Brant Hansen: How being unoffendable could change your life
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Could giving up your right to stay angry change your life? Author and TED Talk speaker Brant Hansen explores why and how to become unoffendable.
Brant Hansen: How being unoffendable could change your life
Dave: Alright, my top-five revenge movies.
Ann: You love these movies.
Dave: I don’t know what yours would be—but I know one of them/two of them—are in here.
Dave: Nobody would ever think I would say, Legally Blonde. [Laughter] Do you remember that one?
Dave: Mel Woods gets paid back; right?
Dave: Yes, I thought I’d hate that movie! How about number four? Any Avengers movie—any one of them—I love them all. [Laughter] It’s always payback.
Three—and I think this is in my top five—Mean Girls. [Laughter] Every time it’s on, I’ve got to end up watching it. Have you ever seen it? You’ve seen it!
Ann: Yes, I’ve seen it.
Dave: It’s the best!
Ann: You’re like—
Dave: “The plastics go down!”
Ann: You must be getting soft.
Dave: Here’s yours; here’s yours: Gladiator.
Dave: And number one of all time—
Dave: —in my mind—
Dave: —you have to agree—
Ann: I know.
Dave: —Shawshank Redemption.
Dave: It’s gotta be; right?
Dave: But here’s the thing: I mean, there are so many movies, you know, there are times when you almost want to stand up and clap when the bad guy gets what’s coming to him.
Ann: But some people are offended by our lists right now; because they’re like, “You guys have watched some of those movies?”
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: Yes, you are! And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: You know, there’s something in our soul that likes payback; yet, in real life, payback doesn’t feel like it does in the movies. It doesn’t work! We’ve got to talk about that today, because there’s something in us that resonates with those kinds of movies—the bad guy getting what he—
Dave: —you know, justice.
We have Brant Hansen back in the studio. He wrote a book about this called Unoffendable—like we’re supposed to be unoffendable—you’ve got to be kidding me!
Ann: Well, the subtitle is: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. That’s compelling!
Dave: Yes; so we’ve got to find out what that change is. I’m guessing it’s choosing to be unoffendable. Anyway, welcome back, Brant.
Brant: Thank you. Yes, it’s realizing that my anger isn’t righteous, actually.
Dave: You’ve already said that! You’ve got—
Ann: People are like, “Wait, wait; what?!”
Dave: —our whole production team stirred up about that.
Brant: Oh, it’s great! I love to talk about this; because it’s so counterintuitive. I think most of us grew up—if you’ve grown up in church like I have—I always thought, “There’s bad anger, and you need to get rid of that; but righteous anger, you’re supposed to keep.”
Dave: That’s good anger.
Ann: We all say, “Jesus flipping the tables.”
Brant: The problem is: it’s not scriptural; you can’t find it. And in fact, in James, it says, “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” We don’t memorize that verse; we just memorize half a verse, where it says, “In your anger, do not sin.” But the rest of the verse says to “get rid of it before the sun goes down.”
So anger can happen—it’s a natural, physiological response—we have this spike in cortisol, for instance, or adrenaline, or whatever—we want to get back—that’s a normal response—but we’re supposed to get rid of it.
I had to study that a lot to realize that’s the truth. And then, also, when you realize it, like, “Maybe I’m not the best judge of my righteous anger.” Who thinks they’re anger is not righteous? [Laughter] I mean, Twitter is everybody, all at once, thinking that their anger is righteous. This is a terrible way to live.
A much better way is: “I’m supposed to forgive people and do the right thing; fight to defend the vulnerable/defend other people. But I don’t do it out of anger; that will cloud my judgment/that hurts. Because God has forgiven me, so I have to extend that forgiveness to other people.
Ann: So it’s not necessarily being passive in our response to what we feel?
Brant: Absolutely not.
Brant: But you’ll do it out of love; you’ll do it out of a desire to defend the vulnerable, for instance, because justice needs to happen. We want to take bad guys, who hurt people, off the street; but we don’t want the people who do that to do it out of anger. We want them to do it with a clear head and mind and to do their jobs.
