Brant Hansen: Yeah, I've had to work through forgiving my dad instead of living in response to that the rest of my life, because I could say, "Well, it's righteous anger. He was so wrong." Like, yeah, he was wrong, but I don't wanna be defined by that the rest of my life. And God has forgiven me. I've got to let go of that anger in order to be healthy.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, some days it seems like everybody we encounter, driving, at home, at work, they're out to get us. They're in our way. They're slowing us down. They're trying to irritate us.
Jim Daly: Oh, good. That's happening to you too?
John: Yeah. The question is, is it maybe just you? We have a great guest today on "Focus on the Family" - radio personality Brant Hansen, who has stories and insights about how you can let go of offenses and anger even when it's hard to do. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I'm John Fuller.
Jim: John, earlier this year, we featured a message from Brant Hansen here on "Focus on the Family." Today, we're gonna welcome him back to the studio. I think this is a wonderful topic. You and I are often talking about it.
John: You talk a lot about your driving.
Jim: I talk about how people irritate me on the road.
Jim: That is true. That's one of my - that's where the Lord is teaching me so much to become more like Him, more forgiving.
Brant: You know what I call it? Traffic forgiveness practice.
Jim: Oh, excellent.
Brant: I really do. I mean, 'cause it - it's a low-risk way to actually implement forgiveness into people's lives. Like, it's a great idea.
Jim: This is, like, a - a therapy moment.
John: There you go.
Jim: I'm doing counseling right here. So Brant Hansen has written this wonderful book, Unoffendable. And we're gonna learn today as believers. Maybe if you're not a believer in Jesus Christ, you're going to learn some things today about how not to let people irritate you. And I think that's something to lean into.
John: Yeah, and Brant is well-known for his unique and humorous syndicated radio broadcast. In fact, he won an award for national personality of the year. And, uh...
Jim: That's an award for you.
Jim: National personality of the year.
Brant: The irony is I almost don't have a personality.
Brant: Again, God's sense of humor.
Jim: Well, in fact, the gallery is packed with people who follow your program. So let's let them say hello to you. Ready? Hello.
Brant: This is so incredibly frightening, and yet...
Jim: They're - it's funny. This makes you nervous. You told me before we could talk to the gallery. That's probably 100 people in there.
Brant: Totally. And - and there's something about being seen that's really hard for me. I'm used to not being seen. So I like writing, and I like being on the radio.
Jim: Now, Unoffendable - let me get to it. Why are we offended so often by people, even for those of us who claim Christ, and we know the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, goodness, self-control? Why does that guy that cuts me off on the road get to me so easily?
Brant: Well, number one, I think we're - anger's being threatened at some level. I think we know that, that it's threat. So I guess somebody cutting you off, at some deep level, some primal level or something, is like, "he's going to get to the food before I get there," or something.
Jim: Well, now you're - you're kinda getting a little close here.
Jim: I mean, I am - I try - almost gets guy.
John: After all those years, he finally figured it out.
Brant: But - yeah. But there's something deep down there that's like, "why are you entitled to this, but not me?" So we feel threatened. But that's anger across the board. There's things that make us feel threatened that should make us feel threatened.
Jim: So there is a good response, I guess.
Brant: Well, there's a natural anger that happens. And...
Jim: Let's describe 'em. Let's go with what's a normal, you know, anger response and what is over the top. Give us some idea.
Brant: Well, if your - if your parents are abusive, or you've gone through some horrible things in your life - somebody's taken the life of a family - like, anger of course is going to be a response to that. I mean, we're actually wired for fight or flight. We're wired to have all these physiological reactions that happen when we're threatened. The problem is, for the Christian, the idea of when does forgiveness actually begin? Or are we supposed to stay angry? Because we've been taught - and I think this is to get at your question about why this is such a big issue for Christians - we're - we're not taught out of anger. We're told that, well, it's righteous anger. My anger's righteous. So we hold onto it. The problem is - and this is the shocking thing in the book that when people first hear about it, they're like, "that can't be true" - I'm saying in the book that there is no biblical righteous anger for humans. God's anger is righteous. Yes, Jesus' anger is righteous. He's holy. But for us, we're not good arbiters of our own anger. We feel threatened when we don't need to. We're supposed to get rid of anger before the sun goes down. That doesn't mean that it's righteous. If it's so righteous, why are we supposed to get rid of it right now? But the biggest reason for actual forgiveness and - and - and surrendering our so-called right to anger is because we are sinners too. Like, Jim, you know this.
