Let's Digress

Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face

Well, it happened. After numerous and assertive requests by my wife and my cousin, I decided—with minimal coercion—to read Girl, Wash Your Face and write a review on it. I have never done an actual book review before, so here we go…

This piece of popular literature weighs roughly twelve ounces for the hard copy and exactly zero ounces for the ebook. The ebook was 222 pages long and was a fairly easy read, taking about four hours for me to finish. I elected to go with the ebook because most books fit better on my iPad than they do in my already too-full backpack. Usually, if I like the ebook enough, I’ll buy a hard copy for the bookshelf.

Some disclaimer things: Like I said, I have never written a book review before and I tend to be overly opinionated about things. I am especially opinionated about the power of positive thinking, Christianity, judging others, and finding the power to overcome everything from within oneself. This book touched all of those things. I also had never heard of Rachel Hollis before two weeks ago when I saw things about this book popping up everywhere.

Side note: here is another awesome review to check out: this one right here. This one.

The Good: This book is incredibly motivating. Like seriously. I feel like I could go outside and run a marathon right now while drinking a kale protein shake and simultaneously writing a book about why Thomas Sowell should be the next President of the United States.

It’s a very clean book with a clear purpose. Hollis repeatedly talks about God and how we’re all unique and special and divinely created and how every life is sacred. Of all the motivational self-help books I have read, this one is definitely one of the better ones. Hands down better than books like The Secret and basically anything written by Joel Osteen.

Also, I really liked chapter fourteen. I have some quibbles with being passionate about creating stuff, but other than that, it was solid and very well reasoned.

The Problematic:

Problem #1) Never Give up on Your Dreams. No Matter What. Never Ever Never Never Ever Never Ever Never Give up on Your Dreams.

Hollis dedicates a lot of time to why we should never give up on our dreams in her book, assuming we have a dream that we can give up on in the first place.

She has an entire chapter dedicated to never taking “no” for an answer, especially if it involves us giving up on our dreams. Hollis says that we should write our dreams down on a vision board, say them loud and proud, think about them constantly, and then she tells us how to bring them to fruition.

Referring to being told “no,” Hollis writes,

In other words, if you can’t get through the front door, try the side window. If the window is locked, maybe you slide down the chimney. No doesn’t mean that you stop; it simply means that you change course in order to make it to your destination. (Page 58 on Kindle.)

Firstly, I would be curious to see how this logic would hold up in the context of a one-sided relationship. The kind of relationship where only one party is actually invested and interested in it. Actually, I know how it would hold up: it wouldn’t. It’s called harassment.

Secondly, just because we’re passionate about something doesn’t inherently 1) make it good, 2) make us good at doing it, and 3) make it a realistic thing to want.

We’ve all seen people who are passionate about something, but just aren’t good at it. I wrote a more detailed article about this here.

We’ve all seen the early-in-the-season episodes of America’s Got Talent. We’ve all seen the awful contestants get the buzzer and sent home. That one guy had a dream to make it big with his ventriloquist dummy but sucked at it and kept moving his mouth. Oh, and let’s not forget Boy Shakira. His dream was to become rich dressing up like Shakira.

Not all dreams are practical, marketable, or fruitful. Some dreams need to be given up in order to move on to bigger and better things.

Problem #2) You’re First and Your Happiness Depends on You.

You are number one in your life. You’re in charge of your life and your happiness, and you need to put yourself ahead of everyone else on your list of priorities. Chapter one is dedicated to just this idea. If you take care of your own needs first, follow your dreams, and never take “no” for an answer, then you’ll have your cake of success and happiness and eat it too.

While I agree with the concept of us being responsible for our own happiness and success in the context of the Government-citizen relationship, I do not agree with it in the context of this book, and certainly not in the context of how we interact with God, family, and others.

I am not a biblical scholar by any definition and I could be wrong here, but from what I gather, Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, follow him, never go back to our old ways, and—with a boatload of grace—align ourselves, our intentions, our character, and our behavior with him. Basically all that stuff from Matthew 16 and Mark 8. In other words, Jesus tells us that our lives are not our own horse and pony shows anymore; they’re his. And if we want happiness and success and peace and all of that other awesome stuff, then we need to step back, let him be the center of things, and orient ourselves around that.

