The Foolishness of Achilles’ Anger What causes a great leader to fall? Why do people who have such large potential fail? Could it be pressure? Expectations? Circumstances? All these things may contribute but the final blows are made by a serious character flaw or a series of unwise choices. Two men help to illustrate this fact. First, Achilles, who was brought down by over-reacting and his own anger, faced failure as a leader. Second, Samson made foolish decisions and paid for them with his life. Achilles, who was one of several Greek princes under King Agamemnon, demonstrates the foolishness of anger.
Agamemnon and Achilles had each earned attractive women in battle. When Agamemnon had to return his woman to her father, the King took Briseis, Achilles’ prize, for himself, thus removing Achilles’ glory from him. Foolishly, Achilles responded with rage. He would not fight for Agamemnon against the Trojans until his honor was restored. He stomped back to his own hall and his own ships, taking his own countrymen with him. The Trojans almost slaughtered all the Greeks before the two quarreling captains made peace and Achilles willingly fought for his country.
Achilles’ anger caused many unfortunate consequences. One consequence was his own misery. Selfishness equals misery. Since most of his friends did not like him anymore, he felt very lonely. A second outcome of Achilles’ bitterness was the death of many people. Because he continued his pouting, the war lasted several days longer and many soldiers perished needlessly. Lastly, the irritation resulted in the untimely end of his best friend, Petroclus, who bravely marched into battle wearing Achilles’ armor.
Achilles, although he was a skillful, courageous warrior, provides a clear example of the nasty effects of resentment. Another potentially great leader was Samson. Samson was born to deliver the Israelites because they had fallen into sin again. Although he had to follow strict rules, he would be a great and strong man. He could not cut his hair, or touch any unclean animal, and he was required to follow all the rules of the Nazirites. Samson thoughtlessly broke many of the rules on him. He married a woman who was not from Israel, he touched an unclean animal, and wholly rejected his calling to save Israel.
God however, was going to have his way, with or without Samson’s obedience. While Samson had destroyed many Philistines, the Israelites captors, he was still unwilling to obey. At last Samson made an incurable mistake; he told Delilah how to make himself weak. Samson spent the rest of his short life as a captive to the Philistines. His eyes were plucked out. He worked like an animal. He was treated like dirt. In the end he did destroy the Philistine army, but only with his own death. His bad choices led him to a place he never intended to go.
When he was born, he had the potential to be Israel’s greatest and grandest judge, but instead he became a blind man who had to die to fulfill his purpose. Although both Samson and Achilles were great men, they failed because of their anger, foolishness, selfishness, and resentment. They ruined their possible success by making unwise decisions. Even though they were born to greatness, their reputations are marred by their reckless behavior. These two men’s lives reveal the stumbling blocks that cause leaders to fall.