When we are wronged in some way, our natural inclination is to fight back, to get even.
Needless to say, this reaction, though thoroughly human, is almost always in error.
"Forgiveness," said Epictetus, "is better than revenge, for forgiveness is
the sign of a gentle nature, but revenge is the sign of a savage nature."
A dramatic example is the experience of a Hungarian refugee -- to protect his privacy
we'll call him Joseph Kudar. Kudar was a successful young lawyer in Hungary before the
uprisings in that country in 1956. A strong believer in freedom for his country, he fought
Soviet tanks in the streets of Budapest with his friends. When the uprising failed, he was
forced to flee the country.
When Kudar arrived in the U.S. he had no money, no job, no friends. He was, however,
well educated; he spoke and wrote several languages, including English. For several months
he tried to get a job in a law office, but because of his lack of familiarity with
American law, he received only polite refusals.
Finally, it occurred to him that with his knowledge of language he might be able to get
a job with an import-export company. He selected one such company and wrote a letter to
Two weeks later he received an answer, but was hardly prepared for the vindictiveness
of the man's reply. Among other things, it said that even if they did need someone, they
wouldn't hire him because he couldn't even write good English.
Crushed, Kudar's hurt quickly turned to anger. What right did this rude, arrogant man
have to tell him he couldn't write the language! The man was obviously crude and
uneducated -- his letter was chock-full of grammatical errors!
Kudar sat down and, in the white heat of anger, wrote a scathing reply, calculated to
rip the man to shreds. When he'd finished, however, as he was reading it over, his anger
began to drain away. Then he remembered the biblical admonition, "A soft answer
turneth away wrath."
No, he wouldn't mail the letter. Maybe the man was right. English was not his native
tongue. Maybe he did need further study in it. Possibly this man had done him a favor by
making him realize he did need to work harder on perfecting his English.
Kudar tore up the letter and wrote another. This time he apologized for the previous
letter, explained his situation, and thanked the man for pointing out his need for further
Two days later he received a phone call inviting him to New York for an interview. A
week later he went to work for them as a correspondent. Later, Joseph Kudar became vice
president and executive officer of the company, destined to succeed the man he had hated
and sought revenge against for a fleeting moment -- and then resisted.
Bits & Pieces, March 31, 1994, pp. 12-15.
Many years ago during a Knicks-Bullets playoff game, one of the Bullets came up from
behind the great Walt Frazier and punched him in the face. Strangely, the referee called a
foul on Frazier. Frazier didn't complain. His expression never changed. He simply called
for the ball and put in seven straight shots to win the game, an amazing display of
productive anger. If you want to get huffy about it, it was a great moral lesson as well.
U.S. News & World Report, June 14, 1993, p. 37.
Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson paid a $1000 fine for disputing a strike called by
umpire Joe West. On the memo line of his check Dawson wrote: "Donation for the
In Brazil, several Indians who had been refused an audience with then President Ernesto Geisel because they were not
wearing ties told the press they would "insist that any government official visiting an Indian Village must wear a
feathered headdress and body paint."
At one point early in Julius Caesar's political career, feelings ran so high against him that he thought it best to leave
Rome. He sailed for the Aegean island of Rhodes, but en route the ship was attacked by pirates and Caesar was captured. The
pirates demanded a ransom of 12,000 gold pieces, and Caesar's staff was sent away to arrange the payment. Caesar spent almost
40 days with his captors, jokingly telling the pirates on several occasions that he would someday capture and crucify them to a
man. The kidnappers were greatly amused, but when the ransom was paid and Caesar was freed, the first thing he did was gather a
fleet and pursue the pirates. The were captured and crucified ... to a man!
Such was the Romans' attitude toward crucifixion. It was to be reserved for the worst of criminals, a means of showing
extreme contempt for the condemned. The suffering and humiliation of a Roman crucifixion were unequaled.
Today in the Word, November 23, 1992.
For hardy whalers, no ocean was too wide to cross in pursuit of their mighty prizes. In 1819, more than a dozen ships
where launched from Nantucket, all headed for distant Pacific hunting grounds. One, the
three-masted Essex, was to suffer a calamity so dramatic that its fate inspired a classic American
novel -- Herman Melville's Moby Dick. For months the ship survived the hazards of rounding Cape Horn and taking its prey.
