Brant Hansen: Unoffendable–and Why It Matters
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How would your life change if you were unoffendable? Author Brant Hansen discusses the anger fueling our culture & practical ways to live with less stress.
Brant Hansen: Unoffendable–and Why It Matters
Dave: Do you feel like I am an easily-offended person?
Ann: No, you’re not.
Ann: You’re not very offendable until—
Dave: —until what?!
Ann: —you are behind the wheel. [Laughter] And then, this other person comes out. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, what happens to me?
Ann: I don’t know.
Brant: It’s scary.
Ann: It is scary.
Dave: Everybody offends me; they don’t drive right. [Laughter]
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife—
Ann and Dave: —Today.
Ann: Why are we talking about this?
Dave: Because we’re talking about being offended today or, actually, being un-offended. We have Brant Hansen in the studio; he wrote a book called Unoffendable. He already wanted to jump in—it sort of offended me that you wanted to jump in—in the middle of our intro. [Laughter]
Brant: It was so relatable. [Laughter]
Ann: It’s so relatable.
Brant: Traffic is a great place; I call traffic “forgiveness practice.” [Laughter]
Dave: That’s exactly it!
Brant: It is.
Dave: I don’t do a good job at it, though.
Brant: But it’s very low leverage—like if we think we should get angry and stay angry on the road—“Why?” Here’s a chance to actually practice the forgiveness that’s been extended to me by God.
Ann: You are an angel in the studio right now.
Dave: You are way too spiritual right now. [Laughter] He starts the program with that; I’m like, “BAM! He just put me in my place.”
Brant: But that’s why this is so relevant. [Laughter] Nobody teaches about this, generally.
Brant: I thought there was a good righteous anger that I was supposed to have—
Brant: —and I was searching the Scriptures, trying to find it—and it’s not in there.
Ann: Well, wait a minute—we all teach this—righteous anger: yes, that’s what God has.
Dave: Whoa, whoa; wait. I just have to say this: “Welcome to the show, Brant.” [Laughter]
Brant: That’s so good.
Dave: We went deep—like in the deep end—immediately.
Brant: I love it.
Dave: Here’s one thing I have to ask you about, as a radio personality and host—I didn’t know this until I read your bio—you’ve won Personality of the Year; you’re that guy.
Ann: Yes, I was going to say that, several times, he’s won Personality of the Year.
Dave: I find that offensive to me; I thought we were the Personality of the Year.
Dave: Tell our listeners what you do; because every day, you’re on the radio.
Brant: I do radio; I’m syndicated on a bunch of Christian radio stations with a show. The irony of that is I don’t really have much of a personality off the air. [Laughter] I have to drink coffee. Basically, we are who we are on the air—me and my producer, Sherri—and we’re, obviously, believers. It’s pretty raw in the sense that we’re real honest about our own faith, and where we’re going, and how we’re growing, and how we’re trying to pursue God, and we also laugh a lot. But I think that’s just it—it’s not smooth—and the show sounds like human friends.
Dave: And people love it, because that’s what they want—
Brant: I think it is what people want.
Brant: They don’t want SHOWTIME.
Dave: —somebody to be real.
Brant: That’s why I love talking about this kind of stuff, because this is life.
Ann: We all experience this, and we’re all offended.
Brant: I didn’t know what to do with my anger; I was like: “So how long am I supposed to stay angry about stuff?—two weeks?—three weeks?” “How long does righteous anger go?—forever?—I just carry this to my grave?”
Dave: Well, let’s talk about it; because—
Ann: What is—why do we say, “Righteous anger,” and that’s okay?—because we all say that, as believers.
Dave: Well, I think Christians are known for it; it’s like our calling card.
Brant: Yes; we think we’re supposed to be righteously angry.
Brant: You can’t find it in the Bible. Here’s what’s fascinating—I did this too—and if you’re thinking, “This cannot be right,” I understand that. But I would encourage you, as you’re listening, to maintain an open mind, realizing that we may learn things as we get older—that God may show us new things—otherwise, we’re always stuck in our same old way of thinking.
Dave: Yes, yes.
Brant: So I’d like you to, at least, entertain the idea that: “Maybe, this is a possibility,” and you can decide. But the Scripture that always comes up/that people: “But Brant/but Brant, it says right there in the Bible, ‘In your anger, do not sin.’”
Ann: —Ephesians, yes.
Brant: Yes, Ephesians 4:26; okay, it does. So it is true that we can get angry—that that happens—but the rest of the verse nobody memorizes; do you know what it is?
Dave: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger—
Brant: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
Dave: —"and give the devil a foothold.”
