The Truth About Us: Brant Hansen
About the Guest
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Brant HansenBrant Hansen uses his media platforms to advocate for the healing work of CURE, a global network of surgical hospitals for children with disabilities in developing nations. He’s a syndicated radio host and the author of Unoffendable, Blessed Are the Misfits, and The Truth about Us. In addition to speaking on the subject of The Men We Need, he frequently speaks at churches, conferences, and corporations on the topics of forgiveness, faith and the autism spectrum, and the kingdom of God. Bran...more
What if you admitted you weren’t a good person? Author Brant Hansen examines what happens when we fight self-righteousness—and embrace the truth about us.
The Truth About Us: Brant Hansen
Brant: No one’s good but God. Once you finally internalize that you lean on Him because you realize I’m not always seeing things clearly. There’s a way that seems right to me but it might lead to death. Jesus himself is saying, “you all have a self-righteousness problem. You’re justifying yourself. You can’t do it. You can’t. So if one of you,” He turns to a crowd, He’s in a crowd, “if one of you will repent, rethink literally what that means, humble yourself, all of heaven will party.”
Dave: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Dave Wilson.
Ann: And I’m Ann Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: So you remember the argument we had with our really good friends Rob and Michelle in our kitchen, I don’t remember how many years ago? It was an argument about which way is true north out of our kitchen [Laughter] and they live in our neighborhood. They literally live a couple blocks away.
Ann: I’m just going to say, we were yelling.
Ann: Like, “NO! There is no way that that’s north!”
Dave: We were standing over at the window pointing, “That’s north!” And they’re like, “You guys are the stupidest people. You’ve lived here, it’s there.” They’re like, “No it isn’t.” And here’s the funny thing. [Laughter] I pulled out my phone and there’s a compass, not that night. They left and they came up later and I pulled out my compass on my phone and I’m like, “Oh my goodness. [Laughter] They were 100 percent right.”
Ann: No, they still weren’t. I still said I think your phone’s wrong. [Laughter]
Dave: She said that last night Brandt. I said, “Remember that night?” and she said, “They’re wrong.” I’m like honey
Ann: I said, “I watched the sun go up
Dave: –prove it
Ann: –I watched the sun go down. I know that’s the direction.
Brandt: –that’s fascinating
Ann: They didn’t have phones and compasses you know back in the day. They just watched-
Dave: –well they do now-
Ann: –the sun goes up - that’s east and west.
Dave: –I’m just telling you – the fact that you still think you’re right [Laughter] it’s just crazy and we’ve got Brandt Hansen in the studio today, Mr. Right himself.
Brandt: Yes it’s totally [Laughter] no that’s fascinating because if you’ve studied cognitive biases at all, like you get into you know, cognitive science. But there’s this thing where if you say something, you hear yourself say something, it’s very difficult to convince you that you’re wrong [Laughter] after you say it.
Ann: Come on. Don’t say this Brandt!
Brandt: It’s true. [Laughter] But we will all double, triple, quadruple down.
Brandt: But the force of it, if we hadn’t said anything we could have pivoted more easily. But since we heard ourselves take a stand on it [Laughter] it’s very, very difficult.
Ann: So, you’re saying scientifically this is true.
Ann: –if we say it
Brandt: –scientifically we’re all crazy [Laughter] is what I’m trying to say. Because we’ll do this stuff and there’s another thing called first information bias, which is ‘whatever I thought first, didn’t take that much evidence, but if you’re going to disabuse me of it, it’s going to take like nine times [Laughter] more evidence.
Brandt: Because I heard the other thing first-
Brandt: -that’s just how humans work. But all these biases are, are justifying machines to make ourselves right and it’s actually a real problem.
Ann: That is a problem.
Brandt: Yes it’s a real problem. What’s fascinating about that is, these cognitive scientists, they’re not coming at this from a Christian perspective necessarily at all.
Brandt: Like one guy Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel prize, listen to him talk about how deluded humans are about their own goodness. [Laughter] He’s like, “It’s hopeless.” [Laughter] Humans are so self-delusional about how right and good they are, you almost can’t break through.
