Chances are if you spend any time on social media, or have happened to wander into your local bookstore over the past year, you have seen Rachel Hollis’s beautiful, beaming face staring back at you.
Over the past couple of years, she has gained recognition in the blogging world for her go-get-’em enthusiasm and her stories of self-empowerment. She is known around the world for her self-help methods, inspirational quotes, motivational books and all around inclusivity.
“I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. I love Jesus, and I drink alcohol. I love Jesus, and some of my best friends are gay,” she recently posted on Facebook.
Hollis has worn a lot of hats in her lifetime. She comes from a background in event planning, but over the years has grown into an entrepreneur, podcaster, TV guest commentator, viral social media star and most recently, a best-selling author.
In February 2018, Hollis released “Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be,” and since then has sat at the top of the Religion & Spirituality category on Amazon.
In “Girl, Wash Your Face,” Hollis broadcasts a relatable message of female empowerment and self-love, all while urging women to jump out of their comfort zones and become who they’ve always wanted to be.
Hollis, who has over 1 million followers on Instagram alone, has grown her community of followers partially due to her relatable personality. She touts being real, authentic and genuine, all while sharing silly, and sometimes embarrassing, moments from her life.
The first sentence of her book immediately introduces readers to her humor and honesty as she writes: “I peed my pants last week.”
Shortly after this, readers will hear the story of her mentally abusive boyfriend, whom she only managed to break up with after finding love for herself.
“Hey, I am done with this,” she writes, recalling the breakup. “I am done with you. Don’t ever call me again.”
Readers across the world likely cheered Hollis on as she bravely turned off her phone and moved on for good.
Throughout “Girl, Wash Your Face,” Hollis debunks “lies” that she says have become ingrained into women’s heads, like “loving him is enough for me,” or “I’m not a good mom,” or “I should be further along by now.”
Despite being published by Thomas Nelson, a well-known Christian publisher, and despite the author being a self-proclaimed Christian, some in the Christian community have questioned the truths in Hollis’s book.
Hollis definitely champions women and certainly has an enthusiastic and encouraging attitude, but there seems to an underlying disconnect with her belief in God and the overarching theme of “self-love” as the solution to life’s problems. She depicts her journey from the bottom to the top, crediting herself and her own efforts for each achievement.
“Sadly, Hollis doesn’t attribute this wisdom to knowing who she is in Christ,” Christian blogger and podcaster Alisa Childers recently pointed out. “She credits self-love.”
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Childers went on to point out that although “Girl, Wash Your Face” is not a devotional, it’s still marketed as a Christian book with “references to the Bible, Jesus, her faith, and Christianity” seen throughout the book.
Sarah Hardee, the face behind the Christ Centered Mama Blog, said that she couldn’t force herself to finish the book, also because of Hollis’s focus on self-help and self-love.
There are three major problem areas within “Girl, Wash Your Face” that Hardee, Childers and other Christian figures have taken time to point out, and since her books are so popular, are worth explaining:
Self-love is the best love
“You are meant to be the hero of your own story.”
“You, and only you are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are.”
“You should be the very first of your priorities.”
“Girl, Wash Your Face” often makes statements that point back to self. Hollis details the wisdom she had gained over the years, but as Childers noted, doesn’t trace this back to Christ, but instead back to herself.
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Hardee argued that the message of self-help that Hollis teaches in her book is fundamentally antithetical to the Bible.
“Thinking of self is the opposite of thinking of God,” she wrote. “Jesus never said that our lives were dependent on ourselves, but rather, that we should lay our lives down for the sake of others. He said that the meek, the shy, the brokenhearted, and the poor of spirit are blessed.”
Lisa Yvonne, the author behind the blog Graceful Abandon, further pointed out that Hollis’s obsession with self-care and self-love ultimately points toward satisfying your heart, which the Bible warns of in Jeremiah 17:9.
“Her versions of self-care and self-love are all about satisfying the longings of your heart and fulfilling emotional voids,” Yvonne wrote. “She doesn’t speak at all of surrendering your will, laying down your life, or sacrificial love.”
Christian anecdotes are strewn throughout “Girl, Wash Your Face.” At one point, Hollis, whether she does so intentionally or not, she makes the case for religious pluralism, which is the idea that all faiths lead to God.
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“Just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone … ,” she writes. “Faith is one of the most abused instances of this. We decide that our religion is right; therefore, every other religion must be wrong.”
“Logically, this sentiment can’t be true,” Childers retorted, “because all religions contradict each other at some point. And Christianity is, by nature, exclusive.”
“It makes no sense to say that every religion can be right. Islam and Christianity? They aren’t compatible. Hinduism and Buddism? Nope. Sikhism and Animism? Nope. None of them jive together,” Hardee argued.
“A religion isn’t a religion if it doesn’t have some kind of exclusivity claim or preferred lifestyle,” Hardee added, further pointing out that it is impossible to believe in Jesus, but simultaneously believe that all religions are true.
Self-saving beats Savior-saving
Throughout the book, the messages of “do better,” and “be better” are promoted intensely. Hollis drives home the point that you are the only one who can fix your life, and no other person or figure can do this for you.
Technically, she’s right that no regular human can do this, but she neglects to focus on the fact that Jesus’s saving grace is what has the power to “fix” us. Throughout the book, she gives situations and scenarios where she came out on top because she essentially acted as her own savior.
Childers pointed out that in every single scenario Hollis mentions, the answer is “always something like picking yourself up by your bootstraps and striving and trying and running a marathon and getting therapy and reciting mantras and reading a good blog post (she may be on to something there) and seeing a guru and drinking wine and not drinking wine and relaxing and taking a vacation and keeping the promises you make to yourself.”
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Instead of pointing her readers to the eternal Savior who is Christ, Hollis urges them to look within.
“Make no mistake, sisters. This book is all about YOU,” Childers wrote.
But Childers pointed out that the real solution isn’t found in Hollis’s self-help, self-love book, but instead found in our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
“Jesus offers us true joy and peace, but only after we realize that we are not the center of our own lives and we are no longer in charge,” Childers wrote.
Matthew 16:24 reads: “’If anyone would come after me,’ he says, ‘let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”
Katelyn Beaty, author of “A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World,” noted how “Hollis’s story is a series of unmitigated successes.”
She added that unlike other books (she references “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg), Hollis fails to share any real personal failures, only downfalls that eventually turned into blessings. Beaty warns that this idea of hard work always amounting to great successes can lead to problematic thinking.
She points out that you can see Hollis “veering into this prosperity gospel theology” throughout the book “by communicating that if you simply work hard enough, you’ll reap the financial, professional, and physical rewards that you deserve.”
Although many of the “lies” Hollis addresses in her book are real and prominent in the minds of many around the world, and worthy topics for Christians work on in their own lives, these Christian authors argue that the solution she provides is inadequate and seems to run counter to standard Christian beliefs about our imperfect human state and what Christ did for us on the cross.
For any Christian women who have read “Girl, Wash Your Face,” we pray these observations point you to the true saving source that is higher than yourself. There is no amount of self-love, self-help or self-reliance that can save us from our sin. Only Christ can do that. Turn to Him, not yourself, and then you’ll hear what He has to say about your worth will you find true value in who He created you to be.
Wash your face, take time to relax, but at the end of the day, the most important type of “self-care” we can engage in is spending time with God, and knowing who we are in Him.