losses as a place to love ourselves. This is foundational to developing a more mature, truthful, and complete understanding. Of course this takes time, attention and effort.

To experience transformation of our values and priorities to create a life that actually fits us and connects deeply with others, we need to grow awareness of what we need deep down. We get stuck in emotionally unhealthy ways because of misapplied / misconceived truths about life and people. As kids, we naturally misconceive and misapply truth, but when it occurs with prolonged and profound emotional pain or neglect, the person's emotional health will be compromised. 

Over years unaddressed, the solution will not be experienced by getting filled up (by weekly sermons) or retreating or adding strategies or disciplines. It is found only in revolution; intentionally walking a new pathway. 

To improve our emotional health, we will need these steps:

  1. Know yourself that you may know God
  2. Going back in order to go forward
  3. Journey through the wall
  4. Enlarge your soul through grief and loss
  5. Discover the rhythms of the daily office and sabbath
  6. Grow into an emotionally mature adult
  7. Go the next step to develop a ‘rule of life'

To read more about each step, pick up Scazzero's book. Or click on the picture below to go to the EHS site.

EHS book
EHS book

3 Ways to Love Others Well

We all love and are loved. Ask anyone if they love their families and friends and I can't imagine any of them saying no, except for the occasional teenager super pissed at his nagging parents. But loving well is not quite as common. How many truly healthy families do you know? Most often, confusion and dysfunction are the norm. In a society where performance and productivity have created cultures of insecurity and general senses of not being, doing, or having enough, and soft skills are second class citizens in the market place, being able to love maturely is desperately rare. That's because the growth and development process of this precious gift is extremely time consuming and doesn't fit into the rhythms of the 50-70+ hour work week. Am I saying they're incompatible? Yes.

But if you've come to a place in your life where you are no longer satisfied with your capacity and ability to love (others and yourself), here are several ways to improve how you can strengthen and deepen your most significant relationships.

Daily Doses

5 love languages
5 love languages

Learn about the 5 languages by Gary Chapman. Know the love language of your loved ones and your own and get fluent. Start with yourself and take this assessment. Being aware of your own needs and how to fill your emotional tank goes a long way towards having empathy for those you want to love better. Think of it as putting on much needed equipment to see, hear, and feel what the other sees, hears, and feels.

Next, think about how to get those you want to love well to also take the assessment. Frame that initial conversation with why and how you want to improve how you love. Yes, this will be hard and awkward because it will require you to be vulnerable. So watch this first. Brene Brown does a wonderful job unpacking the power of vulnerability so that your heart will have a fighting chance against your head to make this courageous move towards transformation.

It makes such a difference when we love each other in ways that are especially meaningful and relevant to how each of us are uniquely wired. We feel that much more known, appreciated and understood. Knowing and being known is a very significant element of loving and being loved.

Love in Conflict

This is where our love usually breaks down. When sharp disagreement occurs and emotions get intense, we invariably find ourselves on the slippery slope of conflict. When our love is underdeveloped and trust has not been fortified,  we simply lack the emotional muscles to balance and navigate peacemaking responses. To put it another way, there's little to no regulation of our fight / flight response. So we just run away or come out with guns blazing.


To get better traction and engagingly abide in the peacemaking responses, we're going to need to get better at crucial conversations (Joseph Grenny).


The keys here are the stories each person tells themselves which will determine whether they slip off towards silence or violence or abide in the dialogue pool of shared meaning. When we're in the safety zone and our fight / flight system is under control, our learning channels remain open so we can work at understanding the other's perspective. When we're able to comprehend each other's thoughts and feelings, we're that much closer to stepping into their shoes and helping them feel known and understood.

Our love gets better when our words and actions reflect authentic empathy and humility. Through awareness of each other's stories, we're empowered to connect meaningfully and be transformed. Deeper trust is built and we draw that much closer to each other.

Giving and Receiving Relational Comfort

comfort circle.jpg
comfort circle.jpg

Stress happens and at some point before long, we will seek comfort in some way, shape, or form. It may be certain activities, behaviors, or substances but it will always be something. But not all comforts are equal. Some are healthier than others. Relational comfort is definitely at the top. Since we're wired to connect, it only makes sense that our greatest comfort would be found in another person. And in order to love well, we need to work at finding relief and refreshment from those we're closest to. This is also the way to be addiction proof.

When you see your loved ones had a stressful day, offer to spend some time to check in to see what's going on. Here's an outline of a comforting conversation. As you can see, it does take some work in being open and vulnerable to bring things out into the light. But if things stay inside, we will use impersonal comforts which often lead to some form of addiction / enslavement. In being transparent, we are exercising our vulnerability muscle and the more we exercise it, the stronger it gets. The stronger it gets, the easier it will be to share openly and receive the comfort we desperately need. The more relational comfort we can give and receive, the better we are at loving.