What’s fascinating to me is that’s what Jesus said. [Laughter] Right? They’re actually coming to these conclusions that are fascinating because Jesus Himself has said, “You all have a self-righteousness problem. You’re justifying yourself. You can’t do it. You can’t–so if one of you, He turns to a crowd, He’s in a crowd. If one of you will repent, rethink literally what that really means, humble yourself. all of heaven will party, if just one of you will do it. He’s literally making a point. Like you guys find it so difficult to humble yourself and say, “I’m wrong. Like I need help.” or “God, I’m heading down the wrong track.” It’s so difficult for humans to do that but it’s so freeing if we’re willing to do that. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, I tell you what, we went deep fast.
Ann: –We really did [Laughter] this is so good.
Brandt: –Well, that’s my problem.
Ann: I love it because you just proved me wrong and why I just did all of this.
Brandt: We all do that.
Dave: Hey, you know what Brandt? I love it because she wouldn’t listen to a word I said [Laughter]. Even, even last night I’m like, “Honey I had a compass they were right.” “No they weren’t!” I’m like, “Oh my goodness. I just read this book and it’s said you would do this, and you did.”
Ann: It’s so prideful of me too.
Brandt: –So okay-
Ann: –Thank you.
Brandt: –Here’s what’s funny about that, if my wife were here she wouldn’t mind me saying this because we laugh about it. But there was a game, I forget what it’s called but it’s similar to where you like put the word definition it’s fake for whatever that game was-
Ann: Oh yes, yes, yes. Tab–not Tabu?
Brandt: It’s similar to that.
Dave: -Yes, yes, yes.
Brandt: –It was like it would ask a question and you’d have to come up with where that phrase came from or something. Well my wife each time would write down a phrase. She’s very smart. [Laughter] But then we would, “Okay, here’s the real answer on the card.” and she’s like, “No, mine’s, mine’s the real answer.” [Laughter]
She had convinced herself. She’s brilliant, [Laughter] but that’s what’s really interesting is that you can be really intelligent and still fall prey to this bias of, “I’m right,” subtly without realizing it but that’s what human beings do. In fact, if you’re an intelligent person you actually can be better at being wrong, because you’re so used to coming up with justifications and reasons why you’re right. You can come up with a list faster than other people can. But you’re not as able, they’ve shown this with fascinating studies. Smart people, educated people are better at being wrong because of that, “Tell me why your position’s right.” “Pbbbbb, here’s 84 reasons.”
Brandt: “Okay, tell me the perspective of the person on the other side, why they’re right, their best reasons.” “I can’t come up with any.”
Brandt: If you’re especially educated or something, you’re just better at coming up with self-justifying reasons why you wanted to be right is right, and you can fool yourself even more easily than somebody who's maybe not as adept at that sort of thing.
Dave: So yes Brandt, I know you wrote The Truth About Us a few years back.
Ann: You’ve written some great books too.
Dave: Ah, we had you last time with Unoffendable and re, re-released that right?
Brandt: Yes, that just came out again, um, updated, expanded version and there’s like a video series. I know people that struggle with anger and forgiveness, so hopefully it will be a blessing.
Dave: Oh yes, it’s definitely a blessing.
Ann: So good.
Dave: The first time that I picked it up–actually I was sitting around a swimming pool with Rob and Michelle, the same couple [Laughter] and I just started the first couple of pages and I’m like, “Guys, this guy is not only deep and thoughtful, funny.” And then I found out you do this every day on radio, you know your show, Brandt Hansen Show, right? And the Brandt and Sherry Oddcast, which is, it’s hilarious.
Ann: It’s so fun.
Dave: But you cover fascinating topics sort of how you just ripped off all these things that are in The Truth About Us.
Brandt: Thanks. Well, I sit down for a few hours before the show and I ask God, I take the dog for a walk and I’m like, “I’ve got to come up with a ton of content,” so people if you’re listening I’ve got a job that’s a little intimidating every day. That puts you in a pretty good place because you’ve - “God, please help me.”
