THE HEALING POWER OF AMENDS
by Stephen Colladay
So often the healing of racism between white Americans and African‑Americans seems to move at a glacial pace. It seems that no matter how hard we try, we don’t break through the barriers to reconciliation and unconditional love and respect for one another. Could it be that we’re trying, with limited success, to put new wine into old wine skins? The old wine skins represent the part of humankind’s consciousness which dooms our every attempt to heal racial intolerance because our individual and collective consciousness has not changed. No matter what we do, unless we individually are changed at our very core, eventually our old beliefs and resulting behavior will be expressed, and our sincere “progressive” and “loving” beliefs weakened and eventually doomed to failure. Our old consciousness follows us wherever we go and supplies the only blueprint it knows. How can we heal this painful gap between our past and our potential?
True and deep healing between African‑Americans and white Americans will only occur, I believe, when white Americans‑‑individually and collectively‑‑offer a sincere apology for past wrongs, ask for forgiveness from our black brothers and sisters, and then allow the ever present love of God to reconcile us. With sincere amends, God’s miraculous healing power is released within both the giver and the receiver.
Some of us believe that enough has been done to repay black America for the ravages of racism. The argument goes that the Civil War ended the evil institution of slavery, and since then equal opportunity exists for all, so what’s the problem? While slavery itself may have ceased, racism continued largely unabated after the war. Since our nation has never actually apologized for slavery, is it too much to suggest that an apology for our wrongs is in order? Granted, the current white generation was not present during the most heinous decades of our country’s history. But to assume that the deep psychic wounds inflicted by our ancestors have healed, to declare that it is too late or not our individual responsibility to apologize for a past deed, merely reflects a choice to keep our present and future tainted and imprisoned by the past.
Let’s not underestimate the importance of sincere amends, of an apology. Parents instinctively teach their children not only the concept of apology, but the practice of it. We are taught that when we make a mistake, we admit it to ourselves and to the other person‑‑and we apologize as soon as possible. We can then be forgiven. Refusing to apologize causes all wounds created by our mistake to fester and grow. And thus more grievous errors, like slavery, over time become a deep psychic pain which too often births hatred and rage, expressed or unexpressed. When we refuse to apologize and begin the process of healing, we are really keeping ourselves and others imprisoned. We all suffer and our hearts are enslaved. It is our unhealed, unforgiving thoughts and actions of yesterday that keep us from opening to and expressing love right now.
None of us can afford the harm unforgiveness does to us. When we hold resentment, irritation and anger, we hurt ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jesus said “love your enemies,” not just “love enemies.” Our life-long goal, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation, is to be able to say and actually mean “There is nothing you can ever say or do which will stop me from loving you. Nothing!” Or to paraphrase a popular phrase, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never define my spiritual nature–and I am a loved and loving child of God.”
Some believe that appropriate governmental action will eventually heal the evils of racism. Must we delay healing by waiting for someone else to act for us? Just as “all politics is local,” in this case, all racial healing must be local: it must begin within the individual heart. It has been said that the most difficult and convoluted journey a person (or nation) ever takes is the journey from the head to the heart. God’s love is the seed planted in the human heart; it’s in everyone of us, without exception. The healing of racial disharmony is primarily an inside job awaiting our decision to walk our talk. With God as our source and God’s love as our driving force for healing, we shall transform past hatred into a present and lasting love.
AMENDS TO THE AFRICAN‑AMERICAN – A Ritual of Apology
The following ritual invites individual or group participation in embracing God’s answer to the pain of a wrongful past. White Americans, representing their forefathers as well as their children’s children, make amends to African- Americans, past and present. White Americans say:
To the African‑American of the United States:
For what has been done to hurt you and offend you,
For the evils of racism throughout our history,
Please forgive me and please forgive this country.
I acknowledge to you the evils that have occurred here in your life and in the lives of your ancestors.
On behalf of my nation, I deeply apologize.
If I could rewrite history I would, but I cannot. God can. Dear God, please do.
I acknowledge now the genius of your people,
And the brilliance of your spirit,
And the pain you have endured.
May there be in this nation a correction and resurrection.
May the demon of racism be cast off,
Out of this country and away from this world.
That nevermore shall any hearts be enslaved.
May the future be made new.
May the pain of the past be gone forever.
May past hatred, dear God, now become a present love.
May forgiveness truly wash us clean.
May black and white America have a miraculous healing.
May we begin again as brothers and sisters, for that is what we are.
God bless your children unto all generations.
May the spirit of this amends bring peace to your soul.
Truly, you have waited long.
I bless your children. Please bless mine.
I thank you. And I thank God. Amen.
by Marianne Williamson in Illuminata, Random House, 1994
View Rev. Steve’s message from Sunday, May 31, 2020, which incorporated his article and Marianne Williamson’s prayer. Message begins at 37:20.