Jim: Yeah. Thanks.
Brant: Like - like, you have let people down as well.
Brant: And even if they're wrong, I've done just as bad. This is the status we have as believers. It's not because they deserve forgiveness. It's because I didn't. Like, that's why I'm able to extend this. And I think, waking up in the morning - this is why I - where I'm going in my book - like, wake up in the morning and realize this is going to happen. When you get on the interstate and people cut you off, you shouldn't be shocked again. I can't believe this. Can you believe people? Yeah. Believe it. These are humans. Believe it. When you travel, sometimes we don't get what we want. It aggravates me too, but I've got to adjust to reality and wake up and think, today, I'm going to extend the forgiveness that God has given me toward other people. And I'm not going to be shocked by their behavior.
Jim: Yeah. I remember when I wrote Finding Home, my first book, about, you know, the story of being an orphan kid, which I had to go through all that as a young boy. And the - one of the criticisms I received - and you deal with criticism in Unoffendable, because criticism comes our way, certainly as public people.
Jim: I remember one person when I first started doing the radio program here at Focus, somebody wrote in and said, "Jim Daly's voice is too high." And I went, "Wow. That's something I just can't help. If people are offended by that, I'm sorry. And I'll pray that God would give me a bit lower voice for you." But, I mean, you can't do much about that kind of thing. The - but in this case, somebody reviewing the book said, "Daly's best advice is to keep your expectations low." Which for me, they just miss the whole point. What I was trying to say there is, one way to survive a world that is often offending you is to realize that people are people, that Mom and Dad are going to let you down, that relatives are going to let you down, that you're going to let yourself down. Now, you could tag that with low expectations. I say it's realistic expectations. Would you agree?
Brant: Absolutely. And when someone says, "I can't believe what my mom just said," like, think about that. Unpack that. How long's your mom been saying stuff like that?
Jim: Like take out the trash?
Brant: Yeah. 57 years, right?
Brant: Well, at some point, go ahead and believe that she said - that people do things like people do, and they've done it for thousands of years. And the first two brothers that were born, one of 'em killed the other one. The idea that we're shocked by human behavior - we - if you're a Christian believer, I mean, we should be the people who are not shocked. We know what our hearts are like. We know what God's been willing to do for us. Like - so to continue for us to be in constant, righteous anger and just be up in arms about how everybody else is behaving doesn't make sense. We should be the ones who are the least surprised by their behavior.
Jim: I know. And I guess that realization that we are in a broken world. We're still sinners, but we're saved by grace. Thank you, Lord. And we're trying to rectify these instantaneous impulses in us. You have a - I think a - a parking lot story, where - where you almost got in a fight or something?
Brant: Oh, sure.
Jim: Now, tell yours, and I'll tell mine.
Brant: You may be conflating different stories with.
Jim: I don't know. Well, go for it.
Brant: But yeah. I mean, like, I've had - one day to the next. I'm in a parking lot, and I'm pulling out. And I was taking too much of the center, and I was blaming the person pulling in. And then someone was with - in the place where I was yesterday, and I was blaming him. And all that to say, it's always - we are always the victims.
Brant: In our minds - and there's actually a proverb that says, "The first to testify always seems right." The first to - and in my mind, guess who the first to testify is? In every conflict, in every inconvenience, in every - it's - it's me. So obviously I think I'm right. I always think my anger is righteous. But yeah. We've had that. I think I cited in the book almost getting in a fist fight about a ping-pong - (laughter) sorry, I'm still laughing about this - but a ping-pong thing with my church fellas. Like - and...
Jim: OK. This is good.
Brant: I know. Well, I...
Jim: Confession is good for the soul.
Brant: It was a - I didn't even realize it was a fight. Like, I'm not naturally given - I don't pick up on cues, like I said. And then I realized this guy's about to punch me in the face. It was just about...