Brant: Five verses later—same paragraph—“Do not be angry.” And out of that, we take away: “I should be angry”? It’s telling us: “If you get angry, get rid of it before the sun goes down.” The Bible is very consistent about that.
Righteous anger is God’s anger—He is entitled to things I am not; He can handle things I can’t, like vengeance, for instance—that’s not for me; that’s for Him. Ultimate judgment—that’s not for me; it’s for Him—I am a sinner, so I have to forgive as God has forgiven me.
And when I look and see what Jesus has done—you look how bloody the cross was/how grisly that was, and if I say, “That was for me,”—how in the world do I, then, turn around and decide that I, righteously, am able to judge?—my anger is righteous and pure. “I don’t even know my own motives,”—Paul says in I Corinthians 4.
So what we’re actually supposed to do is acknowledge that there is right and wrong—there is injustice that needs to be dealt with, but we’re not supposed to get angry and stay angry about it—that’s not what the Scripture ever says. We’re told to get rid of our anger. What we’re supposed to do is this thing called “forgiveness,” which means releasing our right to anger in light of the fact that God has forgiven us.
It’s radical; it’s different; it’s called “Denying yourself every day and picking up your own cross.” It’s difficult—but you know what’s more difficult than forgiveness?—it’s living a life of unforgiveness, and bitterness, and anger; and it will literally kill you, physiologically.
So when God is saying, “Get rid of anger before the sun goes down,” it’s actually brilliant, and loving, and tender; and it helps us to thrive.
Ann: So can’t we be angry at situations without being angry with people? I’m thinking about being in Nepal—and seeing the sex trafficking going on—and rescuing girls, and seeing these girls come out of the sex trafficking business. I get angry that this has happened to them. And I get angry—I do get angry at the people who have done this to them—you wouldn’t say that’s a righteous anger.
Brant: No, because you’re a sinner. [Laughter]
Ann: Dave tells me that every day!
Dave: I have never told you that. [Laughter] I’m married to a sinner? [Laughter]
Brant: Okay; it sounds terrible, but “Me too.”
Brant: So the reality is: if you believe Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, He levels the moral playing field; He says, “Forgive, or you won’t be forgiven.” So the idea that: “Well, they are SO bad, but I am not as bad; therefore, my anger is righteous, and I know for a fact...” —we’re never told that.
So do we want to address injustice? Yes, but we do it without anger. In fact, whatever we do with anger, we can do better without it. You grieve the situation—we know it’s unjust—Martin Luther King, Jr., is a great example; because he addressed injustice. He believed what I’m saying: that Jesus makes no distinction between righteous and unrighteous anger—he’s not allowed anger—MLK said that when his house was firebombed—because God has forgiven him. We can address injustice better without it.
Dave: So is it sort of—I’m not saying semantics—but is it a different way to think of it? Because when you’re saying that, Brant, I was thinking “holy discontent.” I was thinking there are times when you’re discontented about a situation/an injustice—but the holy part is—“I’m going to deal with it in a graceful, loving, holy way.” It’s discontent—it’s like you could call it anger—but I’m not letting it get to a place, where I’m mad; but I am upset to the point, where I can’t let sex trafficking happen anymore.
Ann: You want things to change.
Dave: I’m going to do something, so I feel like it’s a holy motivation.
Brant: Well, the Bible is very clear about anger for humans, and it’s: “Get rid of it.” It’s never listed as a fruit of the Spirit; it’s not like “Love, joy, peace, anger, goodness, faithfulness…”—[Laughter]—wait; that’s not how it goes—it’s in the next list [acts of the flesh] always. We always want to shoehorn it in there, though: “Yes, but sometimes…”—but you won’t be able to make that argument, scripturally.
So if you want to say, “We’re discontented at the state of the world,”—absolutely; sure. But anger is the will to harm, ultimately. That’s why, if somebody’s angry at me, I instantly feel hurt. If you can tell somebody in traffic is angry at you, you automatically have an emotional reaction to that; because we understand.
Anger—what I’m talking about, what I believe it is, and why we’re allowed to get angry for a second; we’re supposed to get rid of it—it’s fight or flight; it’s a response to a stimulus, where we feel threatened. As a believer, I do think, as we get to be more mature believers, we do get less offendable; because we realize: “I don’t have that much to be threatened about. I know humans are broken; I’m not shocked by human behavior anymore. I know I’m going to get cut off—I’ve driven before—I know what this is like.” We’re not shocked anymore, so I already know; if we’re Christians, we already know human nature.
