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How to understand and use the phrase “come-to-Jesus moment”

The term is rooted in American English, given its roots in American Christian religious traditions. Each of the two variations has to do with the other but has a distinct meaning unto itself. Let’s take a closer look.

Cecilia Gigliotti
Cecilia Gigliotti

What is a “come-to-Jesus moment” or “come-to-Jesus meeting”? This idiom has gained increasing popularity in English, having to do with suddenly realizing truth or gaining clarity or insight into a situation. It even has its own entry in the Urban Dictionary.

The term is rooted in American English, given its roots in American Christian religious traditions. Each of the two variations has to do with the other but has a distinct meaning unto itself. Let’s take a closer look.

“Come to Jesus” as an exhortation

The stem of these phrases originated as an actual call to action for someone to come to Jesus. It became the vernacular in early American Christian circles, which held “come-to-Jesus” meetings in the hopes of converting more community members.

With the passage of time, the phrase seeped out into secular life, and the meaning turned a bit more somber. A come-to-Jesus meeting has come to signify an intervention of sorts, the last resort before one suffers the consequences of one’s actions.

A come-to-Jesus moment shrinks the perspective from the communal to the personal. When one has a come-to-Jesus moment, they realize the error of their ways, confess to something that had been weighing them down or hit upon an epiphany about their life or life in general.

Examples:

I had a come-to-Jesus moment in my therapy appointment last week.
At Thanksgiving, we had a come-to-Jesus meeting with my cousin about his alcoholism.
He hadn’t been looking for a come-to-Jesus moment, but after his conversation with the stranger on the bus, he considered the fact that he might have just had one.
EnglishIdioms & expressions

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