I read widely. Anything from newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, to advertising leaflets is fair game.
In a spare afternoon recently I read an article about becoming a proficient motorcycle rider. One thing the author said really struck me. It sounds counterintuitive at first, but when you think about it, it makes absolute sense.
His statement was: “If you frequently encounter close calls, then you must begin to identify the weaknesses in your mental skill development. These weaknesses may include impairment, a lack of awareness, or unrealistic self-confidence.”
Certainly, the use of alcohol, drugs, high levels of stress, inattentiveness and unawareness of your surroundings, and overconfidence in one’s abilities can all lead to an accident. And when a motorcycle and a car meet, the car always wins.
The author stressed the need to think both before and while riding if you want to stay alive. It is not how many close calls you avoid that determines that you are a good driver, but how few close calls you have. Frequently finding yourself in an emergency situation means that you didn’t use your brain beforehand. Thinking and using your head can go a long way toward keeping you safe.
The same advice can be applied to the rest of our lives and particularly to how we deal with sin. As with motorcycles, if we often find ourselves narrowly escaping a sin or negative situations, we probably fell prey to one of the three key problems.
First there is the issue of impairment. Using drugs or alcohol can certainly lower our defenses and impair our judgment, but so, too, can excessive stress from home or office. Drugs and alcohol will do it to us, but stress can give us the opportunity to wrongly justify our sinful behaviors.
Allowing our minds to wander and not paying attention to what we are doing can be dangerous, too. The apostle Paul cautions us to think about higher things and not allow our minds to be dragged down.
We also need to be aware of situations around us that can lead us to sin. We all know there are some places we should not go, and the word “place” can mean much more than merely a physical location. There are some people whose company we should avoid, and there are situations that we know can place temptation in our way. Stay away is the answer.
Finally, we can be overly self-confident and think that we are better or stronger than we are, or that we are invincible and can’t possibly slip and fall. Its called hubris, thinking that we are above it all, and as we know, “Pride goeth before a fall.”
The one thing the author didn’t mention that applies to sin is that sometimes we choose it.
Whatever else Shakespeare may have intended about the cause of Macbeth’s willingness to become a serial killer — Did the witches drive him to it or plant a suggestion? Did Lady Macbeth challenge his masculinity? Was Macbeth an overly ambitious person? — all along the way he made choices. He chose to kill Duncan and each one of the many people who followed.
We, too, can choose sin. We know we are doing wrong and do it anyway. Prayer and a good spiritual friend can be of great help in holding us accountable and in allowing us to see before we make the final choice.
Both riding a motorcycle and living a good life require skill. What do you say we both practice this week?