But one day a mammoth sperm whale rammed the Essex head-on. Then the leviathan passed under the vessel, turned, and attacked
again. The whale hit, as first mate Owen Chase recalled, "with ten-fold fury and vengeance." The crew abandoned ship, and from
their whaleboats watched as the Essex slid into the sea.
Today in the Word, September 20, 1992.
An artist had a dog that meant more to him than anything in the world. One day he broke his leg and the artist was panic-
stricken. He ran to the telephone and called an acquaintance, a famous surgeon. "It's an emergency," he yelled, "a matter of
life and death. Come quick!"
The startled surgeon dropped everything and rushed to the home of the artist, expecting the worst. When confronted with the dog.
the surgeon, with masterful self-control, said not a word but proceeded to treat the dog with the same skill he would have used
on a human being. Then he picked up his instruments and left.
Weeks passed, the dog got well, yet the artist never received a bill from the surgeon. The longer he waited the more guilty he
felt. Surely he had lost the surgeon's friendship forever. A few days later, therefore, he made his way to the surgeon's
office, intending to pay all that was asked. The surgeon would not accept his check. "You're a painter, aren't you?" he asked.
"Very well, if you will just put a coat of white paint on that cabinet over there, we will call the debt settled."
The artist, a good-natured man, was amused by the doctor's clever idea of revenge. He smiled and started to work at once. But
when the job was completed, instead of a coat of white paint, the panels of the surgeon's cabinet bore two of the artist's greatest
masterpieces, worth thousands of dollars apiece. \
Bits & Pieces, August 22, 1991.
When he was an attorney, Abraham Lincoln was once approached by a man who passionately insisted on bringing a suit for $2.50
against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to discourage him, but the man was bent on revenge. When he saw that the man would
not be but off, Lincoln agreed to take the case and asked for a legal fee of $10, which the plaintiff paid. Lincoln then gave
half the money to the defendant, who willingly confessed to the debt and paid the $2.50! But even more amazing than Lincoln's
ingenuous settlement was the fact that the irate plaintiff was satisfied with it.
Daily Walk, May 22, 1992.
A couple of years ago, a member of my church's vocal team, and I were invited by a Christian leader named Yesu to go to southern
India. There we would join a team of people from various parts of the U.S. We were told that God would use us to reach Muslims
and Hindus and nonreligious people for Christ. We all felt called by God to go, but none of us knew what to expect.
When we arrived, Yesu met us and invited us to his home. Over the course of the next few days, he told us about his ministry. Yesu's
father, a dynamic leader and speaker, had started the mission in a Hindu-dominated area. One day a Hindu leader came to Yesu's
father and asked for prayer. Eager to pray with him, hoping he would lead him to Christ, he took him into a private room, knelt
down with him, closed his eyes and began to pray. While he was praying, the Hindu man reached into his robe, pulled out a knife
and stabbed him repeatedly. Yesu, hearing his father's screams, ran to help him. He held him in his arms as blood poured out
onto the floor of the hut. Three days later, his father died.
On his deathbed he said to his son, "Please tell that man that he is forgiven. Care for your mother and carry on this ministry. Do
whatever it takes to win people to Christ."
Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not To Pray, IVP, p. 62.
Georges Clemenceau was twice the prime minister of France, and played a major role in the treaties that concluded WWI. At the
Versailles conference, Clemenceau was on his way to a meeting with President Woodrow Wilson's adviser when he was shot at by a
young anarchist named Emile Cottin. As Clemenceaus's car sped away Cottin fired at least six more shots, one of which struck
Clemenceau near his heart. Cottin was captured and the death penalty demanded, but Clemenceau asked for leniency, recommending
eight years in prison "with intensive training in a shooting gallery."
Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 11.
In Judith Viorst's children's book, "I'll Fix Anthony," the younger brother complains about the way his older brother Anthony
treats him: "My brother Anthony can read books now, but he won't read any books to me. He plays checkers with Bruce from his
school. But when I want to play he says, "Go away or I'll clobber you." I let him wear my Snoopy sweatshirt, but he never
lets me borrow his sword. Mother says deep down in his heart Anthony loves me. Anthony says deep down in his heart he thinks
I stink. Mother says deep deep down in his heart, where he doesn't even know it, Anthony loves me. Anthony says deep deep
down in his heart he still thinks I stink. When I'm six I'll fix Anthony...When I'm six I'll float, but Anthony will sink to the
bottom. I'll dive off the board, but Anthony will change his mind. I'll breathe in and out when I should, but Anthony will
only go glug, glug...When I'm six my teeth will fall out, and I'll put them under the bed, and the tooth fairy will take them
away and leave dimes. Anthony's teeth won't fall out. He'll wiggle and wiggle them, but they won't fall out. I might sell
him one of my teeth, but I might not...Anthony is chasing me out of the playroom. He says I stink. He says he is going to
clobber me. I have to run now, but I won't have to run when I'm six. When I'm six, I'll fix Anthony.
