Today on Focus on the Family, Brandt Hansen shares a personal story about letting go of anger. 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. It's pretty easy to get offended, isn't it? People at work, at home, or even on the freeway can do things that hurt our feelings.
And it may seem they're trying to get under our skin, but maybe we need to take a deep breath and think about how our own attitude factors into those scenarios. Today we're featuring a great conversation on Focus on the Family with radio personality Brandt Hansen. He's got 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. John, not long ago we spoke with Brandt Hansen on this great topic of being unoffendable. And that's the title of his book, Unoffendable. I think the larger culture has no idea what to do with the pervasive anger we see around us. And this lack of forgiveness, it is ruining our lives. The Bible says in Colossians that we should put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. And then Matthew 6 says, for if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. And that is good news. Those are some of the issues you'll hear today to help you in your walk with Christ.
And if you're not yet a believer, this discussion will help you also in letting go of the offenses a little better. And Brandt Hansen is well known for his unique and humorous syndicated radio broadcast. In fact, he's won an award for National Personality of the Year more than once. And he's an advocate for healing children with correctable disabilities through CURE International. And as Jim said, Brandt's book is called Unoffendable, How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. The book has now been revised and expanded, and we have copies of it here.
The details are in the program notes. Let's go ahead and get started with this conversation on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. 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? Well, number one, I think anger is being threatened at some level. I think we know that, that it's a 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.
Well, now you're kind of getting a little close here. I am a rich guy. 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. So there is a good response, I guess. Well, there's a natural anger that happens. Let's describe them. Let's go with what's a normal anger response and what is over the top.
Give us some idea. Well, if your parents are abusive, or you've gone through some horrible things in your life, somebody's taken the life of a family. 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 not taught out of anger. We're told that, well, it's righteous anger. My anger is righteous, so we hold on to 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? And there's no good scriptural argument for holding on to anger and having entitlement to it. Well, that's the bottom line, and there are different levels, as you said, the most serious being abused by another human being in some form or fashion and the need for the protection of anger. Anger hopefully will drive you to a better place by getting distance from that abusive situation. So we realize that. Absolutely. Most of our day-to-day lives, though, deal with lighter touches of this.
I'll give you an example, but I want you to fess up here and give us some of your examples. But one of mine, I was on a flight. I've got a lot of miles, almost 2 million miles on this airline, so I'm in a particular status, you know. So if I ask for an aisle seat, I usually get it. Well, somehow I got bumped from the aisle seat I had booked, and I'm in a middle seat. And I'm sitting there thinking, okay, do I get irritated?
I mean, I don't know, the other thing is travel conveniences when you're disrupted from your normal game plan. That's another area, a simple area, where you can get irritated quickly. John, you're laughing, but... No, I totally get it, and I'm just thinking of you in the middle seat. You're a big guy. But I had to, like, purposefully say, okay, mistakes happen, let's give it a pass, no big deal. And of course I called my wife and said, would you believe they put me in a middle seat, you know?
I'm six foot two and used to play football, all that stuff. But at some point you've got to say, it's okay, Lord, this is a first world problem. Well, I get aggravated when they put a six foot two guy in the middle seat. Well, by the way, they put all of us in the same row, usually. You know, okay, so this happened to me yesterday flying.
It's the same thing. Our flight was delayed. All the other flights, it wasn't too foggy to delay them, but it was too foggy for our flight.
And I'm watching the planes take off, and they kept delaying my flight, and I missed my connection. And I got crabby with the lady and had to apologize, and then she got a kick out of the fact that someone was apologizing. But it happens all the time. I do think as we get older and more mature, especially as believers, that happens less, because we realize this isn't a threat, and I can deal with life. But the biggest reason for actual forgiveness and surrendering our so-called right to anger is because we are sinners too. Like Jim, you know this.
Yeah, thanks. Like you have let people down as well. Sure. 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 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. Yeah. 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. Yeah.
I remember when I wrote Finding Home, my first book, about the story of being an orphan kid, which I had to go through all that as a young boy. And one of the criticisms I received, and you deal with criticism in Unoffendable, because criticism comes our way, certainly as public people. Totally. I remember one person when I first started doing the radio program here, 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. I mean, you can't do much about that kind of thing. But in this case, somebody reviewing the book said, Daly's best advice is to keep your expectations low, which for me, they just missed 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?