At the beginning of the day, commit yourself to be like: "I’m going to forgive whoever comes across my path, and I’m not going to be shocked and scandalized over and over again at what’s going on. I’m not going to live that way.” It’s a terrible way to live, to be in constant fight-or-flight mode. Also, if you’re angry—like, “I’m just angry at the world for whatever,”—that will show up in your relationships at home,—
Brant: —everywhere. It will destroy things, so I think that’s why we’re supposed to get rid of it, and counter it, like Jesus did: “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Dave: Now, you weren’t always believing this way.
Brant: No way.
Dave: You open the book, first chapter, hearing about being a person that’s not offendable; and you’re like, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard.” So walk us through this journey: “How did you get here?”
Brant: So being on the radio, people will be offended by the host—it doesn’t matter if you’re in Christian, or mainstream radio, or whatever—you can’t make everybody happy. I would get some of these complaints; and every time—I mean, they’re really pretty harsh; and they were ridiculous—“I can’t believe what this person said.” It dawned on me, “How long am I supposed to stay mad about that letter or email I got?”—again—“When do I forgive?” That’s what sent me in the Scriptures.
I was asking the question on the air, genuinely, like, “Okay, we saw this crime that happened in our city—it’s terrible, and we’re all angry about it—when are we supposed to let that go?—the anger part.” And nobody knew the answer. But if it’s righteous anger: “Well, how long do we keep it?”
I’ve struggled with that and tried to find answers. The answer in the Bible is we’re not entitled to it at all. This is what forgiveness is—is letting that go; it’s very difficult. People will look at horrible stuff that happens in the world—and I understand that—there’s a guy, in the book that I wrote about, named Sukrit Sahim from Cambodia. His entire family was murdered. He survived, but he was thrown into the grave with them—12 of them—he climbed out at night and dedicated the rest of his life to finding those guys again and killing them.
Then, he became a believer; and he had to wrestle with: “My whole life has been built on this; now, what do I do? What does Jesus want me to do?” And he realized, “I have to forgive these people.” It doesn’t make what they did okay—this is not relativism—this is the gospel.
Ann: And yet, we’re living in a time and culture right now, where we’re more offended than we have ever been in our lives.
Ann: And we’re all talking about how offended we are on social media.
Brant: Well, we think it’s righteous; right? And that’s mainstream people, too—it’s secular; it’s religious—we think it’s really righteous to get angry.
Ann: And we think it helps by voicing our thoughts.
Brant: You know what they’ve shown?—I thought this was so interesting—they’ve shown that people—this was a study, I think, British Columbia/the university there that studied it—they’ve shown that people who tweet the most about stuff do the least.
Brant: They made a correlation between people who give to causes. They think it’s because, if you’ve tweeted angrily about something, you actually feel righteous.
Ann: —or maybe, that you’re helping the cause.
Brant: “I did my work,”—
Brant: —pat myself on the back—“Look what I’ve done”; and then, you’re less likely to actually do something.
Ann: It’s not helping; it’s not working; is it?
Brant: Wouldn’t it be something, honestly, if Christians were the unoffendable ones? We know the world’s broken—we’re still going to address injustice—we’re going to do what’s right, but we’re going to be the non-angry presence in the world—that looks like Jesus to me. If they don’t like us, they’ll come after us. They came after Jesus, but it sure looks different if we’re the ones who aren’t offended; no one else is that way.
Dave: Part of me wants to ask—because I’m guessing a lot of people are thinking what I’m thinking—"How? How do we get from feeling enraged? Maybe, it’s justified because something’s wrong,—
Dave: —and I get angry; or I’ve been hurt—and again, that often turns to anger—
Dave: —is there a process?” I don’t just blink, and it’s gone; I have to get to forgiveness. “How do I get there?”
Brant: Yes; there’s only one way, I think/I think. It’s been my experience—and I’ve even done Ted Talks on this—
Dave: Yes, I watched one of them; it was great.
Brant: —I’m talking to audiences, who aren’t necessarily believers—but I have to tell them, at some point, “My resource is Jesus and my status with God. That is the only real way, I think, to forgive. Because you have to remind yourself—you have to live in this constant gratitude for what God has done for you—that’s it—constantly thankful that God forgave me; and out of that, I forgive others.” Without that resource, I don’t know how people do it.
Another thing people hear: “Well, what if it’s an abusive relationship? Does that mean I have to just stay in the relationship, and just forgive, and act like…” No! It never means that. But oddly, if you don’t forgive someone, you are staying in relationship with them, in your head, for the rest of your life. Forgiveness is the way to freedom, so you let go of the anger.