Jim: What did you do? Did you cheat at ping-pong?
Brant: No. I - I was saying that the rules are the serve goes this way. Like, we were playing doubles.
Jim: So you were straightening this guy out.
Brant: Totally. Well, I guess. And - but to have to stick it out. I mean, my point in the book was we stuck it out. We're still good friends. Like, we know we're broken. But people split up all the time. We - split up with our church family. We split up because we're constantly getting offended. This is the way the whole world operates. We should be the ones that don't. Like, we're the ones who don't because we know we're broken. So we should go, "yep, that's us again," and extend forgiveness as God's forgiven it to us to other people. This is what we should be like.
Jim: Now, it's one thing to laugh about these funny encounters. And they happen from time to time. But hopefully, in your sanctification process, what you're driving at is they're fewer and fewer...
Jim: ...In terms of occurrence. They're happening with greater time distance, right?
Brant: I think that's right.
Jim: Um, is that the goal? What about the person that wakes up every day, the believer who's saying, "You know? I'm offended again." If you're feeling offended quite often, is that something you should look at?
Brant: Yeah, I think so. If - here's the weird thing: once we call it righteous anger, we pat ourselves on the back for being angry instead of doing the opposite, which is deal with your anger. Get rid of it before the sun goes down.
Jim: How do we know it's righteous anger?
Brant: We don't. That's just it. God knows His anger's righteous 'cause He's holy.
Jim: OK. But some people hearing that right now are saying, "No, no, Brant. I know what righteous anger is when I get upset at this politician or this abortion doctor or that gay couple that lives nearby."
Brant: But see, here's the - here's the problem. You're a sinner. And God has chosen to forgive you, and it cost blood. Like, can you extend that to other people? This is not to say what they're doing is right. See, that's where people get thrown, is they're going, "oh, I guess everything's okay then. You're just being a relativist." Totally not. What I'm saying is that God's been willing to forgive me. I have to forgive my anger against them because I'm the unmerciful servant if I don't. Look what he's done for me. Jesus makes this story very obvious. Like one man's forgiven a lot and won't extend that to someone else. Now, that said, we should still take action against stuff. But people confuse anger with action in our culture. You probably noticed. They think tweeting about something - look how angry I am. Everybody's angry all the time about everything.
Jim: That's today's culture.
Brant: Right. But what we're called to do is actually take action to correct injustice, actually to do things. Anger does not help us do that with a clear mind. It actually inhibits our clear mind. We don't want our police, our military acting out of anger, but we do want them taking action. And so this is what I'm called to do as a believer, is to actually do things, sacrifice, do what I can. But patting myself on the back for being angry actually doesn't help anybody.
John: Well, it may be that, uh, you've got some food for thought. I hope you'll stick around, because we have more from Brant Hansen on today's "Focus on the Family." He's written a great book, Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. And we've got the book and a CD or download of our conversation at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Brant, you had to wrestle with some faith issues when you were a young man. Um, I think there were some anger issues when you were a boy. Describe what was going on and - and how you began to get a handle on your anger even as a child.
Brant: Yeah, this is hard to talk about. But it's a good question, and I do reference it. I'm a preacher's kid. And we went through a lot of stuff in the home from my dad that was the exact opposite of what he was preaching. I saw him preach three times a week.
Jim: Right. How old were you? And how did you translate that?
Brant: This was all the way growing up.
Jim: So was it - you thought...
Brant: Till the first...
Jim: ...It was hypocritical, or...?
Brant: Oh, totally. I was scared at home. But my parents divorced when I was in seventh or eighth grade and then remarried each other and then divorced again. And squaring that with the reality of faith is very difficult. And it may be extremely skeptical, and I am a very skeptical person. It's just, I'm so skeptical - and I write about this some - but just, I'm so skeptical, it's chased me back around to Jesus because...
Jim: That's a good thing.
Brant: Because - yes, I think it is, because you see human nature, I think. And I don't know anybody else who does anything about it. Like, He's the only one that acknowledges sin and does something about it that I can find. And the things he said about how we're not all - we're not good, none of us, just strikes me as - that's accurate.