Ann: Yes. [Laughter]
Brandt: I literally walk in the door and, “God please give me something that’s a blessing, that like actually adds value to their lives wherever they’re listening.” You know maybe they’re working in a hotel, changing out the bed sheets or whatever as a maid, or maybe they’re on their way to the hospital to work or wherever that is, let me find something to say to point people toward You creatively.” What’s wild is He keeps showing up every day in terms of helping me do that.
Ann: It’s funny how He does that.
Ann: –showing up every day.
Brandt: Yes everyday
Brandt: –so I can’t think about tomorrow’s show–which is good, because I’m like, “I’ve got to come up with like 20 things to say.
Dave: It’s like manna - just enough for today.
Brandt: –Yes, that’s it. I don’t have any idea and then I get through it like, “Thank you Lord, for–that was my daily bread. That was the resource I needed for today and hopefully it’s a blessing to people.” So that’s, that’s what I’ve learned through having to do this over the years.
Dave: Yes, as I read the subtitle, The Very Good News About How Very Bad We Are [Laughter] there’s a part of you that says, “I’m not that bad.”
Dave: You know, I know people that are bad but not me. Even when you open the book you say, “Hey just ask the stranger you’re sitting beside at the coffee shop if they’re morally better than-
Brandt: –than average
Dave: –their neighbor
Dave: –and they’re going to say what?
Brandt: They’re going to say yes. - And this is the biggest self-delusion on the books. Because you can ask people - like it’s the Lake Wobegon Effect, right? You can ask people, “Are you a good driver?” “Oh yes,” “Better than average?’ “Oh yes,” It’s like seventy-five, eighty percent of drivers say, “We’re, we’re better than average.”
Ann: This is my husband.
Dave: Hey, can you just keep talking Brandt?
Ann: –totally Dave.
Dave: –Don’t let her say anything over there.
Dave: –don’t say anything.
Ann: the best driver on the planet [Laughter]
Brandt: –that’s funny
Ann: –and no one else can drive quite as well as Dave.
Brandt: –it’s just skilled
Dave: –I might not be best but I’m definitely second
Brandt: –you’re like F1 level [Laughter] we would say.
Dave: Oh my goodness. I am the worst in the car, just I’m terrible.
Brandt: That’s funny.
Ann: I said to him like, “I don’t even know who you are in the car. It’s like this different person comes out.” [Laughter]
Dave: It’s like, “It’s turn on red. There’s nobody coming,” and I’m just inching up.
Ann: –so this is true?
Brandt; Yes, this is the biggest self-delusion we have - it’s our goodness. It’s so human.
Dave: –hmm, wow
Brandt: –so here’s Jesus, you can see consistently He’s trying to break through. Would you listen to me? You’re not–but the upshot is what’s wonderful about this is once you’ve actually believe this there’s really good news here, not only about God’s goodness to us, His grace, but the fact that you don’t have to constantly be justifying yourself all the time.
Brandt: That’s a huge energy saving
Ann: Yes, you’re right
Brandt: You can just say, “I don’t know, oh, whoops, I was wrong.” Do you realize how much energy that will save you? [Laughter] In, in marriage-
Brandt: -to just constantly, I can just drop it. I don’t have to defend myself.
Brandt: Maybe I’m not the best person in the world. Like no one’s good but God.
Brandt: –once you finally internalize that, you lean on Him because you realize, “I’m, I’m not always seeing things clearly. There’s a way that seems right to me but it might lead to death.” I have to know that. But the other thing is just the energy that human beings spend justifying what they already wanted.
That’s a fascinating thing that I read in a book by Jonathan Haidt, he’s not a believer. He’s at New York University. He’s a brilliant guy. He wrote a book called, The Righteous Mind (subtitle: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion). But he studied human beings and he found that people think they have a rationality and that they will line up their beliefs based on their rationality. What they consider things, “I believe this, ergo I’m going to do this and that.” That’s not how humans are at all.