Judith Viorst, I'll Fix Anthony.
Tokyo police recently arrested a man who was upset over being denied entrance to graduate school 14 years ago. Since that day
he has averaged about 10 phone calls a night--between the hours of 8 p.m. and 2 a.m.--to the former professor whom he blames for
his lost opportunity. Those 14 years of annoying phone calls totaled up to over 50,000 calls.
On occasion I do free-lance photography for local newspapers and magazines, and I take great pride in my work. At a party one
evening, I was introduced to an extremely pompous gentleman who writes a weekly piece for a publication that had just used one
of my pictures. After telling me how he liked the "rather interesting" composition and tones I had used in my latest work,
he said, "You must have a good camera." I then mentioned that I had enjoyed his most recent article, and added, "You must have a
Alexander F. Buiel II.
A despondent woman was walking along the beach when she saw a bottle on the sand. She picked it up and pulled out the cork.
Whoosh! A big puff of smoke appeared. "You have released me from my prison," the genie told her. "To show my thanks, I grant
you three wishes. But take care, for with each wish, your mate will receive double of whatever you request."
"Why?" the woman asked. "That bum left me for another woman."
"That is how it is written," replied the genie.
The woman shrugged and then asked for a million dollars. There was a flash of light, and a million
dollars appeared at her feet. At the same instant, in a far-offplace, her wayward husband looked down to see twice that amount
at his feet.
"And your second wish?"
"Genie, I want the world's most expensive diamond necklace." Another flash of light, and
the woman was holding the precious treasure. And, in that distant place, her husband was looking for a gem broker to buy
his latest bonanza.
"Genie, is it really true that my husband has two million dollars and more jewels than I do, and that he
gets double of whatever I wish for?" The genie said it was indeed true. "Okay, genie, I'm ready for my last wish," the
woman said. "Scare me half to death."
Tom Nedwek, quoted by Alex Thien in Milwaukee Setinel.
When John Matar stepped outside his Chicago home on his birthday recently, he found two tons of manure piled eight feet high on
his front lawn. The present, compliments of his brother in California, was the latest in an outlandish gift-giving war that
erupted between the two when John sent his sibling one of those "insulting" birthday cards. He got 50 back.
Last year John received a pet rock that tipped the scale at 4,000 pounds. He responded with 10 tons of pebbles and a note telling his brother
that the pet rock had babies. Over the years, gifts between the two have also included a full-grown elephant and two busloads of
choirboys. Which goes to show, it's not just the thought that counts.
Campus Life, Jan, 1980, p. 22.
James Whistler, the Victorian artist, showed scant respect for the hierarchy of any profession. When his poodle fell ill with a
throat infection, he sent immediately for the country's leading ear, nose, and throat specialist, Sir Morell Mackenzie. The
great man was not amused when he was shown his patient, but he conducted a thorough examination, wrote out a prescription, and
left with his fee. The next day Whistler received a message asking him to call on Mackenzie without delay. Fearing some
development in the poodle's condition, Whistler hurried to the doctor's house.
"So good of you to come, Mr. Whistler," said Mackenzie as his visitor was shown in. "I wanted to see you
about having my front door painted."
As a hundred thousand fans watched, Richard Petty ended his 45 race losing streak and picked up stockcar racing's biggest purse--$73,500. It all happened at the Daytona 500. Petty's win,
however, was a complete surprise. Going into the last lap, he was running 30 seconds behind the two leaders. All at once the
car in second place tried to pass the No. 1 man on the final stretch. This caused the first car to drift inside and force the
challenger onto the infield grass, and slightly out of control. What happened next was incredible. The offended driver pulled
his car back onto the track, caught up with the leader, and forced him into the outside wall. Both vehicles came to a
screeching halt. The two drivers jumped out and quickly got into an old-fashioned slugging match. In the meantime, third-place
Petty cruised by for the win.