Victims can easily become perpetrators by exacting revenge using the ancient 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' principle. A child who has been neglected and abused in her upbringing may know no other recourse but to walk the same learned lines she was taught in her youth. History repeats itself in this way. Cycles remain unbroken and wrong actions are consciously or unconsciously taught to new generations.
Once in a long while though, a person of a different mark will break the mold and step out of the norm magnanimously. In our modern day there are few that fit this description on the world stage other than former South African President Nelson Mandela. He is the product of a time and place that was experiencing horrible oppression by the last vestiges of what was left over from colonial rule gone awry. The white man in South Africa ruled over the black man and had the legal and socio-economic system rigged to keep the double standard 'as is.' Great atrocities were sanctioned by the ruling governments over the greater part of a century. White people enjoyed opportunity while the native people of the land were subjugated and kept down to the ground. In fact, it was not uncommon in South Africa to follow a strategy that has been used around the world through the ages. That is, keep the people controlled and search out any likely princes or possible leaders that may challenge the status quo. By all means neutralize such individuals. Be it through bribery and rewards to buy their allegiance and thereby corrupt them from desiring to lead the people, by exhaling or murdering them, or simply by greatly limiting the educational opportunities for the oppressed society to become empowered. In such ways are entire peoples disenfranchised, side-railed and robbed of human dignity and will.
Nelson Mandela broke the mold.
Mandela was identified as a leader by the apartheid South African government at the time and even labeled a violent communist by Western powers for a time. History it appears, is dissolving him of these criticisms and his actions are speaking louder than the words of his former naysayers. He was controversial in his political inclinations befriending leaders of state which countries like the U.S.A. frowned upon and disdained. He spoke with everybody. There are no other figures who have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Honor and the Soviet Lenin Peace Prize. That honor is held by Nelson Mandela only. These were attributed to him, along with over two hundred and fifty other honors for his work of reconciliation to move his country past the pain of apartheid in a gallant way. After being jailed for twenty seven years as a promulgator of insurrection, Mandela went on to campaign and win the presidency of South Africa and began to call for forgiveness rather than vengeance towards the former ruling government and its class. South Africa was an emotionally-tense land reeling from decades of hurt and exacting justice violently would have become wide-spread had President Mandela not called for national forgiveness. He understood the strength inherent in rising above the system of apartheid that kept black South Africa in relative squalor and showing that the way forward was by dropping arms, reaching out to one another and being the bigger person. He was so successful in this strategy that his attitude and conciliatory way got hold of the heart of the nation and paved the way for a rapid move towards social reunification that continues to this day.
Mandela went on to introduce concrete reforms to bring equality across the communities of South Africa and stamp out corruption and cronyism in government, thereby moving to rectify the wrongs of the past and bringing social justice to a torn land.
The power of forgiveness is always with us and grows strong by the exercising of it. It is mighty enough to break the coldest hearts. The power of forgiveness is not selfish. It deflates ego's and says, "I let it go, brother. I let it go sister. Let's begin again."