You don’t have to stay in their personal relational orbit forever; but if you want to move on with your own peace, and be a person who’s at peace, you’re going to have to let go of that anger. The only resource I think you have is just: “God forgave me. I was, yet, a sinner; look what He has done on the cross for me,”—that’s it! It’s a constant rehearsing of that in your mind, out of gratitude, every day, that allows you to extend that forgiveness to other people, even before they do stuff.
It’s a way of life; but if you’re asking, “How do I do this?”—that’s it—and “Does it work?”—yes, it does. This will change you over time, just like any discipline.
Ann: Have you seen that in your own life?—
Ann: —because I’m laughing at your chapter titles—“Chapter Two: Everyone’s an Idiot but Me.” [Laughter]
Dave: How many times have I said that in the car?
Brant: That’s our natural—
Ann: That must be something that you’ve learned; because this wasn’t you at the beginning, it sounds like.
Brant: No; our default position is: “Everybody’s an idiot but me.” [Laughter]
Ann: “Everyone is!”
Brant: “Everybody, who doesn’t agree with me…”—this forces us into humility and to repentance every day.
Ann: Yes; every day, you’re saying.
Brant: We have to rethink the idea that: “I am right about everything”; it lets us listen better.
There’s a big objection, too, I want to bring up—because we’ve talked about Jesus, Himself, obviously—"What about Jesus in the temple?”
Ann: Oh, yes; He was angry.
Brant: Yes, I hear that a lot.
Ann: And we would call that “righteous anger.”
Brant: It is; God’s anger is righteous.
Brant: He’s not a sinner. But my friend, Sherri, says, “That’s interesting,”—she said—“Honey, you ain’t Jesus in this story; you’re the moneychanger.” [Laughter]
Brant: We’re all like, “I’m the perfect one, coming into the temple.”
Ann: Yes; “I’m Jesus.”
Brant: “I know everything: what’s in everyone’s heart and motives.” No, no, no, no—we’re the ones—and then, Jesus goes and dies for them, days later. If you’re Jesus in this story, you’re on the cross, saying, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
I know it hurts, and I know it’s hard; but it doesn’t hurt as much as going through life—trying to be bitter; and judgmental; and deciding, constantly, “Should I forgive that person?” “I don’t know; not yet.” “Okay, anger for two weeks here,” “No, let’s see…”—it’s a much better way of living. It’s freeing; and it will change your character, I think, to become more Christlike—so actually, what it is: is discipleship.
Ann: Have you been to a place, where you were like, “I am really struggling with forgiving this person”?
Brant: Totally—often, it happens—because people do people stuff.
Brant: The weird thing is, for me—to be, again, constantly shocked that people would do stuff—“When my own heart is unfaithful, why would I expect other people to/what am I thinking here?”
And just in life—somebody joked, when they saw the premise for the book, Unoffendable—“Well, you must have never gone through any problems in life.” I’m like, “Hehhhhh.” [Laughter]
Dave: —the opposite. [Laughter]
Brant: Exactly; exactly the opposite.
Ann: Okay, your son comes home from school. He’s been bullied, let’s say, at school. He tells you the whole situation, where these two boys bullied him/said things; and you, as a parent, you want to protect him: “What’s your response?”
Brant: Well, the first response may be the fight or flight thing; it’s a threat. And then, if I don’t get rid of that, I’m going to mess up the whole situation. If I do get rid of it, I go to the school.
Ann: So the first thing you do is get rid of it—
Brant: I have to forgive.
Ann: —the anger.
Brant: The anger part—the anger has to go—and then, I can deal with it with a very clear mind. I had this situation recently.
Ann: What happened?
Brant: My wife was attacked on the street. This was in—we lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—police did not arrest the guy—we called the police immediately—she had called them; I called them. I kept seeing the guy walk past our window on the street; we lived right on the street. I followed him to his house on foot; I called the police from there—I found out his identity—I called the police. I saw him again; I said, “He’s right here. I’m following him.” They never would arrest him.
Ann: Come on!
Brant: I didn’t know what to do.
I said—this is after a few weeks—“I don’t know where the city hall is. I’m going to city hall, and I’m not leaving until they arrest this guy.” I wasn’t angry; we were already praying for the guy. Didn’t know where to go; started—I’m not making this story up—started walking, building to building. I walk in one building—and they’re having a press conference in the lobby—immediately, upon walking in—that’s where the press conference is.
It’s the police chief and the mayor of the city, and they had a detective, and it was about getting the community to get involved to fight crime in Midtown, where we lived, like: “We need the community to get involved. People have to tell us what’s going on.” I’m like, “Wow!” [Laughter] So I’m standing behind all the reporters, and they wrapped it up. “Any other questions?” And I raised my hand, and they’re like, “You, sir.”
