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

Roslings and Yoda, Great Psychological Sages of Our Time

Written by: on April 26, 2022

Everyone should read this book, especially those with whom I disagree. Or maybe I got that wrong from the first chapter as the Roslings explain why we have us versus them mentality.

The late psychologist’s final work on sociology and critical thinking while battling pancreatic cancer collaborated with his son Ola, a statistician, and daughter-in-law Anna, the cofounder of Gapminder, an organization dedicated to fighting ignorance with a fact-based worldview.

And just in case the first instinct to create rivals did not catch you, the authors lay out nine more instincts to help us understand why we think the way we do and why we see the world in the way we do. “I want people, when they realize they have been wrong about the world, to feel not embarrassed, but that childlike sense of wonder, inspiration, and curiosity that I remember from the circus and that I still get every time I discover I have been wrong: Wow, how is that even possible,” questioned the authors. [1]  

Do facts not seem like facts anymore in our culture? Hans Rosling can relate. He reflected on improving his teaching method after running into the frustrating reality that after giving a convincing lecture about poverty, population growth, and availability of primary care, people would still argue with facts he just disproved. “Here were people who had access to all the latest data and advisers who could continuously update them. Their ignorance could not possibly be down to an outdated worldview. Yet even they were getting the basic facts about the world wrong,” expressed Rosling. [2]

Take, for example, The Size Instinct. The authors argue that our perception of measurements and amounts is built on information fragments that project an inaccurate understanding, causing us to miss-establish issues. This directly relates to our previous reading on “How to Read Numbers.” How often are we swayed by that political poll or that scientific study without fully understanding the context around its investigation or hypothesis?

The authors invite readers to unpack some of their most entrenched mentalities, looking at them from a new angle and building new tools for understanding facts. This is how they define “Factfulness,” showing how to approach data and facts despite our innate biases.  

As organizational leaders, we not only have to build a tool chest of Factfulness, but we should be equipping our people to do the same, whether the people in our organization are paid employees or voluntary participants, such as church members. For congregational leaders, this is especially difficult as the influences that shape parishioners’ worldviews are more likely to come from cultural, political, and familial sources than theological ones.

I am drawn to the Gospels in which Jesus called people to change their way of thinking and living, the literal translation of the word “repent.” However, as we have seen from the life, work, and ministry of the Lord, people are not accustomed to rethinking what they believe to be right, at least without a certain degree of kicking and screaming.

I turn to the great sage Yoda, the Jedi Master, who said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” So maybe that is my role as a spiritual leader, giving the extraordinary opportunity to make disciples, is to conversation by conversation, sermon by sermon, life experience by life experience, help people unlearn the things they have learned that affect their ability to love their neighbor truly. And at the same time, assisting people in recognizing the influences in our life that shape the way we see the world and others from with a specific archetype, such as those implicit and explicit cues from our parents, teachers, social media tribes, friends, and media. [3]

I find Rosling’s words to be encouraging in the matter, “I have found fighting ignorance and spreading a fact-based worldview to be a sometimes frustrating but ultimately inspiring and joyful way to spend my life. I have found it useful and meaningful to learn about the world as it really is.”[4]

[1] Hans Rosling et al., Factfulness (New York: Flatiron Books, 2020), 17.

[2] Ibid., 12. 

[3] Pragya Agarwal, Sway (London: Bloomsbury Sigma, 2020), 360.

[4] Rosling, 255. 


About the Author


Andy Hale

Associate Executive Coordinator of CBF North Carolina, CBF Podcast Creator and Host, & Professional Coach

4 responses to “Roslings and Yoda, Great Psychological Sages of Our Time”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Andy: I loved this book, too. A great way to end the semester–ending on an optimistic note with lots of reasons for hope. I had a hunch things aren’t as bad as the major news outlets make them out to be. They try to instill fear and panic. Not me, no sir, I’m not buying what they’re selling. “An educated mind is its own reward, and an uneducated mind is its own punishment.” Have a great summer…see you in South Africa!

  2. Elmarie Parker says:

    Hi Andy…thanks so much for your post. I loved your reflection on the role of spiritual leader–helping people unlearn what they have learned (and how Rosling and others have provided us tools for that work). What are questions you have found helpful that open the door to this kind of journey?

  3. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Andy: When you state that “influences that shape parishioners’ worldviews are more likely to come from cultural, political, and familial sources than theological ones” — do you have any suggestions that you encourage parishioners with on how to practically engage in culture, politics, and family systems?

  4. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Andy, great job summarizing a number of the main points from the book. I also appreciate your definition of repentance as it is broader than often understood. How do you anticipate helping pastoral leaders to unlearn certain things in order to better “love their neighbors?”

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