Pyrrhic Victory

I love the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, both the movies and the books. I recently watched the extended versions of all six movies…thank you flu. In the Hobbit there is battle between the orcs and the dwarves after the dwarves are driven out of their kingdom by a dragon. The dwarves win the battle but as Balin describes it the dead were beyond the count of grief.

I learned something new today… a pyrrhic victory is a victory that is ultimately empty because it does so much damage to the victor that victory either cannot be enjoyed or cannot be sustained. The dwarves victory at Moria was a pyrrhic victory. There are a number of historical examples of this type of victory occurring.  Nazi Germany in Russia in WW2, some of the Southern victories in the Civil War, and the Battle of Bull Run in the American Revolution just to name a few.

One of the wisest things a leader can do, is to know when a victory is not worth winning. It is possible for a victory to do more damage than a defeat. Honestly, it was partly George Washington’s understanding of this that allowed him to drag out the Revolutionary War long enough to win it.

The lesson can be applied in all aspects of leadership, including leadership in the church. Whether it is a fight over a building, a fight over schedules, a worship war, or conflict over budgets, leaders must ask themselves if a victory is worth winning. There are a lot of dead churches out there because one side won a victory that did so much damage to the church that it could not recover.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times to fight even when the victory will be very costly. But there is also a time when walking away or accepting defeat or at least temporary defeat is the best course the leader can take. King Pyrrhus probably never expected that he would be negatively immortalized because of his victories over Rome, but a short time after he won two major victories in battle over Rome, he found himself headed home because he no longer had the manpower to win the war.


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