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A Review of
Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better
Paperback: W Publishing Group, 2015
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Reviewed by Katherine Hiegel
There’s no such thing as righteous anger, according to Brent Hansen.
Really? Was this, I wondered, another trite “feel-good-because-love-wins” book? I’ll admit it: I started out skeptical. As a matter of fact, I found myself feeling a little indignant by Unoffendable’s entire premise. I recognized the irony of that, so I decided to go into the book with an open (albeit discerning) mind. And my findings were surprising.
Ultimately, Hansen builds a plausible and compelling case by using Scripture and, especially, the example of Jesus as his guides.
Unoffendable seems to promise more than it could possibly deliver, and Hansen’s humorous, informal tone is clearly intended to connect with the “young and hip” crowd. But Hansen is persistent and passionate in advocating his stance. His view is not that we shouldn’t feel anger—that’s nigh unto impossible, after all—but that we should deny it any hold whatsoever over our hearts and lives.
Drawing from the writings of Martin Luther King, C.S. Lewis and others, Hansen argues that Christians should strive to be truly unoffendable: no acting outraged when people sin, or even harm us personally. No setting ourselves up as judge and jury of wrongdoing in every scenario, either. No one has any rightful claim to anger or bitterness, Hansen says, because as forgiven sinners, we’re no better than anyone else.
Makes sense, and yet…I remained unconvinced, even halfway through the book. Unoffendable is not for the faint of heart; reading it hurts—not because it’s bad, but because it’s honest. Whether you agree or disagree with Hansen’s arguments, they will rouse strong emotions and opinions within you. Still, his thoughts are undeniably poignant and applicable—not only to society’s often over-the-top political correctness or holier-than-thou attitudes in Christian circles, but also to the way I regard the blunders of my own family members. Or coworkers. Or fellow drivers.
Hansen does do an excellent job of covering all the bases. He examines the ramifications of his arguments and tackles the tough questions, such as cases of gross injustice—shouldn’t we get angry about those? And doesn’t not being angry mean that we’re giving sin a pass? He delves into well-known Bible verses about anger (Ephesians, Psalms) and bounces from modern stories of disgruntled radio listeners to descriptions of antelopes’ fight-or-flight responses. He applies his arguments to multiple facets of life, including different spiritual disciplines: rest, humility, and peace, contrasted with exhaustion, arrogance, and anxiety. It may seem like a stretch to imply that taking offense is the common denominator in our struggles and sins, but, to Hansen, the real energy crisis lies in that very same human susceptibility. How much time, effort, and grief would we save ourselves if we gave up our petty crusades and vendettas born of self-righteous importance?
Sometimes Hansen tries a bit too hard to sound witty, straying dangerously close to the thin line that separates amusing and annoying. He tends to present himself as self-deprecatingly average; at times this tactic works—he isn’t full of himself and his ideas—, but occasionally it has the effect of undermining his credibility as a writer. (Why should I listen to this guy if he’s working so hard to convince me he’s actually Joe Average? Why should I buy his book?) His habit of randomly tossing out pop culture comparisons may irritate or befuddle some readers; still, it’s almost impossible to feel bored while reading his colorful and entertaining anecdotes.
Hansen’s is unflinchingly earnest and real with his audience, something I appreciate in a writer. He doesn’t coddle his readers, but he also isn’t afraid to criticize and laugh at himself. Unoffendable has a refreshing kind of freedom and lucidity to it, and therein lies its charm; Hansen’s self-awareness is palpable as he describes his (and others’) struggles with offensive people and situations.
Ironically, if you find yourself—as I did—feeling a little, well, offended, it may just prove that Hansen’s premise is dead on. Unoffendable is a book that will challenge you, even poke you in some tender spots. However, throughout, Hansen’s overriding message is one of mercy and love, offering some comfort to wounded people…and, really, that’s everyone.