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Friday, August 5, 2016

David and Goliath: The Triumph of the Underdog

David and Goliath: The Triumph of the UnderdogDavid and Goliath: The Triumph of the Underdog by Malcolm Gladwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


David and Goliath is a book that shows whatever the problem (facing something bigger than yourself, have a disability, etc.) it is not always what it appears. Again, in this book I believe Malcolm Gladwell, the author, is teaching Biblical principles. This time he even uses Scripture to emphasize his points. I will list some of the Scripture he uses below in my quotes from the book.

David and Goliath is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants. By “giants,” I mean powerful opponents of all kinds – from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune, and oppression. Each chapter tells the story of a different person – famous or unknown, ordinary or brilliant – who has faced an outsized challenge and been forced to respond. Should I play by the rules or follow my own instincts? Shall I persevere or give up? Should I strike back or forgive?

Through these stories, I want to explore two ideas. The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable. We need a better guide to facing giants – there is no better place to start that journey than with the epic confrontation between David and Goliath three thousand years ago in the Valley of Elah.

But the lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” ~1 Samuel 16:7

“Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?” ~1 Samuel 17:43

When Goliath shouted out to the Israelites, he was asking for what was known as “single combat.” This was a common practice in the ancient world. Two sides in a conflict would seek to avoid the heavy bloodshed of open battle by choosing one warrior to represent each in a duel. For example, the first-century BCE Roman historian Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius tells of an epic battle in which a Gaul warrior began mocking his Roman opponents. “This immediately aroused the great indignation of one Titus Manlius, a youth of the highest birth,” Quadrigarius writes. Titus challenged the Gaul to a duel:

“He stepped forward, and would not suffer Roman valour to be shamefully tarnished by a Gaul. Armed with a legionary’s shield and a Spanish sword, he confronted the Gaul. Their fight took place on the very bridge [over the Anio River] in the presence of both armies, amid great apprehension. Thus they confronted each other: the Gaul, according to his method of fighting, with shield advanced and awaiting an attack; Manlius, relying on courage rather than skill, struck shield against shield and threw the Gaul off balance. While the Gaul was trying to regain the same position, Manlius again struck shield against shield and again forced the man to change his ground. In this fashion he slipped under the Gaul’s sword and stabbed him in the chest with his Spanish blade. … After he had slain him, Manlius cut off the Gaul’s head, tore off his tongue and put it, covered as it was with blood, around his own neck.

This is what Goliath was expecting – a warrior like himself to come forward for hand-to-hand combat.

“Some pretend to be rich, yet have nothing; others pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth” ~Proverbs 13:7

There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources – and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:7-10

“My upbringing allowed me to be comfortable with failure,” he said. “The one trait in a lot of dyslexic people I know is that by the time we got out of college, our ability to deal with failure was very highly developed. And so we look at most situations and see much more of the upside than the downside. Because we’re so accustomed to the downside. It doesn’t faze us. I’ve thought about it many times, I really have, because it defined who I am. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dyslexia. I never would have taken that first chance.

Dyslexia – in the best of cases – forces you to develop skills that might otherwise have lain dormant. It also forces you to do things that you might otherwise never have considered, like doing your own version of Kamprad’s disagreeable trip to Poland or hopping in the cab of someone you’ve never met and pretending to be someone you aren’t. Kamprad, in case you are wondering, is dyslexic. And Gary Cohn? It turns out he was a really good trader, and it turns out that learning how to deal with the possibility of failure is really good preparation for a career in the business world. Today he is the president of Goldman Sachs.

The right question is whether we as a society need people who have emerged from some kind of trauma – and the answer is that we plainly do. This is not pleasant fact to contemplate. For every remote miss who becomes stronger, there are countless near misses who are crushed by what they have been through. There are times and places, however, when all of us depend on people who have been hardened by their experiences. Freireich had the to think the unthinkable. He experimented on children. He took them through pain no human being should ever have to go through. And he did it in no small part because he understood from his own childhood experience that it is possible to emerge from even the darkest hell healed and restored. Leukemia was a direct hit. He turned it into a remote miss.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. ~Ecclesiastes 9:11

If you take away the gift of reading, you create the gift of listening. If you bomb a city, you leave behind death and destruction. But you create a community of remote misses. If you take away a mother or a father, you cause suffering and despair. But one time in ten, out of that despair rises an indomitable force. You see the giant and the shepherd in the Valley of Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.

The eldest son of Magda and Andre Trocme was Jean-Pierre. He was a sensitive and gifted adolescent. Andre Trocme was devoted to him. One evening near the end of the war, the family went to see a recital of Villon’s poem “The Ballard of the Hanged Men.” The next night, they came home from dinner and found Jean-Pierre hanging from a noose in the bathroom. Trocme stumbled into the woods crying out, “Jean-Pierre! Jean-Pierre!” Later, he wrote:

“Even today I carry a death within myself, the death of my son, and I am like a decapitated pine. Pine trees do not regenerate their tops. They stay twisted, crippled.”

But surely he must have paused when he wrote those words, because everything that had happened in Le Chambon suggested that there was more to the story than that. Then he wrote:

“They grow in thickness, perhaps, and that is what I am doing.”


I would recommend this book to everyone, but especially if you arte facing a difficult time. For the child of God, I would remind you that everything in your life is either caused by God or He has allowed in your life. But take hope because He has already given you everything needed to win the battle!

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