From the Editor

By Matt Evans
September/October 2014

The Performance Trap

Standing at the top of the 2,000’ ridge line we look down at the glacier descending steeply away. It’s late season ice, so falling through the snow into some hidden crevasse is a low threat. However, careening a thousand feet into the jumble of rocks at the bottom of the moraine is a strong possibility. As we strap on our crampons, J.R. and I instruct our flat-lander friend the basics of glacier travel and walking in spikes. Within a few hours, he is powering across the expanse of blue ice and reaches the iced-in B-29 bomber from a 1957 crash well before I do. 

So in our performance-obsessed world, it seems so natural (and yet ridiculous at the same time) to ask, “who is better?” Am I a better hiker/mountaineer because I had the knowledge to impart regarding glacier travel, or is he better because his iron-man training helped him outpace me up the incline?

Of course when three friends head out into the mountains, the concept of who is better doesn’t really come up, but it seems to be cropping up all over the outdoor universe. The more outdoor magazines and Youtube videos I see, the more the focus seems to be on getting better and “beating” other outdoor enthusiasts at their game (going higher, farther, faster, with less gear, younger, older etc..). But even those deeply involved in these sports can’t agree on what “better” is.

Are you a better climber if you go faster with supplemental oxygen than someone who summits slower but without 02? Does a better fisherman use dry-flies and catch high-alpine Brookies, or live bait and catch 300 pound Mako Sharks? Is it more impressive to run a class IV rapid and waterfall, or paddle 500 miles in ocean swells? What makes for a “good” outdoorsman, and who exactly gets to judge?

So often we mistakenly look at others or some arbitrarily set standard to determine our “goodness,” or even our own self-worth. In the end, I don’t do squats or work on my casting technique or study up on the latest climbing routes because I want to look good in the outdoor community’s eyes. I practice and train so that I can go deeper, experience more, and enjoy more authentically the outdoors than ever before. I’m still proud of my accomplishments, but not proud because I think I’m better than someone else, but proud because I accomplished something I set out to accomplish.

Sometimes I find myself falling into the same trap in the rest of my life as well. I follow God’s laws and do the right thing in order to look good in other people’s eyes. I try to be a “good Christian” to impress others instead of focusing on the real reason God calls us to a righteous life. Just like our outdoor passions, we should endeavor to become more like Christ so that we can go deeper, understand better, and experience life more profoundly and with more joy than ever before. It’s one of the hardest concepts to wrap our minds around: the rules aren’t for Him, they’re for us.

So as I head into this shoulder season, when the rod guides ice up in the middle of the cast but the snow isn’t deep enough to ski yet, I will hit the gym and spend some hours at the fly-tying vice. I’ll read about some new gear and research how the heck to get up The Pinnacle that has turned me away on three different occasions. But I won’t do it to pad my outdoor blog or to impress somebody at the indoor climbing wall. I’ll do it because I love it and because the Lord has put a passion in my heart to pursue Him out there beyond where electricity or even Wi-Fi can reach, even if I’m the last one to the bomber.  

Pursue, Explore, Celebrate,





About the Author

  • Matt_Evans's picture

    Matt Evans is a contributing editor for Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine. Matt loves to explore God's great outdoors and discover how God reveals himself in the majesty of His creation. He lives out his adventure in Alaska with his wife and three children. 

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