Absolutely. And when someone says, I can't believe what my mom just said. Like, think about that. Unpack that. How long has your mom been saying stuff like that?
Like, take out the trash? Yeah, 57 years. Right. At some point, go ahead and believe that people do things like people do, and they've done it for thousands of years.
I mean, the first two brothers that were born, one of them killed the other one. The idea that we're shocked by human behavior. 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. So to continue for us to be 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. 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, I think, a parking lot story where you almost got in a fight or something. Now, tell yours and I'll tell mine. You may be conflating different stories.
I don't know. We'll go for it. But yeah, I mean, 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 in the place where I was yesterday and I was blaming him. And all that to say, we're always the victims.
Absolutely. In our minds, and there's actually a proverb that says the first to testify always seems right. In my mind, guess who the first to testify is? In every conflict, in every inconvenience, 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 fistfight about a ping pong thing with my church fellas. Okay, this is good. I know.
Confession is good for the soul. I didn't even realize it was a fight. I don't pick up on cues, like I said, and then I realized this guy's about to punch me in the face.
What did you do? Did you cheat at ping pong? No, I was saying that the rules are the serve goes this way, like we were playing doubles. So you were straightening this guy out.
Totally. Well, I guess, but to have to stick it out. I mean, my point in the book was we stuck it out. We're still friends. 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. 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 in terms of occurrence.
They're happening with greater time distance, right? I think that's right. Is that the goal? What about the person who 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?
Yeah, I think so. 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. How do we know it's righteous anger?
We don't. That's just it. God knows His anger is righteous because He's holy. Okay, but some people hearing that right now are saying, no, no, Brandt, I know what righteous anger is when I get upset at this politician, or this abortion doctor, or that gay couple that lives nearby. But see, here's the problem.
You're a sinner, and God has chosen to forgive you, and it costs 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 irrelevant to this.
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've probably noticed.
They think tweeting about something. Look how angry I am. Everybody's angry all the time about everything.
That's today's culture. 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. Brant, you had to wrestle with some faith issues when you were a young man. I think there were some anger issues when you were a boy. Describe what was going on and how you began to get a handle on your anger even as a child. 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.
Right. How old were you, and how did you translate that? This was all the way growing up. So was it, you thought it was hypocritical? Oh, totally. I was scared at home.
My parents divorced when I was in seventh or eighth grade and then remarried each other and then divorced again. Squaring that with the reality of faith is very difficult, and it made me extremely skeptical. And I am a very skeptical person. I'm so skeptical, and I write about this some, but I'm so skeptical it's chased me back around to Jesus. That's a good thing.
Yes, I think it is, because you see human nature, I think, and I don't know anybody else who does anything about it. He's the only one that acknowledges sin and then does something about it that I can find. And the things he said about how we're not good, none of us. It just strikes me as, that's accurate. So he says that 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.
That's big. Yeah, and I appreciate your heart. I think in the book you mentioned a time when you were prepping for your radio program, and maybe you didn't recognize it at first, but you were going to a subscription. Oh, no, I recognized it. Okay, so rather than me paint the wrong picture, why don't you paint the picture?
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 cost a subscription. It was like $50 a month, and it gives you 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 and said, hey, what's going on, man?
Just checking in. And I was like, oh, no, he can see 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.
And so I could barely function. 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. So here's the non-Christian guy, seemingly. 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. Is that a one-time decision? No, it's every day, and that's what I think. No, I mean, I'm thinking about a specific offense that has occurred. Like even as big as the deal with your dad, did you forgive him and move on?
No, I think it's an ongoing decision. It does get easier, but I think 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. Jesus knows us, and he's giving us a way of forgiveness where we actually flourish. And if we reject that way, we're going to suffer. And again, not just physiologically, but our relationships suffer. We go through, it torpedoes other relationships because we've got anger that we haven't let go of, because we're constantly living in reaction to that thing that happened to us yesterday or 20 or 40 years ago, and we've got to let it go.
Yeah. You share a story in the book about a car accident. I think that, 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? Okay, she's extremely intelligent, and her dad is a very high-ranking professor at a major university, and she's an intellect 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. Wow, the power of forgiveness.