Ann: Oh, are you trying to get your head around this?—to think of anger—
Dave: Well, I’m actually thinking, like in a marriage situation,—
Dave: —this has happened in our marriage; I’m sure it has happened in every marriage—Ann gets mad at me, at times. [Laughter] And I get mad at her; I’m not trying to say it’s one-way. It just happened a couple of Sunday nights ago, where she stormed out of the house; [Laughter] because she was so mad at me and my son—not caring for—my son/his wife, and me/Ann. She was like—she’s yelling—like, “You guys are all the same!”—meaning: pastors are all self-centered—“All you care about is yourself.” [Laughter]
Here’s what happened—
Brant: I love—
Dave: We went golfing; alright?
Brant:—how honest you guys are. [Laughter] Seriously.
Dave: Well, we went golfing—Cody and I—and that meant his wife had to take care of two little babies. You know, we just/anyway, she was so angry; she said, “I’ve got to go for a walk”; and she leaves. I’m literally, like, “I didn’t think what we did was that bad of a deal, but I guess it was.” [Laughter]
So talk about that, because in some ways, when she came back—well, you tell—"Was that good anger?”
Dave: Brant would say, “No.”
Ann: No, I don’t think it was good anger. I generally will take my anger to Jesus first, and Jesus tends to give me perspective.
Dave: This one, she went to Dave first—
Dave: —I’m just telling’ you.
Ann: I was just hot; and I just said, “You guys are so incredibly selfish!” I’m thinking I’m trying to defend my daughter-in-law in what she’s doing, and so I just let my words fly. I said, “You guys are just so selfish!” And then I said, “I just have to get out of here; I need to go for a long walk!” Dave is silent—he’s super-wise now—he’s just silent.
Dave: I’ve learned to just keep it closed.
Ann: And so I go for a long walk. To be honest, I didn’t pray for a long time—maybe the last three minutes—because I was just venting to God everything that I was feeling and how I felt it was so wrong: “These guys are always thinking about themselves, and their own pleasure, and what they can do!”
Anyway, I come back; and you’re still quiet.
Dave: Well, she came back; and she was in a totally different space. It was like I watched a woman leave and meet with God, and come back; and her anger was gone.
Dave: Actually, what she had yelled at me before she left landed; and I was like, “Yes, I needed to hear that. I was pretty selfish today.” In a sense, I don’t know if it was like anger; but it was like she was stirred up.
Ann: But I will say, Brant, that my anger, generally, if it’s unleashed, it doesn’t do good; it doesn’t help the situation, generally.
Brant: No, it doesn’t. Again—
Dave: I mean, counsel us: “What would you say to this couple over here?”
Ann: —this messed-up couple. [Laughter]
Brant: This is what I’ve learned—I’ve been married 32 years, but I don’t have all the answers on this—we have learned that it does take, sometimes, a little bit of a chance to talk to God about it; get some perspective. But that perspective, again, is, “Okay, if the other person’s guilty,”—and he may be—“’God, You’ve been forgiving to me. I’ve been a jerk, so I need to extend that grace to him.’”
But you can still tell him: “I don’t think it’s okay. Do you realize what you did when you left her with the kids, and you guys went and had fun? I don’t think that’s fair.” “I know you’re well-intended,”—you can say that to your spouse, too, because, generally speaking, they are!—in their minds, they are justified in what they did. “I realize, to you, it’s not a big deal, but I’m telling you it is.” That usually gets a pretty good response from people. It also allows you to de-escalate the situation, and then you can have fun; and then your marriage is fun again—you guys can hang out that night—it’s all good.
Or you can harbor anger and pat yourself on the back for how wrong he was—and make a big deal out of it—and just compound the other incidents; and eventually, not even have anything to do with each other anymore.
Ann: Ooh, I did that for years.
Brant: Okay, so this is—that’s what people do when they defend this idea of: “Well, but he was really wrong!”—“Yes; okay, right. And you’ve been wrong, too; so how are we going to deal with this out of humility?”
