I came across one of the better quotes I’ve ever read in a friend’s email recently.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
I got the quote from the email alone so I can’t give a better reference than this or personally guarantee the attribution (though I do trust my friend), but it sure sounds like Gandhi doesn’t it? I’m by no means an authority on the Mohatma (saw the movie, read a little about him here and there) but from what I know it seems to me that Gandhi understood the ethical truths about which Jesus spoke better than most. This quotation is the kind of thing that could just as well have been spoken by the Christ himself. Check out the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in particular, and you’ll see that one of the key elements of Jesus’ message was the reversal of expectations. He came to invert the world as we see it or, as the Apostle Paul put it, to make “foolish the wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 1:20b NRSV).
Gandhi’s quote about forgiveness reflects this inversion perfectly. It is natural to believe that asking for forgiveness weakens us and that offering forgiveness makes us look pathetic. Neither of these things is true. A person who forgives does what a weak, prideful, self-involved person can never do. He or she sets aside the right to be angry or vengeful not to keep peace, but to create peace (I would suggest that there is a phenomenal difference between the two). A person who asks for forgiveness also does what a weak, prideful, self-involved person can never do. He or she sets aside the desire for self-justification, the desire to think of oneself as righteous, again in order to create peace.
What we perceive as greatness is not, what we conceive of as power is not. We have been deceived. Though many of us don’t know it and those of us who know so often forget, the world has long since been set on its head.