Last week, we began our conversation with Brant Hansen about his book “Unoffendable.” It focuses on anger and forgiveness and is truly relevant to us all. If you missed the first part of our conversation, I would encourage you to go back and read that, then return here for part two.
If you were going to boil the message of your book Unoffendable into a sentence or two, what would that message be?
Forgiveness is the best way to live. It’s the healthiest way to live and it’s freedom!
How does someone start down the road of being Unoffendable?
Couple things. Number one, decide that you’re not going to be shocked anymore at the nature of the world because we live in perpetual shock at human behavior. Oftentimes we’re getting mad about the same things over and over. Secondly, go into the day thinking “I’m going to forgive people in advance,” because people are going to do people stuff. It doesn’t help me to boil with anger. Now the resource for being able to do this…ultimately, I have to get back to what Jesus has done for me. If he’s forgiven me, I have to extend that to other people. I’m so thankful for what God has done, and he’s telling me I have to release my anger against people because of what he’s done. Again, I forgive people, not because they deserve it, but because I didn’t.
Is there a difference between God’s anger and human anger?
Absolutely, and I’m glad you mentioned that. His anger is righteous because he’s not a sinner. He can be trusted with anger, we can’t. We always think our anger is justified but we’re hopelessly biased. His anger is righteous, his vengeance is righteous. He’s allowed vengeance too, and we’re not. His judgement is righteous. There are certain things that he is allowed that we are not because he’s him, and we are us. So, he can handle it and he can be trusted with it.
How does letting go of anger help us and how does holding on to anger impact us?
Yeah, those are tied together. There are immense physiological consequences to anger. The stress that stays in your body causes weight gain, changes to your skin. It impacts your blood pressure. It causes cortisol spikes, adrenaline to stay in the system…this stuff will kill you. We’re NOT supposed to live like this. So, releasing it, you’re instantly going to be healthier. You’ll also think more clearly. Anger does not enhance your judgement. It clouds it. You can still act to address injustice. You can still act to set things right, but you do it with a clear mind…and…anger ultimately becomes about you. If I’m driven by love I can actually address societal ills, injustices, in a way that’s clear-headed and focused on compassion. So, there are many benefits to living this way, including anger no longer bleeds into other relationships and you’re able to be with people, enjoy people, laugh more, listen better and grow instead of simmering over past hurts.
How does forgiveness have an effect in all we are talking about here?
For someone who is a Christian believer we shouldn’t be surprised. Forgiveness isn’t just a side issue in Christianity, it’s THE issue. If we don’t forgive, we’re not forgiven. We’re commanded to forgive. You can’t say I forgive you, but I’m going to keep my anger against you. That’s incoherent. We forgive out of gratitude for what God has done for us. This is a lifestyle and it’s Jesus’ way of living. He’s the way. We’re supposed to follow his way. It turns out his way is genius.
Many of us like to take the easy path, but the reality is that forgiveness can be hard. What is your response to that thought?
It’s hard. But there’s something that’s even harder. That’s living a life of unforgiveness. Also, it should be said, that forgiveness gets easier over time as you practice it. Just like anything else you practice. It starts to become second nature so that when someone cuts you off you don’t respond by flipping them off. You might pray for them, or you might not even notice it and think well, that’s what humans do.
How has your life personally changed since you decided to live an unoffendable life and practice forgiveness toward others?
I’m happier. I’m also, strangely enough, much more fun to be around. I don’t feel it’s my job to evaluate everybody’s spiritual health or to tsk, tsk anybody’s moral behavior. I still believe in right and wrong as much as ever before but I’m more apt to leave it to God to judge people. And I’m rooting for people! What happens when you root for people is that people can tell that you like them instead of that you’re judging them. And when people can tell that you like them, they want to be around you and you can have more influence with them. And you can listen, and you don’t control people anymore. You don’t try to control people. That’s a very refreshing thing in this culture, someone who’s at peace, not judging, and truly rooting for you. That is a very, very rare thing.
How is anger a hurdle to acting against injustice?
We’re so busy patting ourselves on the back for tweeting something or putting a sign in our lawn or something…but what did you actually do? Did you give? Did you sacrifice? We think we did our thing just by being angry because it’s righteous, right? I would posit that what God is really looking for is action to protect the vulnerable and do what’s right.
You often share a quote about forgiveness from Dallas Willard, what is it?
To paraphrase: Forgiveness is hard, unforgiveness is much harder.
Additional thoughts before we close?
The topic is so relevant for everybody. Everybody wants to talk about and needs to. Everybody can relate to this. No one is exempt from this. We all struggle and have to learn to forgive.
How does an accurate understanding of forgiveness help us?
If I take the whole calvary story seriously, I am responsible for that. How then do I have the standing to turn around and point my finger at someone. I can’t. This practice of forgiving and choosing to be unoffendable forces me into humility and forces me into gratitude. You can’t be grateful and angry at the same time. Gratitude is the healthiest thing you can manifest in your personality. Practicing this way of Jesus sets you free, it makes you healthier. It makes you a grateful person. And that changes everything.
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