The Great Need – Chapter 1

By: Jim Murphy


  • Perhaps you noticed I haven’t written any articles in 2024. I started this newsletter/blog May 15, 2020 and committed to share Inner Excellence ideas with you on the 1st and 3rd Friday of the month. So for 3.5 years I’ve done that and never missed. (​You can ​see every article on my website​​). I hope these articles have been helpful for you.
  • Here’s a little review in case you’ve forgotten Inner Excellence (IX). IX is about learning and growing, in love, wisdom, and courage, every day.
    • It’s about heart transformation, seeking to become a certain kind of person, one who lives fully and loves greatly.
    • It’s about self-mastery, developing self-control by mastering the ego, which comes from orienting your heart to love what’s most empowering.
    • It’s seeking resonance, that inner peace and clear mind that comes from a deep sense of well-being.
  • The main reason I’ve taken time off from the articles is that I’m spending all my time writing another book. It’s called Best Possible Life: How to Live with Deep Contentment, Joy, and Confidence No Matter What. (Warning: this book is about living a spirit-led life, so if that’s not for you just skip this article).
  • It’s the most excited I’ve been about anything I’ve ever written–today I’m sharing chapter one with you. (Estimated reading time: 15 minutes)

Note: Please continue to pray for ceasefire in Gaza and ​donate to humanitarian organizations like ​Amnesty International​​ to help those suffering and dying in Gaza as well as Ukraine and East Africa.


Chapter 1

The Great Need

The day Chris Baldwin arrived at Lake Youngs Elementary was a normal day for everyone, except two of us: Chris and I. Chris arrived in the middle of the school year and he was the new kid. I was the fastest kid (well, in my grade anyway). So that meant one thing: new kid had to race fastest kid to see if there was a new fastest kid.

At Lake Youngs, being fast and athletic was a very desirable attribute. Winning the race with Chris meant one thing: Perhaps I would get the love and acceptance I desperately craved. Like most humans, my entire life has been one long journey wanting you to love me, to say how great I am, to introduce me as, “This is Jim. He’s this and that and he’s done this and that, and Wow!—and—Oh yeah!—and—Big time!” as well as other various you-should-be-impressed-type phrases that bring raised eyebrows of adoration. My win on the playground years ago meant I could still feel good about myself. That’s kind of how life is, isn’t it? We think the next achievement or status will get us the love and acceptance we desperately desire.

My life has been punctuated by moments where I’ve received the love I’ve craved, and so many where I haven’t. The missed moments of love and acceptance created a filter over my eyes that narrowed my vision, seeing more what I’ve missed than what I’ve been given. It’s formed an armor of self-protection, where I’ve been triggered by reflections of rejection, memories of mistakes that translated into uncaptured opportunities, or worse.

The thing is, I’m human, which means I have a subconscious mind designed to protect me, so, it remembers the wounds I’ve received to guard against future ones. I also have a heart that longs for love and an ego that wants to be praised and adored. Most of all, I’ve got a deep need for something this world cannot fill, and I’ve unknowingly spent most of my life searching for ways to fill it. All my fruitless efforts have created a fear of rejection that’s been hard to shake.

This… is my problem.

This… is every human’s problem.

In grade school I was smart and fast, but it was never enough to give me love that was unconditional. It was always conditional, dependent on how fast I ran or the grades I got or the popularity I gained (or failed to gain).

I was constantly trying to get you to think well of me, so I could feel good about myself. I was never far from some version of trying to prove to you that I’m somebody so you would love me and introduce me well to your friends, so I could fit in and be ok.

This self-consciousness continued into adulthood, and so when you speak, I think about how it impacts my life—or doesn’t, and why would you tell me then?! I’ve always thought about my goals, my dreams, my fears, my family, my self. I want to be a good guy, I do, but most of my life has really been about my needs and desires and people who’ve lined up with those needs and desires (bingo) and those who haven’t (sayonara).

I’m not saying this is good or I liked it, I’m saying I’ve gotten caught up in self-absorption, endlessly trying to make my life better with better results and circumstances, so I’ll feel better about myself and you’ll respect me, even though it’s a never-ending treadmill.

The truth is, all my striving has been an effort to feel accepted and secure, so I can stop comparing and feel so loved that I can finally, fully rest.