Ann: Some people are already thinking through situations of: “My husband sexually abused our daughter for 15 years, that I didn’t know anything about. What do I do with that?!”
Brant: Well, again, never am I saying—or is Jesus saying, I think, or Paul, when he’s writing, or James—they’re not talking about getting rid of your anger and forgiving so that you have to stay in relationship with these people; that’s not what we’re talking about.
We’re talking about getting rid of your anger because you, too, are a sinner—you’re responsible for Calvary, which was a very grizzly scene—you’re responsible for that; I’m responsible. How can I be responsible for that and then, turn around and look at you, and go, “Oh, my goodness! Wow, you’re messed up!” [Laughter] We are!
- But do you want to live with that anger toward that very horrific crime—the person who did it?
- Do you want to live with that the rest of your life, or is that actually compounding what this person has done, now, sabotaging your peace the rest of your life?
- Or is God actually giving us a way through this thing?—where we’re supposed to let go of our anger, even though we totally understand why you’re angry—absolutely!—but He’s given us a way to a better life, because He loves us. And it is better!
We can justify our anger all we want, and try to twist it—so like: “No, it says we should be angry; we should always be angry. There’s always a good reason to be angry,”—it doesn’t say that, but we can do that; but it’s at a very heavy price, not only on our relationships, but on your actual, physical body. When Jesus is telling us to forgive, I think He knows how we’re built and how we thrive. No matter how horrific the thing is—and I went through some pretty horrific stuff, growing up—“You can’t just wave off everything I’ve gone through! You’re telling me I shouldn’t be angry?”—I’m telling you: “Life is better if you forgive; it always has been.”
It doesn’t mean what they did is right. In fact, it means what they did is wrong; otherwise, you wouldn’t need to forgive. You will be freer, and you will blossom, and your life will go better, and you’ll be a source of life for other people if you can do that.
If you can’t, that person is still affecting you.
Ann: In your book, you share some letters of critiques that you’ve received, doing radio.
Brant: Yes, right. [Laughter]
Ann: Can you share some of those? Then, walk us through what that looks like for you to not be offended by it.
Brant: One was funny; I remember one morning in particular. We do a lot of humorous—or at least, attempt at—humorous stuff on the show. One day, I was doing a bit, where I called: “Just Try and Name That Tune.” I played the accordion on the air. [Laughter] I would be like: “Okay; you pick a song that we play here on the station,”—a Christian format—“or you can pick a song from the ‘80s if you want.” Because I didn’t want only people who know Christian music to feel welcome.
Brant: Somebody was like, “Oh, can you do I Can Only Imagine?”; or they’d say Christian songs. I tried to play Mercy Me or something; they couldn’t identify it. [Laughter] The next caller was like, “Pick something from the ‘80s.” “I’ll do the ‘80s.” I played a song, and she nailed it. It was Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins. [Laughter] And I got a call immediately, like, “I’m really disappointed with you. It sounded like you practiced the secular song more than the Christian song.”
Dave: Oh, goodness! [Laughter]
Brant: Like five minutes later, I do the weather: “Well, it’s going to be a little warmer than it should be this time of the year: 78 for a high today and, then, back down to 65 overnight.” Then somebody called, “I’m really disappointed with you.”
Ann: Oh, no!
Brant: “Okay, well, what did I do wrong?” “It was your weather forecast.”
Ann: Oh, no.
Brant: “Why?” “You said it’s going to be warmer than it should be for this time of year, but God ordains the weather. It’s going to be exactly what it should be.” [Laughter] “Okay, thanks for your call.”
It’s that kind of stuff. Anybody, who’s in customer service, you can come home with stories every day—anybody, who does anything in life!—anybody who drives. People are always doing people stuff.
