A Husband’s Review of Girl Wash Your Face

Rachel Hollis’ Girl Wash Your Face (GWYF) is currently the #1 bestselling book in the country. Over 330,000 print copies have been sold since the book was published in February. It is the #3 best seller on audible and the #2 bestselling nonfiction eBook on Kindle. This book, published by Thomas Nelson, is making a huge impact on the genre of Christian nonfiction.      

GWYF has met with mixed reviews in the Christian conservative community. Some dub the book heretical and satanic and others helpful and inspiring. One thing is for sure, Christian women are flocking to the bookstores, buying GWYF, drinking it in, and recommending it to their girlfriends, mothers, sisters, and daughters.    
 
Before I launch into my own review of GWYF, I should be transparent about a few things that may shape my perspective on the book. In July, my wife (Jennifer) and I set out on a journey to change our lifestyle. We were tired of being overweight and sick, so together we determined to make healthy eating and exercise our new lifestyle. We were not looking for a diet; we were looking for a life change.    
 
About a month into our new life, we had gotten on track and found an eating and exercise regimen that we felt we could live with for the rest of our lives. About that same time, Jen purchased GWYF on Kindle. She liked it so much that she also purchased the audio version, which is read by Hollis, to listen to on her two and a half-mile morning and afternoon walks.    
 
After reading the book, Jen’s passion for our new lifestyle was taken to a whole other level. It made a tremendous impact on her drive and willpower. It also helped her work through some deep-seated baggage that she has been carrying around for years. I’ve no doubt that God used this book to encourage her in her walk with the Lord. She is happier and more positive than she has been in years. Much of this has to do with her getting fit and healthy and much of her becoming fit and healthy has to do with how the Lord spoke to her through Hollis’ work.    
 
Right about the time she finished GWYF, I started seeing some pretty damning reviews being shared on social media by a lot of our Christian friends and church members. And when I say the reviews were “damning,” I mean every sense that is implied by that word. It was breaking Jen’s heart.    
 
The ministry is a pressure cooker for pastor’s wives. They have to be so careful what they say or do because it reflects back on their husbands and affects his ability to effectively fulfill God’s call in leading the church. Here she was having loved and been deeply impacted by the book (she had even posted about it a few times and shared some of Hollis’ videos), while our friends are reading and sharing terrible and damning reviews saying that GWYF is the work of Satan.  
 
She was crushed, so naturally, I did what a husband who loves his wife should do. I read the book in order to offer her my best attempt at an objective opinion, and now I also hope to share it with you. So here goes…  
 
First, let me say that I cannot recommend that ladies read this book. I say that not because I believe GWYF is the work of Satan. I believe Hollis is a genuine Christian who loves and wants to help women, but she could go about it in a better and more Christ-centered way. Though her work comes from a genuine place, it can easily be used by the enemy to lead our weaker sisters astray. (The same, by the way, could be said of many things I have said in sermons throughout my 11 years of preaching.)  
 
Before I get into what is wrong with the book, let me tell you Rachel’s story as she relates it in GWYF. She grew up in the home of a type A, highly driven, well educated, and easily provoked Pentecostal pastor. She hungered for the love of her father, but as the youngest and most independent child in the family, she was often overlooked. Working hard and making the highest grades became the only way for her to gain any affirmation from her dad. As a result, Hollis became just as highly driven as her father, and it was not healthy.    
 
Another event that she says God used to make her into the woman she is today was the death of her older brother when she was 14 years old. She was extremely close with her brother who was diagnosed as borderline schizophrenic. Sadly, his illness got the best of him. She came home from school one day and found him in her room dead, the victim of suicide by means of a firearm.  
 
The only coping mechanism for stress that she ever really learned was to work even harder. She finished high school a year ahead of schedule and had only started college when she figured out it wasn’t the place for her, so she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of making something great of herself.  
 
She worked hard and used the money from her day job as a high-end event planner to build a lifestyle media empire. Subscribers to her website, TheChicSite.com, reached over a million subscribers and is growing more every day. She was named one of Inc. Magazines “Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30.”  
 
She met her husband, Dave not long after moving to LA. They were married and had three boys. They felt led by the Lord to adopt a daughter. She and her husband fought a 5-year uphill battle first with international adoption agencies, then with the public “foster to adopt” agencies, but finally through a private agency, they were able to adopt their daughter. It was a brutal rollercoaster process, and she now credits the sovereignty of God with carrying them through.  
 
I tell her story because you have to grasp where she is coming from to understand what is wrong with the book. Do you remember Jillian Michaels on that show The Biggest Loser? Well, Rachel Hollis reminds me of Michaels with how she could push the contestants so hard but also comfort them when they would break down. In the same way, Rachel compels ladies to chase their wildest dreams and work hard to become who they were meant to be while also being there to help and comfort them when they feel ovewhelmed by being real about her own struggles.  
 
This led many reviewers to charge that Hollis as a heretic for not acknowledging the sovereignty of God and the Supremacy of Christ. This charge doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny of the book. We have to remember that the sovereignty of God does not negate our responsibility to pursue Him and who He wants us to be.   God created all of us in His image. He ordained beforehand good works for us to accomplish in our lives (Ephesians 2:10). However, it is up to us to actually walk in those good works. He provides us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, however, it is up to us to actually walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-24).  
 
