April 6

Stepping on the Rope

April 6, 2016

Personal Growth

Many years ago I often took groups of Boy Scouts to rappel down cliffs from 10 to 200 feet high. We used static kernmantle climbing rope, which is composed of hundreds of tiny nylon fibers in the core (the kern) and hundreds more in the outer mantle. The interior core provides the real tensile strength—the breaking strength—of the rope, while the mantle provides protection for the core. These ropes are very strong, with a new 10.5 mm static rope capable of holding up 6750 lbs before breaking.

On one occasion I was with some expert climbers as they were performing difficult maneuvers up and down a cliff. I was at the top as an inexperienced visitor was about to step on one of the climbing ropes, which was lying stretched out on the ground. You would have thought that a bomb had exploded. Every climber at the top screamed simultaneously, and the visitor turned around so quickly that he fell, but not on top of the rope.

It turns out that the individual fibers of climbing ropes are quite fine and susceptible to breakage. During normal usage, ropes naturally accumulate dirt—which includes sharp pieces of sand—on their surface, on the mantle. Some of that material works its way through the weave of the mantle, and those sharp edges cut fibers in the kern. If somebody steps on the rope, those pieces of sand are crushed into the nylon fibers, breaking far more of them. No real climber allows anyone to step on his rope or to treat it carelessly in any way. When there is any doubt, in fact, about the condition of a rope, the climb “retires” it immediately.

Like a kernmantle rope, our lives are the result of weaving together thousands of events, feelings, qualities, and other influences. We cannot afford to drag our lives through the dirt, and we certainly can’t afford to be stepped on and allow even more fibers to be cut. We have to stay away from the crushing and cutting effects of fear, anger, and anything else that would affect the strength of our rope.

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