King Pyrrhus, who learned to spell his name correctly when he was 16, did battle with the Roman Empire. He did quite well for himself. In fact, if he had done any better, he would have been utterly destroyed.
Plutarch wrote about his battles thusly:
The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one other such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.
A Pyrrhic Victory is a win, but the cost of the win was so devastating, it was actually a loss.
Pyrrhic Victories happen quite frequently and if you can identify one and label it a “Pyrrhic Victory,” people will think you are way smart, which is nice. Either that or they will wonder why you are talking about fireworks.
The Church Growth movement, when it grows a church numerically, is often a Pyrrhic Victory. Yes, the seats are filled, but why? We can’t talk biblical doctrine anymore.
When you devastate your Calvinist friend in argument and clearly win, yet destroy the friendship, tear down the testimony of Christianity to those watching, and make people afraid to speak to you, perhaps Pyrrhus has visited.
You made your wife submit to you by quoting Paul, when in reality you were not loving her as Christ loved the church. Yes, your wife might obey you, but she grows to despise you, and maybe even Paul, the Bible, and God. Your victory ends up being your downfall.
Politicians spend all their capital on an issue, they get the votes and win, yet they turn out to be wrong and everything blows up in their face. Their capital is gone, the issue was disastrous, and now they have no power.
People win battles all the time while steadily losing our war. It’s a bad place to be. But hey, now you are smart enough to know what to call it.