Brant: So he says that - like, he's got the words of life. And I don't know where else to go. The alternatives are not appealing to me. But, yeah, I've had to work through forgiving my dad instead of living in response to that the rest of my life. Because I could say, "well, it's righteous anger. He was so wrong." Like, yeah, he was wrong, but I don't want to be defined by that the rest of my life. And God has forgiven me. I've got to let go of that anger in order to be healthy.
Jim: Yeah. And I appreciate your heart. I think in the book you mention a time when you were prepping for your radio program. And you were in - maybe you didn't recognize it at first, but you were going to a subscription.
Brant: Oh, no. I recognized it.
Jim: OK. So why don't...
Jim: Rather than me paint the wrong picture, why don't you paint the picture?
Brant: Well, think about this. I'm a Christian radio host. I actually used to know this guy. We used to be friends. And he wasn't a believer that I knew of or anything. But he did a radio prep service which costs a subscription. It was, like, $50 a month. And it gives you, like, the stuff to talk about that day. And so I had a password for it, and so I would download it and use it without paying. And this went on at this Christian station I was at for six, eight months. And suddenly, he emailed me while I was downloading it, said, "Hey, what's going on, man? Just checking in." And I'm like, oh, no, he can see, you know, my IP address or something. And he knows the Christian guy is stealing his stuff. I guess this went on for a year. I owed him, like, 600 bucks. And so I could barely function. I'm like, "I've been stealing your - I - I, Mr. Christian, whatever, have been stealing from you for about a year. And I need to send you a check for $600." And he wrote me back and said, "You know what? I'm going to forgive you." Don't - so here's the non-Christian guy, seemingly. Like, I know who I am. And we kid ourselves if we think we're not bad. And so when I recall that sort of stuff, it's very difficult not to extend that forgiveness to other people. Like, if God has let me go for being that kind of person, why can't I extend that to other people? I have to. I don't have a choice.
John: Is that a one-time decision?
Jim: Forgiving is always a process.
Brant: No, it's every day. And that's what I think - I think...
John: No, I mean, I'm thinking about a specific offense that has occurred. Do you - like, even as big as the - the deal with your dad. Did you forgive him and move on?
Brant: No, it's - it's a - that - I think it's an ongoing decision. It does get easier. But I think it's the - it's the decision to relinquish the right to anger. Because, again, you'll feel things, but it's the idea that I'm not entitled to this anymore because of what God's done for me. And to be sure, we know people have had family members murdered, and they let go of that anger because they have to. That's the thing, too. Besides the fact that Jesus commanded us to forgive people, just physiologically, it'll lengthen your life. Like, 'cause anger comes out in all these different ways that torpedo your other relationships because you think you're holding onto this righteous anger against this person who wronged you. You've got to let that go.
Jim: Yeah. You share a story in the book about a car accident. I think that, uh - I don't know if it was a friend of yours that was involved in this. But what happened in this car accident? Why was it an illustration that you used?
Brant: Okay. She's extremely intelligent. And her - her dad is a very high-ranking professor at a major university. And she's an intellect and - and an agnostic. She drove into a construction zone and hit a guy. And actually, it cost him his legs. And she went and visited the hospital room, and he forgave her. And he said, "It’s because I believe in God. And because I'm a Christian, I have to let this go. And I want you to know I've forgiven you." Well, she's now a believer because of that.
Jim: Wow. The power of forgiveness.
Brant: Yeah. Because there's nothing else in the world that will give you that resource to do that.
Jim: Let's work through a few more examples. For the Christian what's the alternative to reacting angrily and acting offended? How do we - I mean roleplay with me.
Brant: Oh, man.
Brant: I guess we'll take you to the airport, Jim.
Jim: See if you can drive for me. That's perfect right there. But here - here's the thing...
Brant: What is...
Jim: You're sitting on a plane, and you're not getting the service you think you deserve.
Brant: I think you can act without anger, and it'll be better than if you had anger. Dallas Willard said that too. He's like, "there's nothing you would do with anger that makes it better." You can do it without anger, and do it better.
Jim: Those really serious cases - as a Christian, you're wounded, and you have to forgive. Let's think of Christians in the Middle East who are being ravaged by radical Muslims. We sit there and go, "this is horrible. This is righteous anger."