That sort of love and rest is what we’re created for, that our hearts beat for. Without it, we spend far too much time consumed by the three major symptoms of a compulsive, harried life: over-thinking, negative thinking, and self-conscious thinking (concern for what others think).

Take myself, for example. I’ve thought way too much about my life and what I want but can’t control, and how I don’t know how to fix things in my life and I don’t know what you think of me or if you like this book or if perhaps after reading this sentence you’ll throw the book across the room and it will poke someone in the eye and they’ll be maimed for life and you’ll tell them it was my fault and I’ll feel bad and maybe because of it I’ll never write another book and at least that way I’d never write a sentence again that was so long and self-centered, and at least you could rest knowing you would never waste another minute of your life with this garbage and you could live a peaceful life with your dog and he would give you the love that I never could and your life would be so much less violent.

It’s exhausting.

What about you? Have you ever overanalyzed things, perhaps about what other people think? Have you ever gotten caught up in negative, self-conscious thinking? Have you ever felt that something’s missing, that all your striving has only delivered temporary happiness, surface-level satisfaction?

Something is missing. It’s the non-judgmental, ever-expanding vision of beauty and joy that’s available to all of us, when we get out of our own way, when we let go of our petty quibbles and offenses taken, when we accept the love and connections that are meant to fill us with meaning and amazing moments. Our own minds confine us and we miss so much.

Our minds become a lens that sees the world through all the rejections and mistakes we’ve made. It’s fed our ego’s fears and increased the need to be liked and get likes. We live in our own worlds, the ones we’ve imagined.

The truth is, I don’t see the world as it is, I see the world as I am. You don’t see the world as it is, you see the world you’ve built in your mind, story by story, and now it’s 100 stories high.

The world you see is a reflection of your inner world and the story you’ve been telling yourself with all the memories, mistakes and melodramas that have become your life. It can be scary navigating a story with so many tall tales as well as countless disappointments and failures crowding the rear-view mirror.

When all our pursuits—even the successes—bring only fleeting fulfillment and ultimately return empty, we don’t know what to do. So we do the opposite of what we should—we get more consumed with ourselves and all our stories. This, of course, only magnifies the problem.

The self-in-the-center lens through which we see the world is distorted and reflective and immensely biased. What we see is the result of the ever-changing filter that has interpreted all the experiences we’ve ever had. For example, when I walk into Starbucks, I only see what impacts my life, and what I see first (perhaps subconsciously), are potential threats and then potential mates and then potential waits in line that I really don’t have time for.

The problem is, you and I, and all the other humans, are born with a nature that’s been infected. The biggest challenge we face, in performance and in life, is fear. At the root of fear is a virus of the heart: self-centeredness.

Self-centeredness, in our discussion, is a natural preoccupation with self that limits our vision and stunts our growth. It’s putting yourself in the center of the world and seeing everything from how it impacts you, your family, your work, your life. It’s like being a baton in the conductor’s hand of the most beautiful orchestra in the world and the whole time thinking you’re an amazing dancer with incredible rhythm. The self-as-the-center life becomes a dark filter of pride that limits your vision and stunts your growth.

Perhaps you think you’re not self-centered, certainly not as oblivious as a baton in the conductor’s hand, thinking you’re the center of attention. However, consider this: is not everything you think, say, and do based on your experiences, your goals, and your beliefs? When you’ve gotten upset, was it not you or something that was yours that was threatened?

For your entire life you’ve seen the world from only your eyes. You haven’t seen what I’ve seen or what anyone else has seen—not from the same perspective, anyway. Furthermore, your perspective is skewed based on your perception of what you’ve seen and experienced. Every experience you’ve had has been compared to similar events from the past, and the meaning your mind assigned to them.

The problem of self-centeredness is that it imparts an inaccurate view of the world, where you’re the subject of the story, the one who succeeds or fails and makes his or her own decisions. The subject of a story, as you may recall from grade school, is what the story is about; what happened first, second, third, and so on. It’s totally natural (and logical) to view yourself as the subject of your own story and of course to have a sense of pride about it (this is a good thing, right?) The truth is, however, that you’re part of a much larger story—a story you’re in, but that’s not about you.