So from my understanding, I’m third, or possibly fourth, but definitely not first, in the hierarchy of importance: God, family, me. Or God, family, others, me.

Problem #3) Judging is Always Bad.

Hollis writes,

What I want to say is that we all judge each other, but even though we all do it, that’s not an excuse. Judging is still one of the most hurtful, spiteful impulses we own, and our judgments keep us from building a stronger tribe . . . or from having a tribe in the first place. Our judgment prohibits us from beautiful, life-affirming friendships. Our judgment keeps us from connecting in deeper, richer ways because we’re too stuck on the surface-level assumptions we’ve made. Ladies, our judging has to stop. (Page 37 on Kindle.)

This one really got me. If Hollis replaced “judge” with “condemn,” then everything would be okay, but she didn’t, so here we are.

Judging is a good thing. It’s how we form opinions, determine what is good or bad, and assess situations. In fact, by definition, judging is forming an opinion based on evidence presented to us. It’s even biblical. I have an entire blog dedicated just to the concept of biblical judging, so I won’t go too deep into it here.

If Hollis is talking about condemning others who are different than we are just because they’re different, then I agree: we shouldn’t condemn. One’s condemnation status is between that person and God. Unfortunately, I don’t think she’s talking about condemnation; she writes,

…berating your little sister because her views are different from yours… Judging each other actually makes us feel safer in our own choices. Faith is one of the most abused instances of this. We decide that our religion is right; therefore, every other religion must be wrong. Within the same religion, or heck, even within the same church, people judge each other for not being the right kind of Christian, Catholic, Mormon, or Jedi. I don’t know the central tenet of your faith, but the central tenet of mine is “love thy neighbor.” Not “love thy neighbor if they look and act and think like you.” Not “love thy neighbor so long as they wear the right clothes and say the right things.” (Page 40 on Kindle.)

Firstly, in order for her to determine any of this, Hollis had to judge the situation and those people.

Secondly, she omitted the first tenant that comes before the “love thy neighbor” thing. Check out Mark 12:30-31. I’ll paraphrase: 1) Love God. 2) Love others.

Loving God comes before loving others. So yes, we need to love other people and not condemn them and treat them with respect and things. But we have to love God first and align ourselves with God’s views and opinions. That also requires judging. Not all religions are created equal; not all religions are right; not all kinds of Christians are right.

There have been copious amounts of awful acts committed in the name of Christianity. Just watch basically every fourth episode of Criminal Minds; the unsub (bad guy) usually has some tainted view of Christianity that he’s using to rationalize his heinous acts on the victims. Is that version of Christianity “right,” “his truth,” or just as valid as other versions of Christianity? Of course not. But in order to determine that, we have to judge it and weigh it against God’s standard for behavior and morality. 

Hollis also devoted time to talking about how our judging is connected to our unconscious biases. That is, biases we don’t know we have, because they’re unconscious. Then she connected that to some other social justice warrior talking points, which I also generally disagree with. Here is my issue with unconscious bias and SJW things: there isn’t any real science or evidence to back either of them up. But that is a different blog for a different time.

The end point is that judging—forming an opinion based on evidence presented to us—is good when done biblically. Condemning is bad; judging without condemning is good.

Problem #4) All Roads Lead to God.

This ties in another big issue I have. Religious pluralism isn’t true. Not all religions are created equal, nor are they all equally valid. Sure, all roads lead to God in the sense that we’ll all meet God one day after we die…but I don’t think that is what she’s talking about.

Hollis says, “We decide that our religion is right; therefore, every other religion must be wrong.”

She celebrates this in chapter four. We shouldn’t judge each other and we’re all equal no matter what our life choices are and all religions are equally valid and accurate and our differences, regardless of what they are, make everything diverse and beautiful and whatnot.

