This is a series of posts on a book I am not recommending you read, but will provide the link so you can read the first couple of chapters for yourself, if you would like, or purchase if, in spite of my review, you are thinking there might be something in it for you.

The Danger of Conflation

The book does address the issue of conflating feeling and action (though these seem to be conflated so far throughout the book), and rightly states they are two different things.

We are not to just pretend anger away or feel guilty for the initial emotion of anger. But we are to deal with it …

Brant Hansen, “Unoffendable,” p.94

Excellent beginning.

… with the goal of eradicating it within us.

Brant Hansen, “Unoffendable,” p.94

Not so excellent end.

Process, Not Eradicate

You and I certainly are to deal with our anger. We are to process our anger’s source and target, we are to discover the why and wherefore, and we are to wisely assess what our anger means. From the meaning will come the action. Often enough, we realize our anger is far more about our own story than what is happening around us, or the person standing before us. In each of these latter cases we have some maturing to do. Character development, growth in emotional capacity, in wisdom and relational style are all in store.

Nevertheless, there certainly are times when our anger is leveled against something engineered by evil. Then, our emotion of anger is the right inner response. What happens next is entirely subjective to the context. For twenty-nine years, Jesus had gone to the temple bazaar during the high holy days. Perhaps His father or mother had even bought lambs and doves there and exchanged their Galilean coins for temple currency. There is no indication Jesus did anything but quietly go along.

But in the thirtieth year, Jesus made a whip of cords, and famously drove out the vendors and money changers. Before was not the right time, now was. Before this would have been the wrong response, but it was the right one, now.

If Not Jesus, Then Paul

“Unoffendable” claims Jesus can never be our example in the area of anger. I disagree. But Paul certainly can be our example, and in fact instructs us to model our lives after his.

And Paul did get angry!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

As for the things that you have learned and received and heard and noticed in me, do them, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NRSV, emphases mine)

This is not the only place where we are exhorted to follow the template of Paul’s life but it is a fairly well-known example. And it is within the context of Paul’s instruction to settle our thought-life in goodly places. I pulled out two specific places to highlight the importance of understanding the right side, the Holy-Spirit’s-illuminated side, of offence: what is true, what is just. When we see what is untrue and unjust, it is good of us to recognize that and do what we can to make it right.

For example, when Jesus spoke of others’ offence against us, the Lord did not condemn the others’ anger so much as exhorted us to go to them and make it right before we brought anything to God in worship.

Where I can agree with the author is that our actions are better done after we have processed our anger and discovered the complex of other motivations that can now be freed to do their good work.

Anger, like pain, signals there is something wrong. Sometimes very wrong. It floods the brain with its warning siren. When we give ourselves time to dampen the siren’s loud blare, to assess what prompted the anger, to understand what our part in it all is, and to – by the very important way – do this all in the presence and guidance of God’s Spirit as well as wise counselors, we will know from the Lord what to do next, if anything.

So no, we do not “relinquish our right to be angry” (p.100).

Instead, we

  • relinquish our tendency to nurse and harbor our anger like Gollum with his precious.
  • accept that the image of God within and upon us includes anger.
  • also accept that anger in humans can have a dark side due to sin.
  • entrust ourselves fully to the Lord through God’s Spirit so that we may fully experience the Spirit of Christ fully entrusted to us and move from our initial emotion of anger to life-giving, justice-making motives and actions.

The Science of Stress

A scientist is introduced, discussing the endocrinology of stress and emotions concomitant with feeling threatened. Then, the astonishing and false statement is made,

Animals don’t harm themselves with worry. They don’t go into fight mode by creating threats with their imaginations. Humans do.

Brant Hansen, “Unoffendable,” p.104

Anyone who has rescued an animal of any kind understands how not true this is. Like humans, animals which have experienced trauma need help for this very thing.

It is better to understand the physiology and neurology of trauma and address the very real pain accordingly.

The rest of the chapter discusses the disadvantages of feelings of insecurity. But the answer is not to simply “get over myself,” but rather to get some therapy. Insecurity, acute self-comparison, constant need for reassurance and all the rest are, to my mind, signals that therapy is needed. If I feel constant nagging pain in some part of my body, it is often a signal a physician is needed. The same holds true for emotional pain.

Another astonishing claim is made in the next chapter.

There’s only one way to not be threatened by anything, and that’s if you have nothing to lose.

Brant Hansen, “Unoffendable,” p. 111

To my ears, that sounds existential. Paul went in another direction. He encouraged believers to see themselves as enormously wealthy, so that whatever they “lost,” let us say, would be easily replaced. In counselor parlance, this is what growing our emotional capacity is all about.

People who grow up in dysfunctional homes have early experiences of good being jarringly, unexpectedly, inexplicably wrenched away, sometimes in horrific ways. Grownups have experienced the same.

PTSD is a growing concern among those who have been wounded by traumatic experiences. Many women, in particular, suffer from a form of hypervigilance, having been molested as children, or sexually assaulted as adults. How do we cope with our houses burning down, the loss of our jobs, mounting bills, the death of a beloved, or a host of other truly grieve-worthy losses?

“Unoffendable” says do not get offended, trust God.

The Bible says, mourn with those who mourn.

The Bible, not “Unoffendable”

Though Job’s example is addressed, the core truth of Job is entirely missed.

Job is the classic example. He had no idea what was going on, and he was left with only one thing: his trust in God Himself. He did not know the big picture, and yet he believed … there has to be a picture, here, and it’s one that I can’t see. And we know from the story, he was right. There was a backstory; he just didn’t know what it was.

Brant Hansen, “Unoffendable,” p.115

Job gets no response from God at all for nearly forty chapters until he finally questions God. Only then does God interact with Job, and show him the glory of God, something Job could not experience until he engaged with God in his own pain.

There are far better heavenly perspectives to take than to try to convince ourselves – or worse, others – we are not offended, or hurt, or angry, or terrified. In fact, I highly recommend another book that provides better answers:

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