Brant: I know this. I've been to these countries. I work in a hospital network in - in these environments. There's nothing more affecting to Muslims than to see that grace in action, nothing. Because they're used to words. And this idea of grace is not pan-human. This is specific. But the idea that you would forgive and not hold on to anger is shocking to them. And sure enough, when you see people lined up on a beach losing their lives as martyrs, or you hear Corrie ten Boom talking, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer saying, "I have no right to righteous anger". Martin Luther King Jr. is another example, when his house was firebombed, saying, "I have no right to anger because of my status as a sinner" - like, that's really affecting. So yes, these are serious situations. But the idea that I'm supposed to walk around with anger, I think, in practice, before you go to the airport, it's a great idea to go, "God, just help me to be unoffendable, to not practice being offended, to not take pride in being offended." But you can still say things like, "this is not acceptable. You know, I paid this amount, and I'd like to see what you're going to do about it." But not do it out of anger. You're more clear-minded that way too.
Jim: And I'm telling you, it's not so often we're going to be in a position where it's life-threatening, or, you know, a loved one was run down and we have to find that courage. That's a beautiful story, and those are wonderful testimonies that lead to so many good outcomes. But it's the everyday thing for most of us. And I mean, it - it is where we need to really exemplify Christ. I remember on a training in 1989, John, when I started at "Focus on the Family" - I remember being trained by someone here. This person's long gone from Focus. But we went up to the rental car desk, and they had lost the reservation that this person had made. And he was giving it to the desk help. And, you know, the person's scrambling - "well, let us see if we can find a car. We're sorry we lost your reservation, and blah, blah, blah." And then the person looked up the reservation, the original one, and said, "Oh, you work for "Focus on the Family." I was listening to Dr. Dobson this morning." I've never seen a 180 from a person where, like, this - oh, oh, well, you know, if you don't have a car, I'll walk the 400 miles. It's fine. (Laughter) I mean, it was a complete switch because now I'm caught. Right? Now you know who I am.
Jim: Whoops. (Laughter)
Brant: Okay, what did - that's a great story, because what does that tell you? Like, you want people to know who your identity is in Christ, I hope. So presume that that's the case. How am I modeling this? Like, be busted in the morning. Be busted like that before you go out.
Jim: Well, and - and it's a good thing to wear your faith on your sleeve. Just be prepared to live it.
Jim: Because people are going to look at it and say, "You’re a Christian? Why don't you act like a Christian?"
Brant: And this is when it actually matters, when someone has crossed you. That's when you actually find out who you are. There's the old proverb I'm fond of. It's, like, an African proverb. It's like, "if you want to know what kind of tree it is, bump into it, and whatever fruit falls, then, now I find out."
Jim: That's very true.
Brant: Bump into the tree, and we'll find out.
John: OK. So you guys have brought a lot of travel examples. And - and I do travel, and so I've - I've experienced some of those incidents and had some of those feelings. But I'm thinking, Brant, of a harder place to let go of anger, and that's in the home. At home, is where I find myself getting triggered. I keep a happy, nice Jesus person face on here at work. But I get home, and there's a part of me that comes out that I don't like. So what can I do before I get home tonight to kind of prepare for that?
Brant: Well, again...
John: Because I - I know everything we've talked about here. But there are - there are buttons.
Brant: ...But the - I think understanding it, first of all, that you - you're not entitled righteous anger, again. And entering into - before you even go into that situation, if you can ask God on the way home for ten seconds, like, "God, please help me to be forgiving." Like, it's really weird too. I've been married 28 years now. And to continually be put off by who my wife is, and for her to be put off by me, we know all this stuff now. And to be able to practice this with each other and drop things is so fresh and so wonderful. Like, quit trying to reform everybody, and police the world in your own home. It's really hard because you're living with humans. It's never gonna end. You're always gonna be chafing against - and, again, it's not to allow all behavior. Like, well, now my kids can do whatever they want. That's not it at all. But the idea that I'm going to be continually offended that my wife, you know, doesn't give me a heads-up on directions when we're driving. Like - like, how long is that going on before I'm like, yeah, we're broken, and we can have a sense of humor about it? I think even allowing that we should drop things is a huge step, and the reminding ourselves before we go into it. I do think workplace is actually not easy for people, and that people are constantly offended at work. But it's a great idea to - to go, "these are the people I'm with. God put me with them. And my boss is going to do stuff that my boss does. Now, how do I love - love him or her anyway?"
