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945991: Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace

A Brief Review of

Permission to Speak Freely:
Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace

By Anne Jackson.
Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
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Reviewed by Michelle Van Loon (

Anne Jackson has gained quite a following at her blog over the last few years with her honest, insightful writing. She specializes in flinch-free truth-telling about herself, the church, and the broken world around her.

A couple of years ago, she lobbed a great question at her blog readers: What is the one thing you feel you can’t say in the church? Permission To Speak Freely captures the flavor of their responses.  Jackson got hundreds of answers, ranging from “I had an affair on my wife and I still think about the other woman” to “Even though I’m a staff member at my church, most of my deep and significant relationships are with people I met online” to “I was raped by a counselor… I thought he was a friend”.

The book is peppered with these confessions in the form of full-color pages that must have been fun for the graphic designer(s) tasked with properly honoring these anonymous words. But the bulk of the book is simple text featuring Jackson’s reflections and free-verse poetry on the subject of fear and confession. She lays out the mess of the struggles she’s had including the confusion in the wake of the sexual abuse she experienced as a teen, her addictions, her square peg experience as a church staffer and more in order to give readers, as a friend of hers called it, “the gift of going second”:

“Whenever somebody confesses something, and they’re the first to do it, its usually a pretty hard step to take. They don’t know how people will respond. They fear all the judgment and isolation. But they do it anyway.

“What happens on the other side of that confession is something beautiful. When you confess, there somebody on the other side of that confession who could very well be keeping a secret too. So when you go first, you’re opening up this amazing opportunity to trust. You’re saying, ‘I’m broken’. That trust carries so much power with it…”

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