It had to dawn on me, like, “Wait, I’m going to decide, before I open my emails, that I’m going to forgive people;—
Brant: —because who knows what’s going on?” You can have this mindset every day that becomes a way of life, where, like, “I know people are broken. How do I know this?—because I am! So why don’t, each day, I understand this is what humanity is like?” The wonderful thing about that is: it frees you; it helps you to practice forgiveness; it helps you become less offendable; and then, it helps you actually see people, because you’re not offended by everybody. You can see, maybe, what God sees in them: the potential that’s there.
I’m convinced He sees us like an artist sees something, or a real estate agent, or like one of those indoor designer people—they walk in; they see us—and in their heads, they’re seeing something we don’t.
Ann: Yes, like, “Look at the potential of this person!”
Brant: Yes; we’re like: “Look at the car parts scattered around the closet. That’s what I’m seeing.” [Laughter] But no, that’s not what they see.
Dave: Well, in some ways, I think—you tell me if I’m right—the reason we get so offended is we don’t believe what you’re saying about ourselves; we think we’re better: “We’re not as bad as them,” “We’re not as corrupt as them,” “We’re not as selfish as them.” You’re saying the opposite, like, “Look how selfish they are; you’re worse.” I think we don’t think we are, so we’re offended they would do what they did to us.
Brant: Yes; and I think it’s all gratitude, though; it’s not guilt. Guilt’s only good in that it drives us back to the cross; then we need to get rid of it. But to go back to the cross—what I mean—it’s not just a religious thing; I don’t want to use that just as a phrase—we go back to being so thankful for what God has done for us.
Jesus tells the story that should end the argument on this. It’s the parable of the unmerciful servant, where this guy/he owes the king much. He’s forgiven, and then won’t turn around and forgive somebody else. The king is very upset about that; that’s about us.
I’ve heard people—and they’re like—“Oh, Brant, but that story means that we should get angry, because the king got angry.” “No, no, no! You’re not the king in this story.”
Dave: Yes! [Laughing]
Brant: Again, that’s God!
Dave: You’re the unmerciful servant.
Brant: Yes; but do you see what they did? In order to justify our righteous anger, we had to keep confusing ourselves with God; we’re not Him! I’m a sinner.
So again, we stand for what’s right—we try to do the right thing—it’s not just about getting angry, we actually do the right thing to combat injustice—but it’s not out of anger—that’s the important thing.
Dave: And that’s hard—to let go—you know, we can quote Romans: “’Vengeance is mine’ says the Lord.” And we’re like, “No, no, no; I want some of that.”
Brant: “I want some of that too.”
Dave: “I don’t want to just give it to them.”
Brant: But you know what?
Ann: “I’m going to help You, Jesus,”—that’s what we think.
Brant: Here’s the hard thing: all of this comes down to trusting God that He will be just; He will bring justice in the end, and it’s not me bringing justice in the end. That’s very hard!
For me, as a Pharisee by nature—my son is named “Justice”—I want those people to get what’s coming to them! I can look around in the culture, and go, “I cannot believe that this is happening!” But you know what? I can, because humans have always been this way. There were two sons that were born—one killed the other one—the first kids who were born!—like, “These are humans.” The first cave drawings—the first artwork that we have that humans have drawn—are humans attacking each other. So I’m not going to be shocked by it anymore—I know it’s me, too—but I extend this forgiveness, out of gratitude for what God has done for me; and it is a better way to live.
It hasn’t stopped me, or people I know who practice this, from being involved in trying to set things right; but ultimately, I have to trust that it’s God—He’s going to bring justice in the end—I don’t know how people live who can’t trust that.
Ann: It’s interesting; I’ve done prayer with so many women about unforgiveness, and I’ve gotten into a habit of just saying, “Hey, let’s just do a visual prayer: just close your eyes; picture yourself standing before Jesus.” And I’ll pray beforehand, like, “Lord, let us just hear from You and see from You.” We use our imaginations for so many things, so why not let the Holy Spirit, you know, take us there?
I say, “I want you to just picture yourself standing before Jesus.” Then, I’ll say, “And I want you to now picture the person that you just can’t forgive.” Like one woman [about whom] I’ve shared here before, every single day her mom would beat her with a broomstick, every single day. She said, “I can’t forgive her.”
