Monday, March 31, 2014

The Most Fragrant Forgiveness

[caption id="attachment_306" align="alignleft" width="199"]Violet Diana Prusik, Photographer[/caption]

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

Mark Twain may or may not have penned those words, but he often receives credit for them.  Regardless of who created the metaphor, it is a lovely one. Yet forgiveness is not always so easily defined.

What if the violet is the one needing forgiveness, blaming itself for the crushing?

Years ago, I knew a teenage girl who, in a heated disagreement with her father, shouted, “I wish you were dead!” Of course, she didn’t mean those words, but with no apology, she stormed off to her bedroom and slammed her door shut.

She would never see her father again.

During the night, he suffered a fatal cardiac event. His grieving daughter held herself accountable for crushing his heart with her bitter words, both figuratively and literally. Dawn arrived with no opportunity for her to apologize. Her guilt was so great she couldn't bear to attend his funeral. She couldn't ask for his forgiveness, and she refused to forgive herself.

DeliveryWriters often draw upon real events to create fictional stories, and this tragedy made such an impression upon me that it gave birth to a scene in my novel Delivery.

Young Livi Wilson, opposed to the raging Vietnam War, feels inner tension mounting when her brother Buddy is drafted into the army. At his going away party, Buddy receives accolades from guests while Livi fumes. Finally, she lashes out at the crowd, funneling her disapproval of the war and her brother’s approaching involvement in it into her outburst.

“’Buddy is going off to spray innocent women and children with napalm, and you’re treating him like a god. I hate you. I hate all of you. I hate this war.’ Her chest heaved, and she faced her brother, muscles tense. “I hate you, Buddy.’”

She may hate the war, of course, but she doesn’t mean the rest of those words. Still, with no apology, she storms off to her bedroom and slams the door shut.

When Buddy is killed in action, Livi not only loses the opportunity to apologize, she also blames herself for his death. She fears her bitter words caused Buddy to hesitate, a fatal pause, on the battle field. She can’t ask Buddy’s forgiveness, and she won’t forgive herself. Her self-condemnation sends her life into a tailspin. This inner conflict clouds her judgment and affects her relationship with others for decades to come.

So where does an offender find forgiveness when she struggles to forgive herself? Who brings delivery from such a heavy burden?

[caption id="attachment_308" align="alignleft" width="200"]Christ.2 Diana Prusik, Photographer[/caption]

Ephesians 4:31-32 holds the answer.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Guilt can arrest our emotional growth. It can eat away at every aspect of our lives. It can deny us relationships with others and with God. But we can know something young Livi didn’t understand. Christ died for us even while we were sinning. His blood washes us clean. His love offers the most fragrant forgiveness of all.

But He doesn't force that upon us. We must first humble ourselves with changed hearts and ask for it.

Have you ever spoken angry words you didn't mean? Has self-condemnation affected your relationship with others? Has it kept you from growing your relationship with God? What advice would you give to someone whose life, weighted with guilt like that of my teenage acquaintance or the fictional Livi, has plunged into a downward spiral?


On another note, we at Faith-filled Friends are launching another book give-away! Same rules apply as last time. We will randomly select a winner from the comments left on each post published from now to May 1. (See prize list below and view details about May’s gift basket prizes here.)

Engage often and receive numerous contest entries.

Please note: Winners who live outside the continental U.S. will receive e-books only, when available. In that event, books without e-versions will return to the “gift pot,” and we will randomly select a runner-up who is a continental U.S. resident.

Our May gift basket includes:

Delivery by Diana Prusik, Jasmine by April McGowanHear No Evil by Mary Hamilton, Rodeo Hero and  Rodeo Song by Shannan Taylor VannatterAngel Falls by Connie MannThe Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie MyersMarriage Takes Three


  1. Forgiveness is such a huge issue in and out of the counseling office. My therapist husband deals with it in many forms every day. He encourages clients to "build an altar" out of past hurts, then present them to the Lord. Many interesting altars have come in over the years, no two alike. The visual has often helped people identify the pain, tell the truth about it in all its ugliness, grieve the loss, then choose to forgive. So many confuse forgiveness with forgetting. As humans, we are not able to forget, but by God's grace we can choose to let the person off the hook every time we remember the offense. We can surrender the person/situation to Him every time we feel those wretched negative emotions. Since God through Christ has forgiven us, we can extend forgiveness to others. Forgiving ourselves is no longer an issue (that, in fact, becomes idolatry--do we stand in the place of God?). God has forgiven us, so we are covered!

    Thanks for sharing, Diana! Powerful post, and interesting glimpse into your novel!

  2. I'm so far behind, checking our blog posts. Vacation over now...time to get back into the groove of things.

    Diana, I love this! Beautiful quote at the top. I also wrote an article based on a variation of that quote: Forgiveness is the scent given by roses when trampled upon.

    Forgiveness is such a huge part of being Christ-like; and one of the hardest things to do - especially when the offender is oneself. Thank God we have Him to help us overcome these things, and His blessed assurance that our sins and offenses truly are forgiven and cast into the Sea of Forgetfulness. What's left behind then, are the scars...the bruises that our words and actions caused, that can never be erased. Perhaps they remain as reminders to us? Reminders to think before we speak or act, because our words and actions can never be taken back, and their effects cannot be erased.

    I know I've spoken my share of ugly words and done my share of ugly deeds. Thank God for His forgiveness, and for His gentle help as I learn to forgive myself.