The perfume of mercy can be likened to a quote by Mark Twain, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

I’ve had this quote in my electronic signature at work for many years. Sometimes I get an enthusiastic response from someone with whom it has positively resonated refreshing my sweet impression of that wise gem all over again. And then I ponder anew not only Twain’s genius in encapsulating such a visual in so few words but, how a victim can bestow a gift of a fine fragrance.

I like to think of the heel of the person doing the crushing as walking off more blessed by the violet. Normally I’d think of this person, Part A, the perpetrator for our example, as a jerk. A real heel. And the violet, or the victim as Part B. A steps on B. Happens all the time in life: traffic, family life, career zealots, grocery shopping, church parking lots. The examples are endless. It stinks to get stepped on!

So what’s a violet to do?

Bless your crusher.

Jesus told Sister Faustina in His Divine Mercy apparitions and locutions to her that if someone does something bad to us our first reaction needs to be, “How can I bless this person or do some good for this person?” This goes against our fallen nature. Wanting to instantly do something good for a jerk is a rather unpalatable thought and brings a bitter taste to mind. Our nose may even wrinkle as if at a foul odor. This is not justice! No indeed. This is mercy. Mercy can be far harder to dish out than justice. Justice makes more sense to us in times of bitter frustration.

“Then I heard the words, ‘I am glad you behaved like My true daughter. Be always merciful as I am merciful. Love everyone out of love for Me, even your greatest enemies, so that My mercy may be fully reflected in your heart.'” (No. 1695)

Just as a grain of wheat must be crushed to make flour and become life giving bread so too are flowers crushed to make heavenly perfumes. Jesus let himself be crushed so as to give us, who crushed Him, the fragrant gift of His Mercy. If He let Himself stay silent in the face of such outrage, then shouldn’t we follow his example?

“But I’m more like a thistle than a violet!”, you protest.

Photo credit: Frances Peterson

You’d rather the jerk get a heel full of painful stinging nettles and a nice swollen ankle than the soothing balm of your mercy, patience, meekness and kindness? You are not alone.

Jesus understands this in us. Listen with your heart to the words He spoke to Saint Faustina less than a hundred years ago and recorded in her diary, “My pupil, have great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you. I answered, “O my Master, You see very well that I feel no love for them, and that troubles me.” Jesus answered, It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well.” (No. 1628)

Naughty emotions! So unruly.

I love that Jesus acknowledges our feelings so specifically. I want to ask Him when I face Him if His feelings ran willy nilly like ours do. He sounds like a real, modern-day counselor when he talks like this! He almost made me laugh saying that “the emotions raise a lot of noise”. Indeed they, do, Lord.

“It is no easy thing to bear sufferings joyfully, especially those which are unmerited. Fallen nature rebels, and although the intellect and will are above suffering, because they are able to do good to those who inflict suffering on them, nevertheless the emotions raise a lot of noise and, like restless spirits, attack the intellect and will. But when they see they cannot do anything by themselves, they quiet down and submit to the intellect and will. Like some kind of hideousness, they rush in and stir up a row, bent on making one obey them alone so long as they are not curbed by the intellect and will.” (No. 1152)

He explains to Saint Faustina that He allowed her to feel some of his suffering in his Passion. What if the sufferings we experience were a gift? Ugh. Imagine that. We could be saints if we’d turn around and bless the jerks who step on us, step on our kids, step on our lives, step on our jobs, step on our egos, and step on our kind gestures towards them.

“My daughter, know that if I allow you to feel and have a more profound knowledge of My sufferings, that is a grace from Me. But when your mind is dimmed and your sufferings are great, it is then that you take an active part in My Passion, and I am conforming you more fully to Myself. It is your task to submit yourself to My will at such times, more than at others.” (No. 1697)

Sniff Test

So when we get stepped on by a jerk (fellow sinner) God is really crafting us into His image and likeness. Isn’t there an easier way? When you are stepped on do you give off a sweet fragrance as Christ did, “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma”? Ephesians 5:2 Do you exude the odor of sanctity? Or do you go off like stinkweed? The choice is ours but we need to ask Jesus to help us train our wills to bless our crushers with a sweet fragrance of kindness, mercy and blessings none of us deserve. Our blessings on these heels may be the only mercy they are ever shown. We could be the means to their salvation. And how sweet that would be!



Blessed John Henry Newman neatly sums it up for us with his usual soft challenge, “We should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend.”

Learn The Fragrance Prayer.

Fragrance Prayer Song




Cover Image: Frances Peterson

Vintage Floral Shoe: The Graphics Fairy Public Domain image The Graphics Fairy

Violets: Free Clip Art Now Public Domain image

Divine Mercy Quote:

Bible Quotes:


Helpful Links:

Crushed for Our Iniquities:

The Odor of Sanctity:

Fragrance Prayer Song:

Fragrance Prayer by John Henry Newman:

John Henry Newman quotes to live by: