President Woodrow Wilson wrote a book entitled When a Man Comes to Himself. It is packed with powerful points and principles about the turnaround that takes place in the life of anyone, man or woman, when they finally get the point and understand what really matters after all.
They “wake up and smell the coffee,” so to speak! No longer are they willing to fritter away sand in the hourglass of time. No longer will they waste their energy and precious time on useless pursuits and aimless people.
President Wilson writes about this on pages 1–2 of his book:
It is a very wholesome and regenerating change which a man undergoes when he “comes to himself.” It is not only after periods of recklessness or infatuation, when he has played the spendthrift or the fool, that a man comes to himself. He comes to himself after experiences of which he alone may be aware: when he has left off being wholly preoccupied with his own powers and interests and with every petty plan that centers in himself; when he has cleared his eyes to see the world as it is, and his own true place and function in it.
This whole process can happen early in life and in a relatively short period of time. Or it may come gradually, over a long period of time, or hit suddenly later in life. It depends on the individual. This is highly personal and involves a combination of experiences, upbringing and character. Peace of mind and a thrilling wave of hope and joy sweep over us and through us. We have now finally “come to ourselves.” The lights go on and our lives take on deeper purpose and meaning!
Mr. Wilson writes on pages 3–4:
There is no fixed time in a man’s life at which he comes to himself, and some men never come to themselves at all. It is a change reserved for the thoroughly sane and healthy, and for those who can detach themselves from tasks and drudgery long and often enough to get, at any rate once and again, a view of the proportions of life and of the stage and plot of its action.
A very big part of this process is coming to genuine maturity. We are jolted out of our comfort zone and jerked out of the ruts and calcified habits that comprised our daily lives. Now we are ready to begin to live life to the full, not merely exist, shuffling from one humdrum day to another or from one letdown to another empty letdown. We hit our stride and really start to go places and do things of lasting value. It is exciting and thoroughly satisfying.
Often, the really good and worthwhile things in life don’t interest or make any sense to a person who hasn’t come to himself yet. They think they are right and claim to know exactly what they are doing. However, they are often left puzzled and wondering why life seems so unfair and frustrating.
Benjamin Franklin described this misguided and shallow attitude in his autobiography on page 98:
Like a man traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, though, in truth, he is as much in the fog as any of them.
When a man comes to himself, this fog is lifted and he can see the clear light of day. His life takes a turn for the better.
This awakening is clearly illustrated in the best–selling book of all time, the Holy Bible. It is brilliantly laid out in the parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11–32.
The story is about a man who had two sons. One was faithful to him from the beginning. The other son decided to do it his way. He set out on the road leading to rack and ruin, choosing to learn the lessons of life from the harsh and unforgiving teacher of experience.
Inevitably, the dire consequences of the younger son’s wrong choices and actions started to pile up. He didn’t get away with a thing. Nobody ever does. The painful penalties of sin and evil always come. The life of the prodigal son started to fall apart, and the crushing weight from his evil deeds pushed him down—down and out.
He found himself living in circumstances so destitute and hopeless that he would have gladly eaten the food fed to the hogs! Notice Luke 15:13–16: “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.”
And then something remarkable happened. He came to himself! “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (vv 17–19).
At last he could clearly see what he must do with the rest of his life. He repented and turned completely around from going in the wrong direction to going in the right direction. He did not make any excuses or blame anyone else for his mistakes and vile, sinful lifestyle. He took full responsibility for his actions, asked for forgiveness and expected nothing in return except to be one of his father’s hired servants.
However, he received much more than that: “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry” (vv 22–24).
President Wilson explained it this way at the end of his profound and uplifting book, on pages 37–38:
Christianity gave us, in the fullness of time, the perfect image of right living, the secret of social and of individual well–being; for the two are not separable, and the man who receives and verifies that secret in his own living has discovered not only the best and only way to serve the world, but also the one happy way to satisfy himself. Then, indeed, he has come to himself. Henceforth he knows what his powers mean, what spiritual air they breathe, what ardors of service clear them of lethargy, relieve them of all sense of effort, put them at their best. After this fretfulness passes away, experience mellows and strengthens and makes more fit, and old age brings, not senility, not satiety, not regret, but higher hope and serene maturity.
Remember the popular and true saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”? If we seize the opportunity to leave the past in the past and move forward to the wonderful things the future can hold, then the fog will lift and we too can “come to ourselves” at last. No matter who we are, we can choose to face reality and decide to take a new and brighter course in our lives, helping many others all along the way.
You can subscribe absolutely FREE to the print edition of Straightforward Magazine—no strings attached! Fill out the form below to receive your free subscription to this unique and vitally important magazine.