Here’s the problem, though: Christianity is exclusive. John 14:6 has that whole thing about Jesus saying that he’s the way, the truth, the life, and no one makes it to God except with him.

So, either Jesus is correct and there is only one way to God…or he’s wrong, all of Christianity is inaccurate, and the only “right” religions are the ones that say all roads lead to God.

By the way, to determine any of this requires judging, which, again, Hollis says we shouldn’t do.

Oh, and this idea of pluralism and all roads leading to God is a religious ideology itself that also happens to exclude all other religions that don’t affirm it. Kind of exclusive in the name of acceptance, huh?

Problem #5) The Power of Positive Thinking.

Speaking of things that don’t quite jive with Christianity, I need to talk about this power of positive thinking and vision board stuff. Actually, I already have a blog about it and how it connects, or doesn’t connect, with Christianity here. My heart died a little on the inside when I noticed this kind of stuff appearing the more I continued to read.

Hollis writes,

I’m a big fan of displaying visuals inside my closet door to remind me every single day of what my aim is. Currently taped to my door: the cover of Forbes featuring self-made female CEOs, a vacation house in Hawaii . . . and a picture of Beyoncé, obvi. (Page 71 on Kindle.)

Later on, in chapter thirteen, Hollis expands on this concept by suggesting that we should 1) write out goals down, 2) say them aloud, and 3) create a vision board. All of this is a big proclamation to ourselves that our dreams and and desires will come true if we just try hard enough and have the right kind of positive self-talk. We’re speaking it into reality. Then she talks more about Joel Osteen-style name-it-and-claim-it behavior.

None of this fits within Christianity. Certainly not biblical Christianity.

If our positive thoughts, vision boards, and speaking things into reality actually causes our dreams to come true and our lives to be fulfilled, then why do we even need God? Seriously, if we’re perfect how we are (except for needing more happiness and fulfillment and money) and just need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, focus harder on ourselves, try harder, work harder, and place ourselves first with better self-love in order to make our lives near-perfect, happy, and successful, then why do we even need God?

If we’re that self-sufficient and, dare I say, god-like, then why do we even need God?

Or…this kind of logic is all wrong.

If Christianity is correct, if God is who he says he is, if we’re all severely broken people in need of God, then…this is all a load a crap and we’re desperately in need of God.

That makes the most sense to me. But I also came to that conclusion by judging after looking at the evidence presented to me.

Problem #6) This Book Doesn’t Talk About Pruning.

Dr. Henry Cloud has a glorious book called Necessary Endings. I have read this book a few times and have highlighted and drawn on the pages so much that it looks like a coloring book.

In Necessary Endings, Dr. Cloud talks a lot about the concept of pruning rosebushes, relating it to how life works. Basically, rosebushes produce more buds than they can efficiently feed and grow. So the gardener prunes the bushes; he cuts away the dead, mediocre, and even the good buds so the bush can use its resources to grow only the great ones.

Similarly, in our own lives we have so many opportunities for things that we can’t efficiently grow them all. We must cut away the dead, dying, mediocre, and even the good stuff to make room for us to grow and cultivate the great stuff.

Necessary Endings hits heavily on the idea that everything has a time and a season. We’re flawed humans and need God. We cannot, and should not, have it all. Not everything we desire is good to pursue.

This has quite the sharp contrast to the themes in Girl, Wash Your Face.

My Dilemma:

Oh, where to start…

I’m hesitant to rag too heavily on this book. Partially because it’s still “okay,” even if it’s not entirely “correct.” Despite all of my objections with it, I would still rather people read it over most other similar ones in the same genre. Hollis still sounds like she genuinely cares about her readers and actually believes everything she writes.

Really, I wouldn’t have as many grievances if Hollis would have written it as a purely secular book and left God out of it.

But she didn’t.

She peppers the entire thing with Christian themes and God and a boatload of biblical and theological references…and even more inaccuracies. And that is something I just can’t get over.

According to my rough math, this book is 60% problematic, 30% okay, and 10% purely encouraging.

However, the foundation for that 30% is deeply flawed and self-centered, which draws everything else into question.

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