Yeah, because there's nothing else in the world that would give you that resource to do that. My wife was attacked by a guy on the street last year, and we had to wrestle through this. This is after I wrote the book.
So it's like, okay, now what you got? And the police didn't arrest him. I had to wrestle with that after writing the book. The police did not arrest the guy, and he kept walking past our front window.
We live on the sidewalk practically, like we're in a townhouse, an old townhouse. I saw him every day walking past. My wife would see him. I went to the mayor, the police, like, why haven't you arrested this guy? He assaulted her on the street, threw her on the ground, put her in a headlock, all this stuff. But I had to pray about it. And I went, and finally I was relentless and got him arrested.
But it took a long time, but I never gave up. I still was taking action, but we were praying for him to the point that we felt for him. And we actually asked for leniency in the sentencing.
We wanted mental health evaluations. But we got that way because we realized we are sinners. That's a long story short.
It's a good story. I know people realize, too, I'm not against putting someone in jail or anything like that. It was just amazing how your heart changes when you surrender that right.
And I didn't give up on getting him arrested. I think it would be really compelling in a world of offense if Christians were the ones that were not offendable. Because we know we're broken. Without a doubt. I mean, that should be the way, right? Yeah, wouldn't that be incredibly compelling to people? Like, yeah, there's right and wrong, but we're broken, too.
Yeah. It's all these scriptures about how anger resides in the lap of fools. It's all negative about human anger. In James 1-20, it actually says, and people never memorize this verse because it doesn't work for our theology, but the verse actually says there's nothing about man's anger that brings about the righteousness of God. And we still think, well, my anger is righteous. Like, that's not in the Bible. God's anger is righteous. God's vengeance is righteous. He's entitled to certain things because he's holy that we're not entitled to. That is powerful. So powerful. 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, role play with me. Oh, man. I guess we'll take you to the airport, Jim.
Hey, if you can drive for me, that's perfect right there. Here's the thing. You're sitting on a plane, and you're not getting the service you think you deserve. I think you could 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. Okay, so you guys have brought a lot of travel examples, and I do travel, and so I've experienced some of those incidents and had some of those feelings, but I'm thinking, Brandt, 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? Well, again – Because I know everything we've talked about here, but there are buttons. I think understanding it, first of all, that you're not entitled to righteous anger, again, and entering into, before you even go into that situation, if you can ask God on the way home, for 10 seconds, please help me to be forgiving. 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. 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 going to end. You're always going to 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 doesn't give me a heads-up on directions when we're driving, like, how long is that going to go 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 then reminding ourselves before we go into it.
I do think workplace is actually not easy for people, and people are constantly offended at work. And it's a great idea 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 him or her anyway? Brant, when you look at it, I so often think of marriage in that context, because 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? 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 them 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.
Totally. 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. And this is love.
Yes. Like when you don't feel it, and you still extend grace to the person behind the counter or the 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.
That's exactly right. 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. 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. 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.
We'll post Brant's number. 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 Gene 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 job here and unoffendable trying to help us better understand the journey the Lord has for us. Thank you. Thank you, guys.
Appreciate it. Well, what a good conversation today on Focus on the Family with Brant Hansen on a really serious topic that affects so many. And if you're struggling with anger, or you're sensing your home as a powder keg, maybe you have a real division with others, give us a call, because we have caring Christian counselors, and we'd be happy to set up a time for you to talk with one of them. Yeah, Jon, and it takes a lot of energy to be angry. Think of that.
And as Brant said, letting go of that anger demonstrates God's heart for others, and you get a benefit from that as well. If this conversation has spoken to you, I want to invite you to follow up with us. Start by asking for Brant's book, Unoffendable. And if you can make a monthly gift of any amount to support the outreach of Focus on the Family today, we'll be glad to send you a copy of the book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. If you're not able to support Focus monthly, make a one-time gift, and we'll send you the book as well. Call for the book or to speak with one of our counselors. Our number is 800-232-6459.
You can also find all of the links in the episode notes. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. I've received some great tools from the counselors that have changed my life and my marriage. To begin the journey of finding health, go to HopeRestored.com today.
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