Jim: Brant, when you look at it, I so often think of marriage in that context. Because, you know, how many times have we had marriage experts here, John? It's Gary Thomas or Gary Chapman or some other marriage expert, Greg Smalley, our very own. But when you get down to it, you think, "Why, God? Why have you designed it like this? Why do you pull opposites together so often?" I know not everybody is that way. But you pull introvert and extrovert together and night owl and morning person, dark chocolate, milk chocolate. And then you put 'em together and say, "Okay, make it work." And then you irritate each other. And I think, really, it's simple. It really is simple, to become more like Christ, which is what? Giving, sacrificial, not as selfish.
Jim: And - and you think of that system, and then with what you're doing here with Unoffendable, it's similar in how you deal with people. Why does the Lord allow people to irritate? Well, so that you could become more like Him and look beyond that irritation to what God has created.
Brant: And this is love.
Brant: Like, when you don't feel it, and you still extend grace to the person behind the counter or that person at work. Like, apparently God is really pleased by that. Apparently it's obedience. I mean, this is what love looks like when you're not feeling it. In a marriage, for instance...
Jim: That's exactly it.
Brant: ...And your wife - like, when I was writing the book, my wife brings me tea. And I know she's not feeling in love with me, and she's had a long day or whatever. I may have just aggravated her. And she still does it. That is love. Like - so this is a chance - it does shape us to make us more like Christ. But it's also - this is God's love language, I think, is when we do things for people that aren't doing anything for us.
Jim: Well, Brant Hansen, you have done a wonderful job. I think this is food for thought. If we've irritated you today, be sure to contact us at "Focus on the Family."
John: Call Brant.
John: We'll post Brant's number.
Brant: Yeah, totally.
Jim: But seriously, folks, this is where it's at. This is the action. I would love - and I work at this every day. And I don't do it perfectly, and Jean would be the first to tell you. But it is something we as Christians need to exemplify. We should be different from the world, and this is one of the core areas. If everything's offending you, maybe you need a deeper relationship with Christ. And that's good - and true for every one of us. And Brant, you've done a wonderful, uh, job here in Unoffendable trying to help us better understand the journey the Lord has for us. Thank you.
Brant: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
John: Well, we've had some lighthearted moments here, but there are some serious undercurrents. And if you're struggling with anger, if you just can't shake it, if your home is a powder keg or you're not getting along with co-workers or you just seethe all the time, call us here. We've got caring Christian counselors, and they can connect with you and direct you to some resources beyond Brant's book, even, and possibly even find somebody in your community that you can talk with on a regular basis. Takes a lot of energy to be angry. And as Brant said, letting go demonstrates God, and you get a benefit from that as well. So our number is 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Certainly, you can find resources like Brant's book Unoffendable and a CD or download of our conversation, our mobile app as well, all of that at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: And John, let me add this: maybe you’ve heard this conversation today, and it’s made you aware of some bitterness that you’ve been harboring, or maybe God has prompted you in some other way. If the Focus on the Family broadcast is helping you in your spiritual growth, making you a better person in Christ, could you consider a gift to the ministry today? With a gift of any amount, we’ll send you this excellent book by Brant Hansen, called Unoffendable. And thanks to some generous Friends of Focus, if you call us today to make that gift, that amount will be doubled through a matching gift to have twice the impact for families.
John: It's a great opportunity. So call today, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Hey, Brant, before we go, I - I do want to put a - a scripture to you because I think you're capturing maybe two. Colossians 3:8 - "but now you must put them all away, anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk from your mouth." And then, in Matthew 6, "for if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you." You've touched on both in a wonderful way. Thanks for doing that for us.
Brant: My pleasure. I'm learning too. But I think this is a better way to live. I think Jesus knew that.
Jim: Well said.
John: Well, once again, get in touch with us. Let us know how we can help you get resources and help for your family at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Well, thanks for listening to "Focus on the Family." On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time when we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.