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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!

 

Confessions of a cyclist

There’s something you should know about me.

I’m a cycling commuter. In London. And most of the time, I’m relentlessly smug about it.

Come rain or shine (I make an exception for snow, because I don’t have a death wish), I don my helmet and lycra, drape myself in as many fluorescent items as I can lay my hands on, and pedal off to work.

On these journeys, I’ve recently been reflecting on cycling and the nature of sin.

Let me explain.

When I’m a cyclist, I’m broadly at the mercy of drivers’ ability (or lack thereof) to drive safely. Sometimes it can get a bit ropey. In fact, my husband and I often compare notes about which drivers we’ve yelled at on our respective commutes.

The truth is, when I’m a cyclist, I’m pretty much convinced that all drivers are idiots.

But I’m also a London driver.

And when I’m a driver, I’m pretty much convinced that all cyclists are idiots.

Notice a pattern?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a reckless driver. Nor am I an unsafe cyclist. But in my own head, no matter what happens, any near-misses are never my fault. Even if I’ve definitely forgotten about stopping distances being longer in the rain and accidentally cycled into the back of my husband (true story).

I’m very good at making excuses for my own mistakes, my own sin, and very quick to blame others. I always have mitigating circumstances or a reason for my failings. But everyone else? Well, they’re just irresponsible.

This may be particularly obvious on my commute, but where else might this show up in my day-to-day life? A colleague who drops the ball is frustrating, but when I’m late to a meeting there are always ‘legitimate’ reasons for my tardiness. A friend who forgets an important date hurts my feelings, but when I was late sending my goddaughter her birthday present it was because there was just too much other stuff going on.

Rationalisation is a natural human response to falling short. But what if we extended the same amount of grace to others as we extend to ourselves (Matthew 7:12)? And perhaps we can use moments of failure to exercise the muscle of apologising – without sharing the myriad of reasons why we aren’t as culpable as everyone thinks we are.

As a smug cyclist, I know it’ll be difficult… but with God’s help, nothing is impossible.

Alianore Smith
Associate Speaker, LICC

Church and Theology Executive, International Justice Mission

Comments

  1. I can connect very well with this! Very honest self analysis there.

    By Greg  -  9 Jun 2023
  2. Thanks for a timely reminder. I’m not a cyclist, but my husband is, and today will be taking part in the Cathedrals Cycle Relay, riding from Bradford to Wakefield.

    Just a technical point, and I apologise for being pedantic. Please tell your spell checker that you pedalled off to work(as in riding a bike), not peddled (as in selling goods like a pedlar)!

    Thanks again, I always appreciate your writing; it’s so easy to relate to. God bless your ministry.

    By Pam Manktelow  -  9 Jun 2023
  3. Thank you, that’s really helpful

    By Drew  -  9 Jun 2023
  4. Thanks for this. Great personal illustrations which cut to the quick. All have jumped a red light and fall short of the glory of God. Bless you for your erudite honesty. Jules

    By Julia Lewis  -  9 Jun 2023
  5. As another London cyclist the other thing I notice are the sins of fellow cyclists (running red lights, zebra crossings, cycling on pavement etc) – and usually think I am “holier than thou”.

    By David  -  9 Jun 2023
  6. This is so helpful – especially because, as a pedestrian, I get very angry with smug cyclists who use pedestrian crossings and pavements. But some of them have delivery deadlines etc. If I jaywalk etc – that is legitimate.
    So – thank you – I pray that I can extend grace (not just to cyclists) but to so many others in a non-judgemental way!!

    By Heather Gardiner  -  9 Jun 2023
  7. Shouldn’t Alianore have been focusing on her cycling rather than on the relationship between cycling and sin?!!!

    By George Irving  -  9 Jun 2023
  8. An excellent article! Beautifully written and oh so true. I don’t commute these days but when I used to I can remember watching cyclists, closing my eyes and waiting for the impact.
    I don’t cycle but when I’m driving then obviously any error is the other ‘idiot’!
    When I remember, I will say the odd prayer for your safety but should I forget, that obviously won’t be my fault!
    Thanks so much!

    By Peter  -  9 Jun 2023
  9. Do love your thoughts..always on point and helpful..and not wrapped up in jargon!
    Thnx

    By Iris White  -  9 Jun 2023
  10. Thank you, I’m so grateful it’s not just me;-)

    By Nick  -  9 Jun 2023
  11. As a keen cyclist, this is very relevant to me. Thank you. I might even share it with my cycling friends.

    By William Lowries  -  9 Jun 2023
  12. How true. If we spent less time rationalising our sin and more time asking for forgiveness and then acting on the knowledge we had gained. Wow. What a difference it would make.

    By Ann McClements  -  9 Jun 2023
  13. Amen to what you say, and really helpful to see it resonates with many others.

    By Gary Nielsen  -  9 Jun 2023
  14. As a Montana commuting cyclist I loved this perspective. I have often wondered why, as a cyclist, I am so intolerant of cyclists when driving. It’s all about putting self first, before others … and the Kingdom.

    By Colin  -  9 Jun 2023
  15. This is so interesting and a really good illustration for everyday life. I do wonder if it might depend partly on personality/circumstances. I tend to always think things are my fault, in the car or on the bike particularly, but often in everyday life as well. The other side of the coin, I guess – I’m just thinking aloud here – is that we need to extend grace to ourselves too. Perhaps making this a habit will help in doing so for others. A thought-provoking piece. Thank you.

    By Deborah Jenkins  -  10 Jun 2023

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