It was interesting; I said, “Can you just picture your mom standing before Jesus? I wonder if there’s anything He wants you to know about your mom?” It was so interesting—I’ve done this so many times—where there will be this grace-peace that: “I feel like Jesus wants me to know that her life was so broken too,” and “She was beaten too,” or “She doesn’t know any better.” I’m always amazed at how they can see, in a different light, that maybe there’s a story behind the story, possibly.
Brant: You know, there’s a Scripture you made me think of; it’s in 1 Corinthians 4. I didn’t know it was in there until I was thinking about all of this. Paul actually writes/he said, “I actually don’t know other people’s motives.” He said, “In fact, I don’t know my own, so I’ll have to let God sort it out in the end.” That’s in 1 Corinthians 4. Again, it’s not a flesh-and-blood battle we’re in; it’s a spiritual thing.
But that’s fascinating; they have the humility to go, “I can’t be the final arbiter of my righteous anger; I’m too biased.”
Brant: I saw The People’s Court back in the day when I was watching; it was after school. [Laughter] Do you remember that show?
Dave: Oh, yes!
Ann: Yes! [Laughing]
Brant: I remember watching this. They would introduce the plaintiff first and, then, the defendant. The plaintiff—I remember this one case—I was eating Ritz® crackers, sitting in front of the TV after school. The plaintiff was like a family of seven. It was like: “Well, the plaintiff says that they all went to the defendant’s pizza restaurant; and they all got food poisoning. They were sick for 24 hours; they’re suing for $1500 for pain and suffering.” I’m like, “All seven of them got sick. How is this even a case?”
And then the defendant gets announced: “The defendant says he doesn’t even own a pizza parlor, and the plaintiff is always trying to get money.” [Laughter] [I’m] like: “Whoa! “Wait; wait; wait.”
Ann: —when you hear the other side. [Laughter]
Brant: That’s it!
Brant: That’s it! There’s a Proverb that says: “The first to testify always seems right.” Well, who’s the first to testify in my head? I only tend to see what everybody else is doing wrong, but am I honest about my own lack of love?—because that’s what sin is. In the Hebrew, the chata word means we’re not loving God and people in a way that honors His image; we’re falling short of that.
“Do I see how I fall short of the love of God towards people?”—I probably don’t.
Ann: Well, where do we start? Let’s get into, like, “Help us—maybe reframe the way we’ve been looking at this—'What would our next steps be?’”
Brant: I think it’s daily gratitude. I would start the day so thankful: “God, You forgave me”; and being so grateful for that [so] that: “The rest of the day, I’m going to forgive people who cut me off in traffic,” “…for my boss who does…”
Dave: Why’d you look at me when you said that? [Laughter]
Ann: Are you writing this down? [Laughter]
Brant: But people are like, “My boss is going to do stuff my boss does.
Brant: “I can’t be shocked again.” That person at work, that other student,—
Ann: —my spouse.
Brant: —my spouse: “They’re going to do stuff; I can’t control them. I’m going to forgive them, in advance,”—not because they deserve it—because they don’t deserve it.
Dave: —“And neither do I.”
Brant: “Because I didn’t deserve it!”—that’s why you forgive people.
You can’t forgive people, and simultaneously say, “But I’m still going to be angry with you, but I forgive you.” [Laughter] That doesn’t make any sense. You have to let go of the anger to forgive as Jesus has forgiven you. You have to daily pick up your cross in this way and make the sacrifice of your anger, out of grace that was extended to you.
This is an everyday thing; I think this is discipleship.
Brant: This is it! This is praying for your enemies, loving them, blessing them.
Dave: I mean, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life is forgiving my dad. You know, divorced when I was a little boy—a lot of/a lot of things—
Brant: Me too.
Dave: —I wondered if you had a similar journey.
Brant: Same thing.
Dave: Was it quick/easy, long/hard?
Brant: It’s been hard, but I do love him. We have worked through stuff.