  • Seek Awareness:
    • “What’s your perspective on your problem / challenge?”
    • “What feelings come up?” If anger, what’s underneath that anger? Check out soul words list.
    • Engage:
      • Bring hidden feelings into the light of your relationship. Negative feelings and pain lose power when brought into the light. Conversely, they remain when we keep them hidden.
      • To experience comfort, we must take the risk to step towards the freedom that comes from being vulnerable. We draw out the emotions by naming them.
      • Explore:
        • Ask about the emotions felt in response to triggers / stressors.
        • Invite the speaker to risk being honest and vulnerable.
        • Ask why the speaker feels what they feel and if there were other times, past or present, when they felt the same.
        • Explore where / when else the feelings are felt.
        • Try to identify all the times / events that made you feel that way.
        • Try to get clear about the general emotional state and what caused it.
        • Silence and waiting for people to think and reflect deeply about the past.
        • Clarify and validate - use reflective statements.
        • Listener should not try to fix, solve, defend, or debate.
        • Enter into speakers mindset / perspective, to see things from their point of view; check to see if what was heard is accurate.
        • what comfort is needed; learning how to find relational comfort
        • “What do you need?”
        • Resolve:
          • “I hear you saying that you feel ___ and you need ___, and here’s what I can do…” [Be honest! Don't make promises you cannot keep].

Outline content taken from here.

Love and Logic

Love & Logic
Love & Logic

Love - affection, hugs & kisses, patience, comfort, kindness, emotional connection, liberation Logic - science, principles that govern, reason, system, sound judgment, inexorable truth

How are these 2 things connected?

Something amazing happens though when people effectively synthesize both in how they relate to others, especially those who are closely connected to children and youth.When there is healthy balance of affection and authority, young people positively respond and develop respect and responsibility. The primary indicator of whether or not a healthy balance exists is empathy - and it must be consistently, profoundly felt and fostered over time. When empathy is genuinely experienced in a relationship, kids regardless of age, are able to continue in their mental, physical, emotional, relational, sexual, and spiritual development.

What about limits? Kids will learn to live within limits when care-takers, (parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches) express empathy before enforcing limits. When the relationship is a context of emotional and relational health, kids testing limits become great learning opportunities. However without that health, limits lose their effectiveness and simply become points of contention.

LoveandLogic Eurasian family pic
LoveandLogic Eurasian family pic

I teach a class using a curriculum called, "Parenting with Love and Logic". It's a great resource that teaches moms and dads how to be both loving and powerful in their kids' lives. Educators can apply the principles as well although there are resources for them specifically.

Here's what some of my students said about the class:

“The information learned from the class was so practical. The teaching through the DVD was packed with wisdom, the workbook exercises reinforced what we had learned. The other part I really enjoyed was the class discussion and sharing. Cecil did a good job facilitating and guiding the discussion.

The content of the class was so impactful that I bought more books to read on Love and Logic.

I highly recommend the class to all parents, I wish I had taken the class a lot earlier so I could have avoided a lotof struggles with my sons.”

- D. Chan, Mother of 2 sons (18, 21) studying in a Counselor Program, SF 


"This class definitely gave me new and effective ideas to deal with my 5 and 7 year olds.  The most powerful tool was learning how to be empathetic as well as many other informative and interesting techniques.  I really enjoyed the class led by Cecil." - Jenny Lee, Accounting Manager, Mother of 2


“I recently took a great class that has dramatically changed my life.I had fun learning new skills to be a better mother but got so much more from the class.The skills that I have learned were not only useful in my everyday interaction with my children, friends and family, it has changed my life in the long run.If we have talked recently, you would have heard me raveabout what I have learned.Well, now YOU have a chance to change YOUR life.If you know me, then you know that I am not easy to impress but this class would be it.After taking this class, your family will not be the only ones benefiting, everyone around you will notice the changed person you will become!”

- Kristine, Mother of 3, SF


“First of all, thank you so much for taking time out of your precious Tuesdays to lead the parenting class.   Your knowledge and wisdom on parenting as well as your personal parenting experience and challenges which you shared with the class  really gave me  excellent self awareness,  insights and tips on how to improve my personal relationships with my children.

Here are the positive insights and tips I gain from your class:

  1.  The vital importance of   EMPATHY.   

The secret to effective parenting and positive parent-child relationship  is the vital need for parents like myself to  show EMPATHY with our kids.  I made the effort to practice showing empathy (which I hardly do prior to this class except for being a cop always in telling them what to do and what not to do) to my kids at home whenever they are sad, unhappy, upset or seemed troubled by some personal struggles/problems/challenges. I realized the more empathy I show to them, the closer they bond with me, the more they are willing to share with me openly, the more they  play  and joke with me, and most importantly, the more they listen and do what I tell them willingly without showing bad attitudes.     Why?   Because they realized I acknowledged their  feelings and they feel I understand what they are going through.  So I learned the key to effective change of bad behaviors/attitudes in my kids start with establishing good personal relationships with them though showing empathy.  

  1.  Being humble in saying "Sorry" to my kids whenever I offended them.   I gain respect from them when I say sorry because it lets my boys know I can be wrong and make poor decisions,  just like them too.    
  2.  Being gentle but firm and consistent in discipline. Stay calm and not yell  but let them know I mean business  in following through the consequence of their  misbehavior or bad attitudes.
  3.  Do not give  out punishment  or  discipline when I am angry.