You have emotions and intuitions and you will line up your reasons, your rationality, to justify what you already wanted. Let’s say in a marriage context, I’ve seen this before with, with friends, that start to fall in love with somebody outside you know, their wives for guys I’m talking to. They start lining up reasons, including well maybe this Christianity thing isn’t that, maybe I don’t believe that anymore. Maybe, but you can see these things just falling into place to justify what you already wanted.
I think it’s fascinating for somebody who's whose already a believer to talk to people about Jesus and stuff. We think, “I can make a great argument and then someone will automatically believe me,”
Brandt: They don’t because they’re being led by their emotions. Like all these emotions are behind this.
Brandt: They’re not just going to flip on an intellectual dime and say, “Oh, I see, I see the error of my ways.”
Ann: It makes perfect sense.
Brandt: –Right, logical, you made a premise, a second premise, [Laughter] therefore a conclusion. Now I must give my life to God. That’s not how it works.
Dave: Well is there also the, the delusion that we would say, “Oh no. My emotions aren’t leading me, my rationale is we wouldn’t even see it or admit it.
Brandt: Right. That’s not–yes so you have to crack through ourselves to see how we do that -
Brandt: –to see how we lead ourselves astray.
Brandt: From Haidt’s perspective the only thing that works is this thing called relationship. Because they are–they know you, so their emotions and intuitions are tilted towards you because you’re on their side. Now when you say things, they can hear it. Jesus is the most genius teacher, person, man, cognitive scientist, of all time. He’s identifying you’re not good, but live my way, accept that. I have a lighter way, that’s actually more fun. You’ll enjoy yourself more and you can say, “I don’t know.” You don’t have to be in defensive mode all the time. You don’t have to protect your sense of self-righteousness all the time. It’s a much lighter way to live.
Ann: And it’s His love that was so compelling that drew everyone to Him.
Brandt: Totally, yes.
Ann: And the self-righteous, the Pharisees, those are the ones that were most upset because they were so contrary - Jesus was so contrary to them.
Dave: –Yes, and yet I think we’re so bad at it. [Laughter]
Ann: –We are so bad at it.
Dave: –I’m thinking even in this generation what’s going on right now, a lot of walking away and I don’t think it’s because they don’t believe in the rationale of what we’re trying to say. It’s “we’re not feeling love, we’re not seeing love.” In fact, do you remember this in your book, the 100 ranking most influential people in history?
Brandt: Yes, fascinating.
Dave: That was fascinating.
Ann: Yes, read that Dave.
Dave: You want me to read it back to you?
Brandt: I’m staying at a friend’s house. He had this book on the coffee table and I’m like, “This looks interesting.” It’s a book of the one hundred most influential people in history. “I wonder where Jesus falls in here?” So I open it up, Jesus comes in at number three. The author’s not coming at it from a Christian perspective. He had Muhammed number one, and then he had Isaac Newton number two. I’m like I’ll give it that fig newton’s really good [Laughter], but like the third thing having Jesus number three. He said, “Jesus would be number one by far if His teaching about loving your enemies actually took off.” Isn’t that something?
Brandt: But we don’t see that.
Brandt: So, but this is the most talked about thing in the early church. The most talked about thing in early documents is love your enemies. This is the way of Jesus. We are different from others, in that we love them, we want what’s best for them. We want to bless them. Like if that caught on, we’d be so different and the world would be so different. And I thought, “that’s so odd that the guy’s not a believer can perceive that from the outside because I think he’s right.”
Dave: Yes, and the scary thing is we all know. When you take the truth that is true about us, which is obviously your book title and what you’re talking about, we don’t see, I guess, the word would be how bad we really are. We think we’re better than we are. Jesus said that. We bring it into our marriage. We bring it into our home and if we don’t see it, it can destroy our marriage.
In fact, one of the reasons you’re back here talking about this topic, you made a comment, you probably don’t even remember, when we were talking to you last time about the book, The Men We Need. By the way, if you didn’t get that book last time, get it now. It’s phenomenal. I’m doing some teaching in Michigan about manhood and I’m using all your stuff.