Making your life story about yourself is like a honeybee that doesn’t realize it’s part of a colony with a daily guided mission, or a branch that doesn’t realize it’s part of a vine. Your life is one part of a larger life, just like your hand is one part of your body. You need the arms and legs and heart and all the parts, to be whole. We’re made whole through love, and love is an interconnectedness with God and others that we cannot, sustainably, live without.

If you don’t know how you’re connected and nourished and filled with life, you’ll constantly be searching and disconnecting and isolating yourself. You may end up feeling like a kite without a string, where the wind is whipping and wild.

Imagine a branch on a vine. Its life is rooted in the soil and sustained by the sun and nutrients that come from the vine. It’s where life flows into it and how it stays grounded. If the branch somehow got cut off from the vine, it would die. When we don’t recognize where life and meaning and every powerful resource comes from, we go searching in the wrong places. In doing so, we cut ourselves off from God and others, and eventually, life itself.

To see yourself as the subject of your life story is the fundamental human error. It’s a mindset that hijacks our hearts and leaves us continually scrambling to build walls and systems and gather achievements and possessions so we can be secure. But we never really get secure that way—not if we consider all the things that are out of our control and all the dangers and possible perils that we can never do enough to mitigate.

Living this self-as-the-subject life puts us on a path of compulsive busyness trying to do what we cannot. We’re trying to fit in and stabilize ourselves in an unstable world obsessed with achievement and appearances… constantly trying to appear in everyone’s feed when what we desperately need is to be fed ourselves—the real food, real drink, and real nourishment that can only come from unconditional love and connection. We become zombies, driving in our metal coffins, going to jobs we don’t love so we can buy things we don’t need, in order to compare well with others who are doing the exact same thing.

So we have this deep need for unconditional love and acceptance, and since it’s a chase-your-tail-endless-treadmill-pursuit that never delivers, we end up driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out how to be the person that says the right thing and has the right connections and accomplishments.

This creates a cognitive mishmash that messes with our psyche and we lose track of who we are or should be.

One hundred years ago, American sociologist Charles Cooley described the human condition like this: I’m not who I think I am; I’m not who you think I am; I am who I think you think I am.

In other words, the person I present to the world is based on who I think you think I am, or should be. It goes like this: I imagine how I appear to you and everyone else, then I picture what you think of me and how you might judge me based on how I’ve presented myself, and then I respond to that perception.

What Cooley shared with us is that we’re all deeply connected. How we see those connections defines who we think we are and impacts everything we do. Our entire lives flow out of our interconnectedness; we live in a network of connections that starts with God and flows into people and work and the environment. It all impacts our thoughts and feelings and how we see the world.

Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne described our interdependence this way:

“There’s a sense that you’re making these decisions about your life or what you want to do or say and that they’re all coming from you. But they’re not! Who you are at any given moment is defined by the social context. We’re not quite ants, but we’re social animals. To pull one ant away and say, ‘That ant decided to do that!’ No. We do things because we’re part of a larger community.”

The truth is, you were created for community, and even more, for glory. Glory (as you’ll see in the glossary), is the brilliance and beauty of infinite, inherent worth. A life of glory is one that has no comparison, filled with fullness of life. This sort of glory, this sort of life, is a deeply, interconnected one. The life you were created for has profound, intimate connection—with God, others, yourself, and nature—and even your work.

In this deeply connected community, unconditional love is the common bond, and from love comes joy. Joy is a deep sense of well-being, freedom and gratitude, independent of circumstances; it’s harmony and hope and resonance that surpasses understanding.

The deepest need of the human heart is for the unremitting connectedness of unconditional love; and even more, for the glory that shines so bright, no darkness could ever put it out.

If you don’t realize that, like a vine on a branch, you deeply need God and others to live the life you were created for, you’ll take the world on yourself, which is a disconnected-tossed-in-the-wind existence. It’s like living in solitary confinement when you’re meant for fullness of life. Without the connections you were designed for, you’ll try to go it alone, in which case self-rejection is the ultimate end.

Love Jim


This is an unfinished version and so if you have any ideas on how to improve it, I’d love to hear! I’m a bit concerned about the length of the chapter and number of metaphors. Were all the metaphors distracting? Was the chapter a bit long? You can give feedback by contacting us using the form below.

Please don’t think you need to be a writer to give feedback. If you can read at the 7th grade level, that’s perfect. Thanks for staying connected and all your encouragement over the years. I appreciate all of you!


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