Forgiveness is the perfume the trampled flower casts back upon the foot that crushed it.
-Attributed to Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and a variety of clueless blog writers
For many years this quote, several poems, a oil pastel portrait of our Scottish terrier, and many a string of daisies adorned our upstairs bathroom. These gems, the first of which appeared circa 1986, were drawn directly onto the original 1963 yellow-and-white wallpaper by my sister and myself as a protest against the paper’s perceived ugliness. The bathroom has long since been updated and stripped of its character-filled wall adornments but this particular quote, above–provided, I believe, by my friend Jill–is one of the few that remains, to this day, a source of consideration and humility.
We have all done selfish things, naughty things, things we wish we hadn’t and hope will disappear, but few of us have learned the solidarity of forgiveness that must needs follow these behaviors. We have all lost our tempers, we have lied and stretched the truth to fit our needs, we have ‘left things undone’, so to speak, and we have very often shirked what little responsibility we have truly been given on this earth.
Most of us, if not each one of us, barring the psychopath or the deranged, has felt remorse, sudden and uncomfortable guilt, a sense of righteousness followed all too quickly by a flash of despair at what we have done. We wish it were not so and so we follow the lie or the theft or the whatever it was that caught us in need of forgiveness with yet another round of the same. It is like the hair of the dog and it does nothing to curb our unhappy habit. In fact, it tends to do quite the opposite, which indeed brings us back to the trampled flower.
Because, much like the statistic regarding selfishness, we have also all been privy to the receiving end of such unpleasantries. We have been stood up, we have been dumped, we have been lied to or stolen from or hurt by someone. We have been broken into, in one way or another, and we have not always acted in accord. We have indeed acted in accord–but not like the flower. For when a foot, shod or bare, tramples a flower, and breaks its petals, the flower does not and cannot trample back. The wild exception is the blackberry cane, but even then the fruit it bears is sweet, purple and forgiving. No, the flower bends and is sometimes broken, but it often will, when carefully and curiously examined, cast upon us a fragrance. This is what is meant by in accord.
So often the inclination of our heart is not to release anything akin to perfume when the boot comes down upon us. Instead our first response is to weep angry thoughts and sharpen hardened words and to be, in a sense, the blackberry vine sans fruits. We dagger our feelings into each other and into ourselves because we have been wounded and we want When hurt by someone’s selfishness, unkindness, lack of thought or lack of understanding we weep, and we also harden. Soon we are showing unkindness, being selfish, and crushing the beautiful petals around us, simply because we reacted like a blackberry vine and not a flower. If forgiveness is the perfume then peace must be the fruit.