Ann: –He’s just stealing it
Dave: I’m giving you credit. [Laughter]
Ann: –but he’s giving you credit.
Brandt: I appreciate being told.
Dave: But you made a comment that Jim our producer said, “We’ve got to bring him back and talk about this.” I’m going to replay it for you.
Dave: And then I want to hear you just comment on your own comment [Laughter]
Brandt: Maybe I’ll rebut it. We’ll see [Laughter]
It’s interesting—I read in another book—this guy was telling the author: “You know, I always thought I would defend my wife and kids if there’s an intruder. I’d defend my wife, no matter what. I would tell myself, ‘You’re a real man, because you’d grab a gun—or you’d whatever—you’d defend your wife, keep her from being hurt.’” And then he said, “But then I realized the intruder, most of the time, is me. It’s my words that hurt my wife, or my lack of words, or my tone, or the things I say to my kids.” Or my lack of–like I’m the guy that needs defending against most of the times. I can’t be anymore.
Brandt: When I first read that guy saying that, it was so helpful to me. It cut me to the heart. I think a lot of times I’m reacting harshly at some level because I’m feeling put down or threatened or something and I have to justify myself all the time. It’s like deflating a balloon, or something like–when you take the pressure off of that - like not having to defend yourself as the good guy all the time and realizing you could be wrong. And there are other ways to see things.
So, none of this is a guilt trip by the way. None of it’s like, We’re just slime - no, no, no. God created us and said, “We’re good, very good actually.” But we’ve got this problem that we ate from this tree the knowledge of good and evil, we’re having to live with this constant kind of having to prove we are good. So deep down we’re all trying to justify our existence on this planet, and here’s Jesus going, “I will justify you. You don’t have to. I’m doing it.” Like that’s a huge weight off.
That takes a lot of the steam out of a lot of discussions because once, once you internalized that, it’s like you know what, “I could be wrong.” Okay, next thing. Let’s go laugh about something.’ [Laughter] We just maybe short circuited two years of ice-cold behavior. What a better way to live.
That’s the thing I’m increasingly convinced about like in this book The Truth About Us. In all of the stuff we get to think about. Jesus is giving us a way to live that’s a better way to live. It’s a lighter way to live. It’s a more healthy, physiologically healthy way to live. It’s a better way to have relationships. He’s not just telling us this stuff. When we’re told to praise the Lord over and over in Scripture, it’s not because God’s needy. He’s not doing it because He’s like, ‘I need someone to tell Me how important I am.’ [Laughter] Like He doesn’t need any of it.
Dave: Like He’s insecure.
Brandt: Yes, He doesn’t need it. What’s it for then? It’s for us, because it reminds us of His goodness, when we keep saying these things out loud so that we’re not anxious all the time. Like He’s so good, He’s giving us a way of life.
Dave: So that’s the very good news about how very bad we are is that when we realize we’re flawed. We’re broken. The good news is in that moment there’s our hope.
Brandt: Yes. Yes. -And like here and now. The energy savings is immense.
Brandt: You know people make themselves miserable by having to justify that decision they made years ago-
Dave: –Yes, cover up-
Brandt: –Yes, the wrong thing, and they’ll go to their grave defending something stupid-
Brandt: -That’s how humans are. So the good news is once we realize, “Hey, wait a second,” I can say, “I’m wrong.” You can get better at that. I’m ‘Mr. I don’t know now’. It’s even frustrating [Laughter] You do know where the forks are. What are you talking about? I don’t know. Like but I do, it saves you a lot of time and energy because what they–humans do this thing called confabulation and it’s, we’ll fill in the blanks acting like we know even when we don’t. [Laughter]
Dave: Oh, I’ve never done that. Never. [Laughter] I mean you described half my life.
Brandt: But look at the time savings now. But you’ll have– like - we’ll come up with a story literally con-fable, like you put the story together in your head. But instead of just saying, “I don’t know.”
Brandt: And then you defend that story to the death. Why? You didn’t have to do that. There’re so many things, this is such a better way to live. You can actually just get back to having fun with people at some point.
