Chapter 7 – Receiving and Extending Forgiveness


“ . . . we live in a society where ethnic stereotypes abound, false images that are promoted in the media and through selective news reporting. These stereotypes then take root in our hearts and minds, and if we have personal experiences that reinforce them, they can profoundly distort our relationships.” (96)

“In this chapter we will deal with sin, forgiveness, and how to overcome the pride, dominance, rage, and revenge that result from racism. If we attempt to build friendships or bring institutional change without addressing these core issues, our efforts will leave immense problems unresolved and festering . . . We need a spiritual change at the core to sustain high trust levels, empower enduring friendships and bring lasting institutional changes . . . Any process that glosses over the full extent and seriousness of the sin and evil done against others by us will fail.” (97)

“As potential reconcilers who want to bring healing to people and nations, we must understand and embrace genuine forgiveness and authentic racial reconciliation . . . The journey into forgiveness begins with the healing of memories in those areas where we’ve sinned or been sinned against.” (97-98)

“Extending forgiveness is an absolutely essential act for people who have been sinned against. Without such an act, we—and especially people of color—carry rage, resentment, and self-hatred that can cripple us . . . The process of extending forgiveness also allows us to bring our hurt, rage, and hopelessness into the presence of God and lay it at the foot of the cross . . . the cross is the only safe place to let the dangerous and destructive depth of our hurt, rage, pain and fear be expressed.” (99)

“ . . . we must recognize that all of us have participated in some way in racial problems and brokenness, either by our actions or by our silence. . . In addition, many of us suffer (or enjoy) long-term consequences of unjust choices that our forebears made.” (102)

“People of European background have these advantages even though they are often unaware of them and may not have done anything to gain them. But, as Gordon Marino points out . . . people who benefit from a crime against others share in the responsibility for the crime and need to help make things right even if they didn’t have anything to do with the initial criminal act.” (103-104)

Brenda spoke at a large convention and told the story of a hate-crime (murder) against a member of her church. But, there was another victim that she failed to mention in her speech. The second victim was Korean, and those Koreans who heard her speech were deeply hurt by this omission. The next day, Brenda apologized and asked forgiveness. She relates that after such an experience, “she now understood how it must feel to be white. She identified with how difficult it must be to try hard to ‘get it right’ but not be able to say or do the right thing.” (105)


As with most of the chapters so far, this chapter provides much to consider. I believe that I am on my way to recognizing how I have participated in the racial problems that exist today. I am recognizing more and more of the ways that I have benefited due to being white. And, as I’ve begun to recognize and accept more of my shortcomings, I’ve begun to feel a bit hopeless and overwhelmed at certain points.

Can I ever get this right if I’m white? Can I really help right the wrongs of the past? Why should people of color ever forgive the racist actions of whites? How will my children feel about whites as they grow and learn of our country’s history of racism? Can we ever really overcome this?

I greatly appreciated the story that Brenda shared. She is a person of color and erred in a way that whites have for years. That doesn’t relieve me of my responsibility, but I feel understood by at least one person of color. I really do try to “get it right,” but I fail . . . A LOT. I am grateful for her recognition that there are whites who are trying, and that they may be frustrated with their lack of success.

Questions from Study Guide (191)

• Have you experienced or benefited from white privilege?
• Do you believe that those who benefit from a crime share in the responsibility of that crime and need to help make things right? Why or why not?

McNeil, Brenda Salter, and Rick Richardson. The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009.