Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I can’t stand Sword Swallowing.

Written by: on April 26, 2023

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We Are Wrong about the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think is another amazing one of those resources shared on our reading list. Hans is Rosling, a Swedish physician, public speaker, and academician.

When asked simple questions about global trends – what percentage of the world’s population lives in poverty, why the world’s population is increasing, how many girls finish school – we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.[1]

I will look at a few of the instincts Rosling describes and conclude with a beautiful promise of God of peace and safety.

The Gap Instinct: “The instinct to divide all kinds of things into two distinct and often conflicting groups (binary thinking) with an imagined gap in-between (e.g., rich vs. poor countries).”[2] After spending so much time on social media and watching the divisive news, there is the danger of swallowing everything seen as accurate. Unfortunately, this problem affects not only those of the world but also believers. It is a massive hindrance for the Church to become the effective body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians, Paul exhorts the church against division “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10, NIV).

The Negativity Instinct: The instinct to notice the bad more than the good.” This one is huge and dangerous to overcome. It is not easy to grow and become the people we are created to be while we are negative. At the same time, we can’t ignore the truth that this is undoubtedly a fallen and decaying world we live in.

The Fear Instinct: “When we are afraid, we don’t see clearly” This instinct, I will say, is the giant that has caused many people to be stuck and unable to fulfill their God-given destinies.

Factfulness is an amazing, resourceful book, one of my best books to return to, like many others that we have covered in the previous week. Factfulness “details ten instincts that distort our perspective of the world and prevent us from seeing how it is.”[3] Unfortunately, many of the instincts he shares have become embedded in our minds and are so strong that they tend to override reality. Bill Gates said about the book that it is “one of the most important books I have ever read – an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.”[4]

This book is fascinating and authentic and helps the readers filter reality from the deception in the media.

I can’t stand Sword Swallowing.

I was overwhelmed by the sword swallowing, something I had never heard or seen before meeting this author. “That night after work, I found a soup ladle with a straight flat handle and immediately resumed my practice. Soon I could slide the handle down my throat.”[5] I can’t believe what I landed on as I tried to find more on Rosling. “Rosling opens factfulness with his childhood dream of being a sword swallower, a dream he gave up on when he went to medical school. Years later, he treated a patient who worked as a sword swallower, and his dream was rekindled. Rosling learned to swallow a sword. He reflects on how he loved sword swallowing because, as a craft, it has always “inspired humans to think beyond the obvious.”[6]

Since I had never heard of sword swallowing until this quick research, I had to find out if this was a real thing or a trick; I couldn’t believe what I saw on the internet, videos of people swallowing swords! “Sword swallowing is not an illusion or trick. Those who practice it must first overcome their reflex of gagging at objects touching the back part of their mouths. Long practice controls this reflex. The pharynx must also be conditioned.”[7]

God’s beautiful promise of peace and safety: It’s been said that there are 365 “Fear nots” in the Bible — one “Fear not” for every day of the year! Lloyd “Ogilvie in Facing the Future without Fear even said there are 366 “Fear nots” in the Bible, one for every day of the year, including Leap Year! God doesn’t want us to go daily without hearing his word of comfort: “Fear not!”[8] This is the good news for those of us who believe. The voice of our loving father speaking to us daily, not to fear. Whatever happens, we are safe in his hands.



[1] Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World–and Why Things Are Better than You Think, First edition. (New York: Flatiron Books, 2018).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Factfulness | Hans Rosling | Book Summary, 2019, Factfulness | Hans Rosling | Book Summary.

[4] Manuel Saraiva, “Summary and Notes on Factfulness,” September 26, 2018, https://medium.com/@mnlsrv/summary-and-notes-on-factfulness-6ad07bf73949.

[5] Ibid.

[6] SuperSummary, “Factfulness Introduction-Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis,” Introduction Summary: “Why I Love the Circus,” n.d., https://www.supersummary.com/factfulness/introduction-chapter-1/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Bill Gaultiere, “‘Fear Not!’ 365 Days a Year,” n.d., https://www.soulshepherding.org/fear-not-365-days-a-year/.

About the Author


Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe

Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe is a Clinical Correctional Chaplain and former Child Refugee from War-torn Rwanda. A member of the Maxwell Leadership Certified Team, Jean is passionate about Servant Leadership and looks forward to seeing more leaders that inspire Lasting Peace and Justice for all, especially "the least of these".

14 responses to “I can’t stand Sword Swallowing.”

  1. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Are you thinking of swallowing swords now? It is amazing how many facts that are false. What other facts have you found to be false in your christian walk?

  2. Hello Shonell,
    Couldn’t stand even looking at the video as I researched! Dr. Rosling will have hard time convincing me to!
    Have you heard of this before?

  3. The title of your blog alone drew me in! I kept seeing that picture of an X-ray in the book thinking, how is that ever a good idea or even entertaining. Your additional research in your blog has me convinced that I too am not interested in learning this practice. Thanks for your blog post!

  4. mm Audrey Robinson says:

    the fear that has gripped people is at an all time high and I think your point is accurate that many are stuck as a result.

    I believe COVID-19 sent many people over the edge with fear and I’m not sure some have been able to regain their equilibrium.

  5. Jean – Thank you for bringing in the interesting and light-hearted research you did on sword swallowing. It was a bit of welcome comic relief as we wrap up this semester:) I really enjoyed the levity.

  6. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Jean De Dieu – your title wins the semester! You hooked me in! Way to go on that. I’m voting for you to demonstrate sword swelling.
    I’m curious if the different categories of poverty seemed accurate in your experience? While we are in a Level 4 country, there is certainly a range in how people experience the Level 4 range.

    • Chad- Seriously? I want no nightmares; I yield back to you, take the sword and do it lol!

      I have to admit this book is terrific. I saw myself on the journey that started at level 1 when I was nine, to level 3 at around age 20, and later at level 4 at about age 27.

      I agree with you, “While we are in a Level 4 country, there is certainly a range in how people experience the Level 4 range.” For example, the two of us might take home the same amount at the end of April; for you, 100% goes towards your immediate family and other priorities. Heavy on my back, I have ten orphans of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda from my relatives who depend on me for everything, including rent, food, education, etc. Oh, don’t forget, on my wife’s side, he also has equal or more orphans to care for.
      Yes, we are both at level 4, but I won’t have the luxury of taking my family to Cancun for the next 35 years!

  7. mm Daron George says:


    “filter reality from the deception in the media.” I think this is going to be a crucial skill for leaders of the future. With all the advancement in technology (A.I) and other forms being able to filter reality from deception in what, where and how we lead is going to be extremely important.

  8. Thanks, Daron, can’t agree more. “Extremely important”. Indeed.

  9. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Jean,

    Brilliant synopsis of factfulness. And I echo the sentiment of others: brilliant title. That hooked me.

    Out of the fallacies Rosling writes about, which one do you find you are most susceptible to? Mine is the fear-instinct. Fortunately, I have made great progress in keeping anxiety from running how I interpret information. But I still have a long way to go.

  10. Thanks David,
    The giant of fear remains my challenge as well. I have no idea where I would be would be without Jesus. Walking with the Lord plus self awareness keeps me grounded.

Leave a Reply