In her book’s intro, Hollis writes, “As a Christian, I grew up learning that God was in control, that God had a plan for my life, and I believe in the marrow of my bones that this is true… but I don’t think that means we get to squander the gifts and talents he’s given us…” (p. xv). In this statement and throughout the book, Hollis reveals a grasp of the antinomy in scripture; God is sovereign and we are responsible. These truths are meant to be held in tension because that is how they are revealed in scripture (think Romans 9 verses Romans 10).  
 
So here is my objection and the reason why I will not recommend this book to women with whom I have the opportunity to counsel. Hollis, because of her background and her drive to be successful swings too far toward the human responsibility side of the antinomy.  
 
On page 211, she wrote, “Only you have the power to change your life.” This is not true. At. All. If we are the only ones with the power to change our lives, then we are in the deepest trouble imaginable. Put another way, if my righteousness, my professional success, my ability to lose weight and get healthy, or to have a strong and lasting marriage depends solely on me… then I am doomed and I am the most to be pitied.  
 
I think what she wants to get across with “only you have the power to change your life,” is that you cannot just sit on your hands when there is a problem and expect God to intervene. You have to do something. This is truth, but when I am in trouble, I don’t just strike believing that I can overcome the problem by my sheer willpower. When my marriage is struggling, when my health is failing because I lay on the couch eating Little Debbie cakes, or when I am not progressing as I feel I should in my career, then I have a duty to look to the Lord first. I have a duty to pray, to repent, to seek wisdom and guidance from the Lord. Then, I can strike out doing what the Lord in His wisdom leads me to do with confidence knowing that it is in His strength and Spirit with which I go forward. If Hollis had framed the idea she was trying to get across in that way, then I would have no problem at all. The difference is “me-centered” vs “Christ-centered.”  
 
The main reason why I give her the benefit of the doubt regarding her intention in the declaration on p. 211, is because when she tells her story, she affirms her dependence upon the Lord through the most difficult season of her adult life. In the chapter where she deals with the adoption of their daughter, she describes in detail how she sought the Lord. She asked Him all the hard questions. When she had no control over the situation, she held onto the threads of her faith and believed God. In the end, she acknowledged the Lord’s hand and His timing in everything that happened.  
 
In her well-intentioned, Jillian Michael’s styled, effort to rattle her readers into action, though, she actually puts them in danger of harm. What if she had believed, “only you have the power to change your life,” whenever she was struggling through the heartbreak of losing the twins they were hoping to adopt? All the weight of that loss would have fallen on her own shoulders. Instead of being lonely but not alone, she would have been lonely and all alone. Her drinking which she confessed came dangerously close to developing into an addiction around that time would have consumed her. This and her unwillingness to acknowledge sin and the need for repentance is what keeps me from recommending GWYF to my sisters in Christ.
 
I do not have as much problem with some of the things other reviewers have mentioned, namely the chapter on sex and the chapter on the need for diversity in friendships.   In Chapter 7, titled “I’m Bad at Sex,” Rachel contends for the need of married couples to feel free in their marriage beds, to communicate with one another about their needs, and in general just to have more sex. I know this makes many people uncomfortable because for generations the topic has been avoided. I believe the silence has harmed more than it has helped. My greatest disappointment with this chapter is that Rachel Hollis cut short the biblical basis of her arguments. All she offered as a foundation was Hebrews 13:4. She is more right than she gives herself credit for. She could have opened up 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 to her readers and accomplished the same objective, but the shock element would have come from what the Bible says on the topic rather than her use of edgy anecdotes.  
 
Chapter 19, “There’s Only One Right Way to Be,” drew a lot of outrage from reviewers. Aside from the melodramatic nature of the title of this chapter, I think Hollis is spot on. How can we expect to grow if we only engage people who look like us, believe like us, and vote like us? How can we become the people who God created us to be if we are not challenged by the ideas of others? It takes great confidence in what you believe to befriend a person from a different religion, voting bloc, or sexual orientation. If we are going to make disciples, we have to be in the world and not of the world. We have to become all things to all people if we hope to win some.  
 
There is a bigger problem that the Christian community needs to talk about. Why are Christian ladies flocking to GWYF? I believe it is because there are a lot of women out there starving for another woman to affirm their struggles. Hollis’ writing style is powerful. She writes like she is sitting across the table from you at Starbucks. She’s your best friend who will encourage you when you need encouragement, and she’ll shake you till your teeth rattle when you need it too.  
 
Where are the female Christian authors who will write with Rachel Hollis type transparency and encouragement, yet with a Christ-centered perspective? I could name at least a half dozen male authors who write with transparency, encouragement, and Christ-centeredness, Francis Chan, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Paul Tripp, Calvin Miller, J.D. Greear, and many more that I don’t know or can’t think of. Our sisters need older wiser women who will pour into them while being real and transparent at the same time. Many of them are drowning in “mommy guilt,” insecurity, body shame, and emotional baggage that men just can’t fully comprehend. Our sisters need other sisters to give them a hand up and point them to the healing that is found in the cross of Christ. May God raise them up.  
 
My wife was deeply and positively impacted by the book, so I know that God can use it. Like most anything else, Satan can use it too. I will not recommend that other women read it. Many will anyway. Many already have. I hope these will hear my caution. Girl Wash Your Face is strong in encouragement. Hollis’ story is inspiring. But overall the book’s tether to the Bible is weak which leaves room for some of the things she writes to be taken very wrong.