“Why Should I Forgive a Man Like Emmitt?”
One of the hardest things God requires of us is to forgive—to give people what they don’t deserve. Our natural desire is for justice, the opposite of forgiveness. Justice demands payment, while forgiveness releases all debt. Why He commands us to forgive can be confusing until we see the results in real life. God knows it’s too painful not to forgive.
Tyler Perry is almost a household word because of his movies that communicate Christian values from a real-world perspective. He is wealthy, successful, and we all laugh at his 6-foot 6-inch character Madea. She successfully communicates truth, although with a unique twist.
Such fame and success belie the dark, hellish childhood he endured. His characters are fiction but based in personal experience. He can put his finger on the pulse of authenticity because he lived there, and because he knows the power of forgiveness in his own life.
Emmitt, the man Tyler believed for 40 years to be his father, beat him regularly as a boy. Tyler’s childhood was one of physical and emotional abuse, made worse if he tried to protect his mother when she was being beaten. He was a poor black boy living in a hopeless cycle of abuse and poverty.
Tyler was named Emmitt Jr. but changed his name when he was 16. Every time he heard the name “Emmitt” it was associated with so much pain that he didn’t want to carry that name. When asked what he prayed for when he was a child, he answered, “His death, which is horrible to say. But I prayed for that as a kid, just being so angry about it. The prayers of an angry child.” He added, “I thank God that prayer wasn’t answered!”
In the TV interview by Harvey Levin on Objectified, Levin asked, “How did you deal with beatings, sexual abuse, bullying—that’s too much for a kid. How did you deal with it?”
“That’s what my mother gave me. She taught me about faith. I couldn’t make it without my faith.”
“How could you forgive a man like Emmitt?”
“Once I got more information on who he was and what he’d been through, I couldn’t excuse it, but I could forgive him, because it was too painful for me to hold on to. Until this day I still take care of him. We don’t have much of a relationship, but he lives very well and gets a check every month and is taken care of.”
“Did he ever say I’m sorry?”
“I don’t think so. If he did it may have been in the heat of something and I don’t remember it, but that’s ok—that’s ok. What’s important to me is that I’m able to give to him more than he was able to give to me.”
Forgiveness is a leap into the care of a loving Father-God, trusting Him to deal with the one who hurt us. Tyler did not need to excuse what Emmitt did to him to forgive him; there was no excuse. Forgiveness was his choice. We too can forgive the unforgivable. When we do, the results are so amazing we can see why God commands us to forgive.
Quotations taken from the TV interview by Harvey Levin with Tyler Perry on Objectified, October 11, 2017