When I was an earnest young Catholic, I was fascinated with Saul turning into Paul on the road to Damascus. A zealous persecutor of Christians doing a total U-turn and becoming fervent evangelist – now that’s a memorable story.
This sort of “come to Jesus” moment fascinates me. There’s something special and archetypal about this type of story.
Once you become sensitive to this type of narrative, you start to notice it all around, in more secular and colloquial contexts: there are many stories of people having sudden moments of insight or realisation, resulting in a complete U-turn on some of their previous beliefs, behaviours, and identities.
This includes the realm of personal finance.
It seems like many people who evangelise about personal finance have a story to tell. They were one way, then experienced an event that helped them see the error of their ways.
I guess this gives them credibility, in the sense that they can understand people who haven’t yet seen the light.
I guess for people who have legitimately had these experiences, they’re especially motivated to proselytise on behalf of their new way of seeing things. So I guess they’ll be over-represented amongst people who talk about money.
I haven’t had a come to Jesus moment
I’m 40 now. And for better or worse, my story when it comes to money isn’t that exciting. When it comes to my finances, I haven’t had a come to Jesus moment.
I haven’t had many come to Jesus moments in other domains, either.
To be clear: my views in life have changed profoundly. In combination, I have evolved to be a very different person from who I was 20 years ago. But the changes in my views have been gradual, iterative shifts, based on new experiences and information.
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If I wanted, I could probably find something that looked like a road to Damascus event. But more than anything, I’d be creating a narrative arc that might make me seem more interesting or credible, but wouldn’t really reflect my slow, gradual recalibration of how I think about money and life.
My key takeaways?
- When people share their “come to Jesus” moments, remember that this is a powerful narrative arc. It may well be true. But they could also be fitting their story into an archetype, even if it’s not strictly accurate. This might be for good faith reasons – it might reflect how they interpret their experience. More cynically, they might be using this archetype to make their story more compelling and give them credibility that might not otherwise be due to them. It puts me on alert.
- When it comes to personal finance, or anything else, you don’t need a “come to Jesus” moment. You don’t need to realise the error of your ways and do a 180-degree turn compared to what you’re currently doing. Lots of 1-degree turns are often enough. (Or, more accurately, sporadic 5- to 20-degree turns when you have waves of motivation and interest.)
It’s not as exciting or sexy, but that’s often enough.
NB. This doesn’t just relate to personal finance. You don’t need a “come to Jesus moment” when it comes to your physical health, for instance – in fact, lots of 1-degree shifts in the right direction are likely to be more sustainable (and impactful over the long run) than massive changes.