Mountaintop Experiences: A Realization at Personality Gap

This article is part four of the five part series, ‘Mountaintop Experiences’

As we rounded what was thought to be the final descent to the Gap, my dear old friend and hiking partner John became a bit disoriented and wasn’t quite sure we were headed in the right direction.

He suddenly turned to me and asked, “What does the map say? It seems like we have been headed in this direction for hours. I cant see the Gap anywhere.”

“What is the name of this Gap again?” I asked.

“I dont know. It is just the Gap,” John tiredly replied.

Having been on the Appalachian Trail (AT) for the better part of a week, I had assumed the role of navigator because the maps were carried in my backpack. It was quite amusing to us both how we had evolved into certain roles on this hiking adventure. Because John carried the stove with his gear he became the chef. I lugged the first aid kit with my equipment so quite naturally I was the trip’s physician. John carried the hair gel so I guess he was the official hair stylist. You get the picture.

I stopped my forward progress momentarily, shifted the weight on my shoulders and methodically scanned the map in front of me.

“According to this it should be straight ahead,” I said. “It is hard to tell the distance by looking at this but I definitely think we are going in the right direction.”

“I think our best bet would be to just ask people as they pass by how far they think it is,” John replied. “They should have a good grasp on that if they are coming from that direction.”

We both agreed that continuing our forward progress was better than no progress at all.

Trail weary from several days on the AT, we were a case study in poor hygiene. Smelling like a pair of unbathed goats, we had both grown beards that would make Abraham Lincoln proud. Our clothing, while not tattered, had taken on a brownish hue from continually using it as napkins, tablecloths, and dishrags.

As we trudged through the late afternoon sun, we eventually saw a woman approaching us in the distance. When she was about 15 feet away John politely asked her how far it was to the Gap. Rather than taking the time to give us any type of reassurance that we were walking in the right direction, she gave us a dirty look then lurched past.

“Nice manners,” I chuckled, as we watched her scurry off toward Dahlonega. “Maybe you should have used more of that hair gel, John”

As the clock inched toward 6pm, what appeared to be a father and son team on a late spring adventure bounded toward us. I cannot speak for them but from our experience, we were usually physically and mentally exhausted by 4pm each day. Interestingly enough this dynamic duo showed no signs of fatigue.

Trying to be a bit less foreboding, John asked casually, “Excuse me, do you know how much further it is to the Gap?”

Rather than completely ignoring us as their female predecessor had done, the father smiled nervously, clutched his son by the shoulder, and continued past us without speaking. As they passed, both glanced at us with facial expressions usually reserved for vagrants sleeping under a bridge.

We both looked at each other and shrugged. Shortly thereafter, to our delight we saw the familiar sign indicating we had reached the Gap.

“I used to love the Gap a few years ago but lately I just havent been able to find anything in here that suits my clothing tastes,” I sputtered, as we passed a rack of plaid short sleeved shirts.

Huh? Wait a second. Weren’t we just on the Appalachian Trail trying to determine how far it was to the next mountain gap? Nope. Unfortunately, this was an experience John and I had at an outlet mall the day we came off the AT.

We were amazed by the self-centered rudeness displayed by the majority of people we encountered that afternoon. Admittedly, we did smell like a pair of unbathed goats and were dressed like we had just participated in a mud football game. In the span of a few short days, we had gone from upstanding citizens to vagrants based on public opinion. We still talked the same, had the same college education, and had the same personal values, but somehow we had been dropped a few levels on the society food chain.

The bottom line is people have a natural lack of respect for others in the real world. There is a definitive set of personality barriers pre-established due to societys creation of a class structure.

Simply put, if you dont look right you will not be treated right.

A fascinating realization I made while out on the Appalachian Trail is that there are few if any personality barriers between people hiking in the wilderness. There are no false heirs about anyone or anything. People genuinely care about others and want to help them in any way they can. Why? Because deep down in our souls it is in our nature to help others as they would help us. Where have we heard that before the Bible of course. Unfortunately, life in the real world becomes horribly muddled and distorted due to how society tells us to act.

In his book “A Walk in the Woods,” author Bill Bryson eloquently explains why life on the Appalachian Trail is refreshingly different. He says:

“Life takes on a neat simplicity. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It is quite wonderful, really.

You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants”

At this point it would be easy for me to talk to you about the story of the Good Samaritan, but instead I would like to focus on a passage of scripture from I John 4:20. It says, “If someone says, I love God and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

If we truly love Jesus as much as the people we encounter and sometimes treat poorly each day than I guess we love Him very little. In other words, if God loves us we should love others regardless of their plight in life or if we consider them an enemy.

Understandably, this is a concept that is much easier to ponder than to practice. But if we truly want to love Jesus beyond reason than we need to love the people around us.

It is really quite simple; he who loves God must also love his brother, even if he does smell like an old goat.

Read part one, “Mountaintop Experiences: Give Me Shelter”

Read part two, “Mountaintop Experiences: Hair Gel and Heavy Burdens

Read part three, “Mountaintop Experiences: Romancing the Bible”

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Chris Carpenter

Chris Carpenter is the managing site editor for In addition to his regular duties, Chris writes extensively for the website. Over the years, the veteran journalist has interviewed many notable entertainers, athletes, and politicians including Oscar winners Matthew McConaughy and Reese Witherspoon, legendary entertainer Dolly Parton, evangelist Franklin Graham, author Max Lucado, Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and former presidential hopefuls Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mike Huckabee.