Ann: How did you end up forgiving him?
Brant: Because of this.
Ann: Was it eating at you? Because I know, for Dave, he just carried it.
Brant: Yes; you do carry it, and it can sabotage your family.
Dave: Yes, it was.
Brant: “I don’t want that to happen,” and “I don’t want him to have that power, either,”—like—“You had that kind of influence over me, growing up,”—this is not spiteful toward him—but it’s like: “This is a new thing,” and “My kids are not going to be able to relate to me and what I went through; but I’m so thankful that God forgave me.”
Whether you stay in relationship with a toxic parent or somebody—again, that’s not what I’m talking about—I have chosen to stay in relationship; but some people don’t, and I understand that. But you can still let go of the anger. You can even still pray for them. I don’t want them to have that sort of toxic spillage into my own life now.
Ann: Have you put any boundaries—
Ann: —around your kids, when they were growing up? You did?
Brant: Totally! Absolutely. I think, when you don’t do things out of anger—now, you’re not reacting to your parents, either—like I don’t want, constantly, to be reacting to what happened to me, years ago; I want there to be some joy—then, we can be in the moment. But if you’re living a life with unforgiveness, you can’t really be; because that stuff is always there.
Brant: It’s always eating away your insides, literally!
Ann: And what’s your relationship, now, with him like?
Brant: We text every day.
Brant: Yes; I mean, he’s got his struggles and stuff. I know who he is—I pray for him and want the best for him—so I’m just rooting for him.
Ann: That’s a great sign of forgiveness: you said, “I want the best for him.”
Brant: Yes, that’s love; right?
Brant: So I’m rooting for everybody, honestly. When I see channels/the news channels that I don’t agree with on the screen at the gym, I’ve got to root for those people. I’m not rooting for them to “win” some kind of earthly battle; but I’m rooting for, ultimately, who they are. And I know God loves them.
Ann: You’re rooting for them, for the spiritual battle.
Brant: They’re people!
Ann: Yes! It’s pretty radical.
Brant: It’s crazy; isn’t it? [Laughter] It’s almost like, when has Christianity ceased being radical? This is where, if we did this, we would be such different people.
Dave: Oh, our churches would be full.
Brant: It would be shocking!
Dave: People would be running to that community—
Dave: —like, “I’ve got to be a part of that!”
Brant: “How did you do that?”—
Brant: —and “Why do you love me so much? I thought you would be righteously angry at me.” It’s a different demeanor that we have, and it becomes very attractive to our neighbors.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Brant Hansen on FamilyLife Today. That is, unfortunately, radical! It would be great if that kind of love was normal; wouldn’t it?—in my heart, even.
Well, stick around. Brant’s going to pray for us in just a minute. But first, at FamilyLife, we believe the kind of love God calls us to isn’t just something that we can muster up on our own. We all need God’s Spirit in us to love others the way we’re called to. Now, whether that’s your spouse, your messy toddlers, your neighbor, or whomever, love is possible when we know how much we’ve been forgiven ourselves. That’s why we believe that any help we’re going to get in our relationships is going to be based on the gospel. We’re unashamed of that.
And if you believe the same, would you partner, financially, with FamilyLife? As our “Thanks,” we’d love to send you a copy of Brant’s book; it’s called Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. It’s our gift to you when you partner, financially, today at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call us at 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Okay; now, back to Dave and Ann with Brant Hansen.
Ann: I’m wondering, Brant, would you pray for us?—for our listeners, who are just like, “I don’t know; this is really hard.”
Brant: I sure will!
God, thank You for being so good to us. Help us to grow be more like You. God, help us to see people as You see us, so that we can extend the same forgiveness to them that You’ve extended to us. Let us be like You toward them. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Shelby: You know, sometimes, as kids travel into the teen years, they naturally tend to distance themselves; but there’s a healthy way to do that, and an unhealthy way for that to happen. Now, tomorrow, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann will be joined by David Eaton to talk about how your overreactions, as a parent, could be pushing away your teen; that’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time
for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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