5.  Stop being too overly protective or controlling of my kids.   Be bold to allow them the freedom to make more  decisions as long as it's within safe limits instead of always watching over their shoulders and telling them what to do.   This will help them learn to problem solve as well as to learn from their own mistakes.   I come to realize I am actually not doing any bit of good for my kids when I constantly trying to prevent them from making mistakes by telling them what to do and what not to do.    Instead, allowing my kids to fail  by their own poor decision makings  is much more effective in learning a lesson.”

- L.Lieu, RN, Mother of 3 boys, San Francisco

Check out additional testimonials from the Love and Logic website.

Vulnerability + Desire = Passionate Love


My church is currently (January - March 2014) going through the Song of Solomon, a pretty obscure and unfamiliar book to a lot of people, even church folk. But it is a great revelation of God's desire for marriages and a beautiful poem of passionate love. The expressions of the lovers requires some homework (pretty easy with the internet) to understand and appreciate but the studious effort is rewarded with insight into what makes for healthy marriages.

So reflecting on this sacred writing got me to think about my marriage. I’ve been married to May, for over 2 decades. I am totally in love with her, really crazy about her but how do I express it? These are the eloquent things that flow from my lips:

"Hey Honey, how was your day?" and of course, "What's for dinner?”

I do say, "I love you" every morning when I'm off to work and at night before going to sleep. But it all pales pretty pathetically compared to the things that Solomon says to his wife in Song of Songs.

As I read this book, I am overwhelmed by the many expressions of deep desire,  passionate obsession, joyous delight, and even profound longing. How in love are these lovers!. And it is a love relationship which inspires those around them.

So many references to awesome fragrances and delectable food to describe the enjoyment of the lovers for each other. Pomegranates are mentioned quite a bit; I found that Hebrew writers often used this fruit as a symbol for harmony and peace where 2 people are living in authentic oneness or concord, (total opposite of discord). This kind of peace is definitely the foundation for a healthy life of love and sex. But how do we experience this?

By being vulnerable. And God gives us frequent opportunities to do so. If it's been awhile since we've let our guard down, we may miss the more subtle ones but don't worry, the bigger, louder, attention getting opps never fail to surface, even if we've ignored them with previous success.

But why do we deprioritize this value that is so clearly embodied by Jesus, especially when He went to the cross?

Because it scares us to death. And if we’ve experienced a lot of hurt, combined with insecurity, we’ve probably worked hard, really hard, to protect ourselves. Nevertheless, if we’re going to be real in life, love, and family, we must surrender to Christ’s call to deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow Him even into something so terrifying as vulnerability.

Following Jesus is a journey into vulnerability. When we are vulnerable, we open ourselves to good and bad. We open ourselves to pain and pleasure. But most importantly, we open ourselves to God. James 4:6 says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Christ-like humility is being vulnerable. God's grace can only be received when our guard is down and we are open to God's good work in us. And when we receive His unconditional love and grace, we will also be able to give it. This is the beginning of true intimacy. We can’t give what we don’t have. Jesus said in Matthew 6, we don’t have because we don’t ask. We don’t ask because we try to be invulnerable. Invulnerable people don’t ask for mercy and grace on an ongoing basis. But this is exactly what we need to grow unconditional love in our most intimate relationships, most especially, our marriages.

By having this grace-based unconditional love, God makes us open to dealing honestly with the tensions that regularly come up. This also requires us to be brave and aware of our feelings enough to share openly about them. Of course, this too is God’s good work in us. This is what God meant and intended for us in Genesis 2 about being naked and unashamed. This is the essence of a real marriage and it is how I am defining healthy vulnerability. When we aren't being naked and unashamed, can we be intimate and loving with our spouse? Big time NO! When we aren’t being vulnerable, can we even be faithful reflections (image) of God, ruling / leading according to His will? Definitely NOT.

Maybe the biggest reason we need to be vulnerable (to God and spouse) is so we can be filled with His desire - to love and be loved / to know and be known. Deep loving desire for our spouses, as well as deep, intimate knowledge of them which gets reciprocated only comes from God. Apart from God, we all naturally fill our desires / hearts with non-God things, ie. idols. How do we get pure, genuine desire for Him and others? By being vulnerable. Remember, grace is given to the humble. Grace is God’s favor. God favors intimacy and vulnerability. He favors them because they grow the kind of love that He originally wanted people to have in their marriages.

If we’re going to grow our expressions of loving beauty and intimacy, we need to single out one desire and that desire needs to be the same as God’s. Vulnerability is the way. By God’s grace, we must faithfully choose to open our hearts to Him and our spouse. Our marriages depend on it. Our children need it. We need it. “Love your neighbors as you love yourself.” Being vulnerable and being filled with desire for love are some of the most important ways we love ourselves and each other.

Most of us find our professions relatively easy when compared to the work required for personal relational growth. Coaching can be a great resource to help you move forward and discover greater balance between the work place and home. Message me to try it out!

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