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Originally published August 2018, updated April 2019
Is this book by Rachel Hollis Christian? Is it intended for women who love the Lord and believe the Bible to be true, or are the “haters” right when they say it’s anti-Biblical? A look at the book and a clear understanding of the controversy surrounding it.
The internet is abuzz with praise for the book “Girl, Wash Your Face” by author Rachel Hollis. And now that more and more women have read it, the questions are starting: “Should Christian women read ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ or does it contradict the Bible?”
It’s simply a book meant to encourage women to be the best they can be, to practice loving themselves more, to value their worth, and stop beating themselves up.
True. But it is published by Thomas Nelson, a faith-based imprint of Harpers Collins and Christian women are who Rachel Hollis and her publishing team have primarily targeted with this book and her social media messaging.
In fact, Rachel Hollis has built a community of over one million raving fans, based on the foundations of unconditional love and hilarious and heart-wrenching honesty.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s dive deeper and see if it is.
(If you’re looking for an in-depth, Christian review of ‘Girl, Stop Apologizing’ go HERE)
Is ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ Biblically Founded?
When I listened to the audiobook and later read it on my Kindle, I found myself shouting, “YES! Amen!” at the top of my lungs at some points.
But then at other things I found myself scratching my head and thinking something was just a little off.
By the end of the book and after a good bit of prayer and diving into the Scripture to really seek out some truth, I realized that it’s because jumbled in with the beautiful truths she shares there were also those that were artfully twisted distortions of the Gospel.
And the danger is that it’s so close to the actual truth in the Word, and so very much what our idol-making hearts want to believe, that it’s an insanely easy message to embrace. And yet, it’s a lie.
But because it’s published by respected Christian publishers, Rachel has a Christian audience, and so many godly women are embracing this book, it bears looking a little deeper. What is so captivating?
So I kept reading…
Self-love As Idolatry
In her book, Rachel talks a lot about needing to love yourself enough. She talks about ways to rest, to refresh, to recover from the struggles of life. She focuses on self care and happiness, self-love and self-respect.
And while I don’t think self care is selfish (and indeed it’s even necessary!), there’s a godly way to do it.
Your focus should never be your happiness; it’s your holiness that should be a priority. We are called to live a life of reckless abandon for God, not for our own benefit.
True loving of self in a way that honors God means learning to die to yourself and live in Him and for Him (Galatians 2:20).
What Rachel Hollis suggests is just a really appealing version of idolatry.
Her versions of self care and self love are all about satisfying the longings of your heart and fulfilling emotional voids; she doesn’t speak at all of surrendering your will, laying down your life, or sacrificial love.
Or the apostle Paul. Because being beaten and shipwrecked and nearly dying for your faith certainly doesn’t line up with Rachel’s ideology at all.
Rachel’s book emphasizes a level of self love that elevates your comfort over obedience to God’s will and commands. This is nothing short of idolatry.
Related: 5 Ways You Can Make God Happy
Self love isn’t supposed to be about putting yourself first; it’s about accepting God’s love toward you and understanding that He is the source of your worth.
Self care isn’t elevating your needs above others; it’s accepting God’s rest.
Rachel Hollis’ “Christian” message seems to confuse the world’s definitions with God’s truth found in the Bible.
Rachel clearly states that her vision board has a picture of a successful women CEOs, a tropical destination, and Beyonce.
This hit me square between the eyes. And broke my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a fan of the vision board idea…done in a way that puts your focus where it belongs.
My 2017 vision board had a picture of the world on it, the name of missionaries we supported, several Bible verses, and some things our family wanted to do together (games, devotions, and a trip). It also stated our intention to daily live out Matthew 28:19.
We put our focus before us. And today we are missionaries in Eastern Europe. There’s something very empowering about focusing your energy and attention each day in a singular direction. But as Christians we know that direction needs to be JESUS.
Focusing on material gain, vacation…and Beyonce? Nope, not the message I want to pass around to the women in my circle. Or any other women, for that matter. I want to point them to God and things that please Him.
He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The only way, the only truth, and the only life.
I can’t imagine telling my daughter to put Beyonce on her vision board and endeavor to become like her. The only role model I want for myself or my children is Jesus.
We love to read the biographies of those who have lived with that reckless abandon for the cause of Christ, who have died to self and sacrificed comfort so that lost and dying people can come to know the living God. BUT we only endeavor to be like Jesus, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
To glorify wealth, comfort, and career success over doing God’s work just makes me sad.
It’s Not Okay For Christians To Be Politically Correct
Listen, I get it. It’s no fun to walk around offending people.
And the church really does need to practice shutting up more. After all, we are the first to shoot our own wounded and the division in the body of Christ over insignificant things is truly devastating.
But it’s not okay to focus on being politically correct. It isn’t.
What is okay is loving everyone, regardless of their sin. In fact, this is good and right. We love everyone, no matter what sin issues they struggle with.
But embracing that sin? Celebrating it? That’s a big, fat NO!
It’s necessary to stand on the Word of God. And the Bible has some very clear statements to make about what is and is not okay.
What are some of these politically incorrect truths?
There is only one faith that leads to salvation; Jesus, the Son of God, is it.
All life is precious; abortion is wrong.
Marriage is between one man and one woman, not anyone who is in love regardless of gender.
