Girl, Stop Apologizing: Book Review

Rachel Hollis, a self-proclaimed Christian who “loves Jesus but cusses a little”, has built herself into a successful brand. From the ground up, she started an upscale event planning business that morphed into a successful lifestyle influencing company. She’s the host of a popular podcast, has over a million Instagram followers, and a NY Times bestseller with her name on it. She sells out tickets to her weekend conferences with a price tag of $200 to $1800.

Earlier this month, when her latest book, Girl, Stop Apologizing, released, it already had over 600 Goodreads reviews, suggesting that Hollis may match the two million plus sales of her previous title published in 2018. With that many women reading this book marketed as Christian, churches have every reason to believe that some of their members are coming across Rachel Hollis’ message, be it through social media, her books, or her speaking engagements.

But Hollis’ message in Girl, Stop Apologizing is anything but Christian. Hollis is preaching a name it and claim it gospel. And, according to Hollis, if you claim it, no one is supposed to tell you that you can’t have it. You get to decide what is best for you.

You are a being with your own hopes and desires and goals and dreams. Some are little tiny ones ‘I want to write poetry’” and some are massive ‘I want to create a million-dollar company’, but all of them are yours and they are valuable simply because you are valuable. You are allowed to want more for yourself for no other reason than because it makes your heart happy. You don’t need anyone’s permission, and you certainly shouldn’t have to rely on anyone’s support as the catalyst to get you there (xix). 

If I could tell you anything, if I could convince you to believe it, it’s that you were made for more. You were made to have the dreams you’re afraid of having. You were made to do the things you don’t think you’re qualified for. You were made to be a leader. You were made to contribute. You were made to make changes for good, both in your local community and the world at large. You were made to be more than you are today and–this is the important part–your version of more might not look like my more, or hers (xx)

Just what qualifies as moreto Hollis? Signing up for the 10k, eating healthier, going back to school, getting out of a toxic relationship, being kinder to yourself, more time and rest, controlling your temper more, getting control of your emotions, more therapy, more water, more believing you are capable of greatness, or more not worrying what someone else thinks (which is actually less, Mrs. Hollis). But Hollis can call “more not worrying” whatever she wants because “perception is reality and if you believe it’s true then it absolutely is” (17).  

Hollis goes on to give readers excuses they need to let go of, behaviors to adopt, and skills to acquire. She uses her life as an example of success (read: wealth and fame) to encourage readers to run after their dreams, regardless of what they are and who might stand in the way:

I am living proof that your past does not determine your future. I am a living, breathing example. I am your friend, Rachel, and I am telling you that I walked through trauma and I walked through pain and I have been bullied and I have felt ugly and unworthy and not enough in a hundred different ways. And I have decided to reclaim my life. I have reclaimed it and fought back against the lies and the limiting beliefs over and over and over again. I have built strength by looking at what is true, not what is opinion. And you can too (40). 

In case you don’t understand yet, I’ll be clear: Rachel Hollis may claim to be a Christian, but her message is not. Hollis Despite its marketing, Hollis’ book is opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

As I read through Hollis’s book, I had to wonder why women, especially women in our churches, are reading it. Even more, I’m wondering why they love it. The book offers little real advice beyond self-help platitudes like “stop allowing them to talk you out of it,” “choose one dream and go all in,” and “ask for help.” The skills she tells readers to acquire are planning, confidence (a chapter in which she tells readers how confident she is because of her fake eyelashes, ridiculously expensive hair coloring and extensions, and the plastic surgery she’s had), persistence, effectiveness, positivity, and lead-her-ship. And she spends a lot of time in self-exaltation praising herself for rising above her challenges.

What’s the appeal to Hollis’ message?

Hollis is feeding our idolatry. She’s tickling our ears with messages that are easy to hear. As she said at one of her weekend conferences, “If you have something you can’t stop thinking about, that is the universe telling you what to chase.”

Readers who run hard after the dreams Hollis gives them permission to pursue will be left with nothing but a desire for more. Just like she said, her readers were made for more, but Hollis doesn’t point readers to the more we were made for. She tells them to feed their sin–lust, pride, selfishness, immorality, greed. And the only thing that will satisfy the appetite of sin is more until it doesn’t satisfy any longer and you want more. And more. And more. It’s a path straight to hell.

Hollis’ feel good message contradicts itself frequently. You’re supposed to become “a better version of you” (209) and you’re made for more, but “you are enough. Today. As you are” (36). You’re not enough. I’m not enough. We’re not good enough, we can’t work hard enough, we will never get enough. Only Jesus is enough.

We were made for more though. We were made to praise God more than we currently are. We were made for more righteousness than we can attain on our own. We were made for more enjoyment than what we get outside of God. May we echo John the Baptist who recognized that Jesus “must increase, but I must decrease.”

And we’re not going to be able to praise God more, be more righteous, and enjoy God more by “becoming the best version of ourselves” like Hollis tells us to. We don’t need to be a better version or even the best version of ourselves. We need to be – we must be – made new. Ephesians 4:22-24 says, “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Without Christ, we were corrupt and had deceitful desires. Certainly, we don’t need any more of that. Oh, but Christ has given us a way to be made new in the likeness of God! Please, Lord, give me all of that.

The success of Hollis’s no-nonsense voice is a reminder to churches that women want mentors. They are still looking for people to speak into their lives. Instead of giving Hollis and similar voices the room to speak, we need to help forge relationships between women where they can be vulnerable and speak truth to each other. We need to affirm the role of wife and mother as gospel work while recognizing that’s not all women are (and that some women in our churches may never be either). We need to encourage women to pursue formal and informal theological studies that they might be protected from false gospels. We need to give them books that will feed their soul.

We don’t need self-care gurus to tell us how to live. We need the Living Word of God to minister to our soul. May our churches be full of women who, like the Bereans, examine the scriptures to know if the message they are receiving is true.

Written by Jessica Burke

Jessica is a member of the 2019 ERLC Leadership Council and a free-lance writer who previously served as a missionary and teacher.  She currently spends her days as a homemaker and educator to her 4 children.  She is married to her high school sweetheart, BT Burke, who is involved in jail ministry and church planting in a multicultural context.  In her spare time, Jessica loves to read books, write, or to go for a jog around the neighborhood.