Race and Social Problems

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 42–52 | Cite as

What Would I Know About Mercy? Faith and Optimistic Expectancies Among African Americans

  • Jacqueline S. Mattis
  • Wizdom Powell
  • Nyasha A. Grayman
  • Yohance Murray
  • Yasmin C. Cole-Lewis
  • Janelle R. Goodwill


A small body of research has begun to explore the association between faith and optimism among African Americans. However, missing from the extant work is an examination of the extent to which traditional indices of religious commitment work together with beliefs about God to shape optimism. The present study examines the utility of indices of social location, religious commitment (i.e., early and current religious service attendance, subjective religiosity), belief about the quality of one’s relationship with God (i.e., a belief that one is connected to a loving God), and beliefs about being the recipient of divine forgiveness for predicting dispositional optimism among a sample of community residing African American adults (N = 241). Age, subjective religiosity, and organizational religiosity were positively related to optimism in bivariate analyses. Hierarchical regression analyses demonstrated a significant association between age, subjective religiosity, and optimism; however, those associations were eliminated once relationship with God and belief in one’s forgiveness by God were entered into the model. Only belief in God’s love predicted optimism in multivariate analyses. Serial mediation analyses revealed that beliefs about the quality of one’s relationship with God and belief in divine forgiveness fully mediated the relationship between subjective religiosity and optimism, but that the relationship is driven largely by relationship with God. Implications of these findings are discussed.


Religiosity Relationship with God Divine forgiveness Unforgiveness Optimism African Americans Positive psychology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Goucher CollegeBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Morehouse CollegeAtlantaUSA

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