My job isn’t to point out these truths. But it’s not to ignore them, either.
Listen, those are sins. But so is my overeating (gluttony, anyone?). And so is my bad attitude and creative work arounds when my husband or someone in authority tells me to do something I don’t want to do (rebellion and pride, totally my Achilles’ heel).
And no one can change my heart but God. And I know it needs to change, and I work daily to honor Him. But no one yelling at me for it is going to help. In fact, I’m more likely to dig my heels in.
So why should I go around thinking that shouting someone else’s sins with a bullhorn to my mouth will change their hearts? Why will my pointing finger change their direction?
It’s an effort in futility…and it does more harm than good.
But Jesus? He changes lives. The Holy Spirit can do more for someone’s heart than all of my shouting and pointing can do.
So on the surface I get what Rachel’s saying when she embraces all the people. But there’s a difference between loving a lost and dying world well and celebrating the sin that they cling to instead of running to Jesus.
And that’s not okay. Our love and relationship with people should lead them toward the truths of the Gospel and to Jesus Himself, not just toward feeling loved and appreciated by someone who is called a Christian.
We Embrace People…Not Sin
In this Facebook post, Rachel Hollis shares her worldview and a good description of her ideas in the book. Let’s look at it. She says:
I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. I love Jesus, and I drink alcohol…If you’re looking for someone who’s perfect, you’ve come to the wrong gal. If you’re looking for a community of people who are just like you, you’ve come to the wrong tribe…
Diversity is our jam. Judgment is our enemy. Encouragement is our aim.
I love everyone AS THEY ARE and if you’re in this community, that means you commit to loving everyone as well. You know, just like Jesus would do. I am a Christian but I fully love and accept you and want to hang out with you if you’re a Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or Jedi or love the opposite sex or love the same sex…There are so many different versions of each and every style on this planet. There is beauty in that dichotomy. The kingdom of God is in that dichotomy.
Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?
“Love people like Jesus would.” Yes! Amen!
Jesus ate dinner with the tax collector, with the harlots, with religious bigots.
But He also healed them and said, “Go and sin no more.” He also said to repent of your sins.
He never once said get cozy and comfy and celebrate them.
And “The kingdom of God is in that dichotomy”? Yeah, not so much. That gap? It’s what stands between eternity with Jesus…or without.
What does the Bible say about the Kingdom of God?
Matthew 4:17 says “Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
See? The Kingdom of God should call us to repentance. That’s not what this message does. Mark 1:15 also says this. John 18:36 tells us that Kingdom is NOT of this world.
Romans 14:17 says that the kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Are these things righteous? Hold them up to the Word. I don’t have to answer that question for you, if you’re looking at the Word. It speaks for itself.
Don’t let what sounds good overtake what IS good.
Don’t let what sounds close to the Truth replace the actual words from Scripture. Don’t allow yourself to listen to those who would ask, “Did God really say…?” For indeed, that’s a trick as old as time.
Should Christian Women Read ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’?
No. No, they should not. Not even if they think they are mature enough to chew the meat and spit out the bones.
Because seeds are still being planted. Those things that she said that excited me and got me all “Yes and amen!’ before I saw the rest more clearly were very helpful and it would be easy to say I’m glad I took those thoughts away.
But the problem is that I also took away the lies. And millions of other women are embracing them.
Yes, it’s good to wash your face. Take care of yourself. Make sure you have done what you need to do to be a wife, mom, and human.
But don’t forget that no matter how good you are, you’re still a sinner in need of salvation and your goodness isn’t good enough.
Only God’s grace can redeem you. Only His mercies can restore you. Only His sacrifice can qualify you to actually be good enough. Nothing you do on your own can do that.
So rest in that truth! Check out this awesome blog post written by another Christian blogger who talks more about this book and what is right and wrong in it if you want to learn more. BuzzFeed even published an article about the “dark truth” in the message of this book.
But what if I’m a mature Christian?
So what? Does that make you less susceptible?
Eve literally walked with God and fell for a question that was *this* close to the truth. Peter walked with Jesus, in His closest circle of friends even, and denied Him. I’m certainly not less likely to fall prey to false doctrine than they.
And this is a false doctrine.
It’s certainly not the only one out there, but it’s one that stirred my heart in a way that few do — it’s proximity to the truth of the Gospel makes it such a dangerous weapon in the hands of an enemy whose singular purpose is to render you ineffective for the Kingdom.
I will leave you with this:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV
This is not sound teaching, but it certainly tickles the ears and makes us feel good. It uses Jesus to justify passions that are of this world, and is just close enough to the truth to make one wonder if it’s really a myth.
Forget washing your face; wash your theology…your ears…your heart. And why not go and follow Jesus’ example and go and wash someone’s feet. Be a servant. After all, it’s not all about you, no matter what the book says.
For a look at Hollis’ next book, ‘Girl, Stop Apologizing’, see how it measures up to the Bible, one point at a time.
What Should I Read Instead?
Well, for starters, the Bible. Seriously.
But if you’re like me and love to read, here are some great books that will point you toward Jesus and living a live that honors Him instead of glorifying yourself.
This is probably the best “alternative” I’ve found. Rachel Jankovic is a beautiful truth teller who will push you toward Jesus and still help you understand why YOU matter.