“I have a question. Why haven’t you arrested the guy, who attacked my wife, if you say you want community help? I’ve called; I’ve done this.” “Well, we’d like to talk about this later.” “No, we’re going to talk about it now.” All the cameras swung around on me.
Brant: Because it made the news, the headline the next day in the paper was “Area Man Crashes Press Conference.” [Laughter] But the comments I got from all my friends and from the community was, “Dude, you were so cool under fire. You did not let it go.”
Dave: That’s what I was going to say: “You weren’t angry?—
Brant: At first,—
Dave: —"in that moment?”
Ann: He said he got rid of his anger.
Brant: —I had to work through it.
Brant: I’m like, “I don’t know what’s happened to this guy. My position is: ‘Jesus has forgiven me; I’ve already worked through this.’” This happened after I wrote this book. But the irony is: they arrested that dude within two hours of me going to that press conference.
Dave: And if they hadn’t?
Brant: I would still be there.
Ann: —pursuing justice.
Brant: Yes; but the fact that I was clear—anger doesn’t help your judgment; it clouds your judgment—it doesn’t help.
Ann: So that’s why you could be calm and cool.
Ann: Because you had already prayed, you had already given it to Jesus.
Brant: Yes; if I had been angry, it would have been a totally different scene.
Ann: And He answered your prayer!
Brant: He did answer my prayer. And instead, it was almost hilarious; because they were agitated; and I was just like, “No.”
But there’s something about doing the right thing, not out of anger. And if you need anger to do the right thing, something might be wrong—I mean, that’s the way of the world—but as a believer in Jesus, that’s not us.
We’ve had neighbors, who try to freak us out; because they know we’re Christians. So they’ll literally prod us: “I’m into Wicca,” or “I’m into this…” or “I like to do this drug…” or whatever. We don’t flinch; we still love them. They know that we’re not patting that thing on the head, like, “Oh, that’s okay.” No; we just move onto the next subject, and say: “Hey, you want to come over?” “Are we going to go out for dinner?” We’ve done that.
Ann: You’re still going to love them, regardless of their actions.
Brant: Yes, they don’t know what to do with it; it freaks them out. [Laughter] Why would I be scared of that?
Brant: Because whatever we have is stronger than what’s in the world. I’m not afraid of that anymore, and it’s wild how this concept puts you in that position.
And then, what’s also weird, as a result of that, you become attractive to people, who otherwise would have scandalized everybody. Now, they’re like, “What is it about these Christians? I like them.”
Ann: Sounds like radical love to me.
Brant: It is; and again, people want to go: “Well, that’s just relativism.” It’s not; it’s not at all. I still have these strong beliefs about right and wrong—but I also believe that what Jesus has done for me allows me to do that—and it becomes this love that people are actually drawn to. Instead of me being a Pharisee—I’m a Pharisee by nature—but people don’t really enjoy that.
Ann: Yes; people flocked to Jesus because of His grace—how He saw them—and He saw what made them the way they were.
Brant: —didn’t flinch. There’s no point, where Jesus was like, “Eww, I heard about who you slept with…” because He is so compelling for that reason. But again, practicing this, I think, is discipleship. The wild thing is: people do start to relate to you like people related to Jesus.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Brant Hansen on FamilyLife Today. Stick around; you’ll want to hear some practical things you can start doing today, in light of this conversation.
But first, let me tell you: I’ve been challenged by what I’ve heard today; I really have. I always feel like my anger is justified in the moment I’m experiencing; but how much better of a neighbor, or a husband, or a dad, or a driver would I be if I put away my anger instead of indulging it, or letting it control me?
You know, God uses broadcasts just like this, and books like Brant’s, to change the world, one home at a time. That’s what we’re all about at FamilyLife. Brant’s book is called Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. We’d love to send you a copy when you partner, financially, today with FamilyLife. You can do that online at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright; now, some practical takeaways from today’s conversation. Here’s Ann.
Ann: It makes me want to do a list: “Are there things or people that have offended me that I haven’t given over to Jesus and forgiven?”
Brant: You may want to pray for your enemies; Jesus was big on that.
Ann: Yes, Jesus said that.
Brant: This is exactly it, though; right?
Brant: And then, I have to do the work of remembering: “No, wait; this is who I am…this is what God has done for me. Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” We’re in a battle that is not flesh and blood, so that allows me to remember to have compassion on people, too: they are sheep without a shepherd; they’re lost. This is a better place for our hearts to be—and then, it changes us—and it’s incredibly healthy, physically, too.
Shelby: Tomorrow, Brant Hansen will be back with Dave and Ann to talk about how, if you want to be happy, you need to let go of one thought; and that is, “Everyone should be perfect.” That’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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