Take Care of Your Rock Climbing Gear… and Your Relationships

This week my friend Joel Vermillion shares some insight from a letter he got from Black Diamond about a recent harness failure. It is a great teachable moment for how we need to care for our relationships the way we care for our outdoor gear.

Recently an email from Black Diamond landed in my inbox from their quality control lab. It was about a harness failure and the attempts of the Black Diamond to figure out what actually happened.

photo by Thomas Haines

photo by Thomas Haines


Why did the harness fail?  Was the customer who sent it in at fault?  Was there some design or production flaw?  The engineers at Black Diamond determined that there was a chemical contamination of sulphuric & hydrochloric acids. The rock climbing harness failed because somehow it was contaminated with acid. The acid destroyed the very integrity of the thread used to construct the harness.

In Ephesians 4:29-31, Paul instructs the Church at Ephesus to:

…not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


Just as acid contaminates our rock climbing gear, breaking down the very fibers that hold it together, bitterness, rage, anger, slander and every form of malice tears down the fabric of our relationships with one another. It took almost no time for the contact with the acid to degrade the material of the harness to an unsafe level.  Isn’t that how it happens in life? Words and actions that spring from these things Paul warns us about, only take seconds to eat away at the integrity of our relationships. What Paul is talking about here has to do with our words and with our actions, but those things begin in our hearts (see Matthew 12:34-36). The malice in our hearts can do such deep damage that it can cause our relationships to fail.

RELATED POST: Why Faith-Based Relational Adventure Therapy is so Effective?


The climber probably didn’t notice that the harness was compromised when he pulled it on that day. The damage had taken place was at the molecular level of the threads, and only under a powerful microscope could the engineers see the weakness in the threads.  Bitterness, rage, anger, slander, and all forms of malice may not be easy to identify in our hearts or in the hearts of those we have relationships with, but they are sources of weakness and extreme danger that can destroy.


Next time I pull on my climbing harness I know I’ll think about that article and take a closer look at the threads holding it together. But more than that, I pray God will open my heart to any areas of malice in my life. Maybe it will remind me that the care I show my equipment is something that needs to be lived out in far more transforming ways in my relationships with others, including God.


Joel has been leading outdoor trips with youth in different parts of the world for over 20 years.   He is the author of, “The Importance of Experience (Essays from the Backcountry: Reflections on Christian leadership, Outdoor Ministry & Missions) Joel serves as Head Field Instructor with the Wilderness Ministry Institute, as well as Missions & Adventure Pastor in his local church, Meadow Springs, in Oregon.  You can contact him with any comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “Take Care of Your Rock Climbing Gear… and Your Relationships

  1. Thanks for the comments! I’ll work on another paragraph. Great idea “Flying Salmon”. And thanks for the props, Aaron – glad you enjoyed the article.

  2. Could you add another paragraph describing how you check over your gear and some ideas on how to “check over” your relationships?
    Thanks! Has anyone read the book “Anchored Man”?

  3. I love this topic and really enjoyed the article. There are so many spiritual parallels to rock climbing. Its amazing how easy it is for people to have faith in equipment, an aluminum carabiner or woven nylon designed not to fail yet they find it so hard to even address the idea of faith in something that won’t fail. Faith in Jesus Christ. Props to Ashley and Joel for their frontline approach to experiential discipleship in the wilderness! You guys rock! 😉

Comments are closed.