When I was in college, I went to a church that used little scripture. The preacher went bullet point by bullet point, story after story, with one or two scripture references thrown in. I didn’t even need to bring my Bible to church—what a relief for tired college students rolling out of bed on Sunday morning!
But when I walked out of those doors every week, relief did not come. I often felt worse than when I walked in!
I couldn’t explain why, other than feeling the need to try harder to be a better Christian. The preacher often talked about what I wasn’t doing or what I needed to do. So, I’d slump my shoulders in shame and avoid eye contact with others until I felt like I could get home and get my life right.
Let’s Get Real
Rachel Hollis does a similar thing in her new book, Girl, Wash Your Face. She tells us all the things we need to do or not do to make our life better, and it's exhausting.
I think many of us feel this sense of shame from our mistakes—our sin. That’s why we cling to groups who admit their struggles. It makes us feel better like we aren’t alone.
When we admit our struggles, we display authenticity. We’re “being real”, as the world calls it.
Hollis “gets real” as she writes, and many women—professing Christians—want to hear what she has to say. She admits she’s not perfect. She doesn’t have it all together. But she says she’s happy, and she thinks we should be happy, too.
She talks about her ongoing struggle with achieving to prove her self-worth. She goes in depth of the Bell’s palsy her stress as a workaholic caused. Then there’s depression and insecurities. But she’s happy because she’s built a million dollar company, and she’s encouraging us to achieve our own dreams, even if it means we’ll go through hardship, like she did, to get it.
No, I don’t know the depths of her heart. But God Almighty does, and he says what’s in our hearts will overflow out of our mouths (1 Cor. 14:25, Luke 6:45).
She says things like: “You are meant to be the hero of your own story,” and “You, and only you are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are,” and “You should be the very first of your priorities."
The overflow seems to come from self-indulgence as she never attributes her happiness or her story to Christ, attributing to herself and her ability to strive instead.
This is my beef.
If this book wasn't marketed as a Christian book, being published by a Christian publisher, I wouldn't care as much. Yet for this reason, many Christian women fall prey to thinking this is godly advice. And it's far from it.
I can relate to her, however. How? Clearly, she’s a perfectionist, and I’m a recovering one. I spent years thinking I needed to achieve to prove my value. I tagged the name of Jesus to my striving when really, I sought my own glory instead of his.
I get the struggle, but Hollis offers zero hope.
Thus, as someone who understands this temptation to strive, I want to guard the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ—my Savior—and I want to offer the same hope which enabled me to find freedom in my perfectionism.
First, let's define what perfectionism is.
What is Perfectionism?
One source defines perfectionism as the “continual striving to achieve high standards that a person has set for themselves despite negative consequences”. Hollis shows this as she explains the harmful effects of her persistent striving.
Our “hustling, bustling, all or nothing” culture encourages this, and Hollis’s message lines up to it. It makes us think if we admit our imperfections and accept ourselves, we will gain the confidence to achieve our dreams and find happiness. And we all want happiness right?
The bad news is, we may not succeed. We may fail instead and end up depressed. And if we do succeed and find happiness, apart from Christ, it won’t last long. The Bible encourages us to fix our eyes on eternal things for this reason (2 Cor. 4:18). In Christ, we find lasting joy (Ps. 16:11).
We Are Not Enough
One thing Hollis says is: It’s a lie that we aren’t enough. I want to say: It's true. We. Are. Not. Enough.
We will never succeed enough or do enough good or gain enough confidence or discover enough self-worth to gain the satisfaction necessary to fill the void in our hearts--to earn favor with God (Eccl. 1:14, Eph. 2:8-9).
Hear this: If we were enough, then Jesus wouldn’t have had to die. But he did.
Can you picture him for a moment?
Stop for a few minutes and picture the soldiers whipping him, pulling the flesh off his back. Picture them stripping him down, pushing a sharp crown of thorns into his scalp, and mocking him. Picture them spitting in his face and him carrying the heavy cross up the hill to Calvary. Do you see them hammering the nails into his hands? His feet? And then hanging there? Can you see him crying out to his Father in the anguish of being separated from him while experiencing his wrath?
He died for you because you aren’t enough. This is good news for all of us.
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but he requires we take it further than the authenticity movement of the world (Rom. 3:23). We don’t just admit our struggles and our sin to feel better about ourselves. By faith, we confess our sins to God, and we repent—turning from our sin and to God (Acts 3:19). We trust Christ’s work on the cross as sufficient to save us in our falling short (Luke 24:46-47, John 19:28-30).
Hollis uses her own wisdom of words, not the gospel. She makes light of sin and encourage us to overcome our imperfect lives by making ourselves the priority. Yet Jesus Christ bore even the smallest sin we've committed on the cross, and when we do this, we belittle it. We make the cross to have no effect (1 Cor. 1:17).
There is hope!
If you feel hopeless, take heart.
Perhaps you read Hollis’s book and walked away feeling worse, like I used to when I walked out of the church, taking in meaningless words which offer worldly wisdom and a lack of true hope.
But there is hope! There’s hope in Jesus Christ—the only one who was enough to save us from all our imperfections (2 Cor. 5:21). Don’t belittle his work on the cross, Beloved Christian Women, and trade it for a few laughs and a little more self-esteem lasting for a mere moment. Remember what he did for you, how he bought you at a price and redeemed you when you were his enemy and cursed by sin, and follow him (1 Tim. 2:6, Rom. 5:10, Luke 9:23).
It doesn't make sense to live in pursuit of worldly happiness when we meditate on the cross. It doesn't make sense to boast in ourselves and to glorify ourselves.
What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! Oh, what grace he poured over us finite beings headed to hell because of our inability to live a perfect life (Heb. 9:11-28)! Oh, how we should praise him! Not to us, Lord, but to your name be the glory (Ps. 115:1).