The poet Edwin Markham put it well in 1899:
He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout,
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
Some years ago, a woman in New England was going through a grief experience, and she became bitter and angry, and for some reason she took it all out on her minister. She said horrible things about him, started terrible rumors about him, wrote cruel letters to him, and made calls, trying everything to get him fired. And through it all, the minister kept on being kind to her.
Later she moved to another section of the country, joined a new church, and got involved in a wonderful Sunday school class. As she studied the Scriptures and as she worked through her grief, she was drawn closer to Christ, and then she realized how horribly she had treated her former minister. She was so ashamed and penitent. She sat down and wrote him a letter apologizing for the harsh way she had treated him and asking him if he could find it in his heart to forgive her. She wrote, “After all I have done to you and all the pain I have caused you, I wouldn’t blame you if you can’t forgive me, but I hope and pray that you will.”
A few days later, she received a letter from that minister. It had three words:
Can you do that? Can you forgive like that? That’s magnanimity: it’s being big enough to always look for the best in others, to be thoughtful and loving toward others, and to be able to forgive and forget.