Ann: Well, it’s so interesting too because both sides say, “We could have had this discussion.” [Laughter] Dave doesn’t know where something is in the kitchen and my response is, “You have been in this house for almost 30 years.
Dave: –She said that last week-
Ann: –how do you not know?”
Ann: –so what does that say on my part? I know where everything is. I don’t know a lot about most things, but I do know where the stuff is in the kitchen because I’m in there. But even my pridefulness and how I say it to Dave.
Dave: Well I also know why you’re saying it.
Ann: What do you mean?
Dave: Tell me if it’s true Brandt. Why is she saying that, and literally it just happened this past week [Laughter] is she wants me to help her more in the kitchen. That’s what’s underneath there.
Dave: We’ve been married long enough to go-
Ann: Oh, that’s actually true.
Dave: “She really longs for me, not only to just know my way around the kitchen but join me.”
Dave: You know it’s a comment.
Dave: but she’s really right, I need to join her. But you know what I’m-
Ann: We both get defensive.
Brandt: You do, you do. But this becomes a practice to being able to say, “I’m sorry,” really quick. Even my wife has gotten really good about this. We’ve been married a long time too so it’s like some people think you just calcify and nothing changes.
Dave: How many years?
Brandt: Thirty-two years.
Dave: Yes, and she can sing.
Brandt: She can sing. She’s brilliant, a great singer, and she’s gotten to the point just in the last couple of years where she’ll like, she’ll catch herself doing just what you just did.
Brandt: “You know what, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said it that way. That’s not fair.” You know how good that makes me feel as a husband? Now there’s this virtuous circle [cycle] that can start happening.
Ann: Oh, I like that, a virtuous circle.
Brandt: Yes. But instead of vicious. Where you both say you’re sorry more. One of you kind of has to go first with this ethos, with this way of life. And then the other one can start to get into it. But man, it just lowers the temperature of everything. Then you can have a sense of humor about stuff.
Brandt: Instead of the next day, going through what happened the previous day. Well, it started with this, and then you said, and you didn’t admit it.
Ann: It can change the whole atmosphere of your home.
Shelby: Hi I’m Shelby Abbott and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Brandt Hansen on FamilyLife Today. Dave’s going to have a couple of extra words for us here in just a minute. But first, what if it was like that in our homes? What if it was like that in our marriages? What if it wasn’t a vicious cycle of fighting back and forth between one another, but it was in fact, as Brandt said, a virtuous cycle, caring for one another, stopping in the middle of being vicious and apologizing? Well, it could change the way our marriages look. It could change the way our lives look.
Well Brandt Hansen has written a book called The Truth About Us: The Very Good News About How Very Bad We Are. An amazing title. Well, we want to give you a copy when you give online today at FamilyLifeToday.com. It’s our gift to you with a donation of any amount. You can give at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. Again the number is 800, ‘F’ as in family ‘L’ as in life, and then the word TODAY.
Alright here’s Dave Wilson with the possibilities of what your home could look like if we implemented this virtuous cycle posture in our homes.
Dave: Brandt you can agree or disagree. In your marriage, in your home, and this would be in your neighborhood, in your workplace, it doesn’t matter, if you were willing to admit, “I’m wrong, I’m sorry.” That could change the whole culture of your home-
Ann: And be quick.
Dave: Somebody just says, “I’m sorry.”
Dave: “I was wrong. I said this and I was wrong.”
Brandt: Yes. It could be about small things but it’s so respectable and again it changes the tenor of everything. You don’t have to defend yourself all the time. God you’re the defender. It’s okay you can be wrong. It’s okay we all are. It’s alright.
Shelby: What if we lived our lives in a way that wasn’t revenge-driven? What if we actually forgave people? What if we were intentional about moving toward the people who have hurt us? What if we pray for our enemies? And what if we implemented this posture and it got rid of all the bitterness in our lives, to help us to love people the way that Jesus loved them? Well tomorrow Brandt Hansen will be here again with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about all of that and so much more. We hope you’ll join us.
Shelby: 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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