I once wrote a blog post entitled “Forgiveness Is More Than an Afterthought.” The title contained more substance than the post but it did offer a fine quotation:
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
These words are often attributed to Mark Twain or have been since the 1970s. There is no evidence he wrote or said them. The sentence seems a compilation that crosses centuries.
Sometimes, words work their way out of one story and into the next anecdote until reduced to a single sentence. Words are like that, aren’t they?
They come together in ways we least expect or even hope, especially when we are careless with them. We forget they will come back to us or we hope they don’t. It is only when we are “impeccable with our word” are less violets crushed (Don Miguel Ruiz).
With forgiveness, debt is involved, and it includes all parties. I never really thought about debt and forgiveness until I read a story of a mother forgiving her daughter’s killer.
Over and over she told herself that she must be able to forgive the debt; forgiveness was not complete, however, until the man who killed her daughter no longer felt the debt, either. Only then was the fragrance released.
Few will ever know this mother’s love and strength. I will not but I carry her story with me as a reminder forgiveness is only possible when no one holds onto it.
M. L. Stedman wrote that “You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.” It is a heavy load, this debt. Only when resentment and regret are crushed does the violet give its last breath.