Rachel Hollis has had a rough year. The self-help influencer and author of the books Girl, Stop Apologizing and Girl, Wash Your Face has gone through a divorce and a company downsize. And most recently, intense and widespread public backlash after she posted a video where she boasted that she is, by her definition, successfully “unrelatable” enough to hire a housecleaner. By widespread backlash, I do actually mean widespread. The video hit a nerve with liberals and conservatives alike, people from all sorts of backgrounds and beliefs, and many of Hollis’ otherwise very zealous followers.
Since the video, Hollis has apologized. She has also canceled or postponed many of her upcoming events. For almost two months, she’s remained quiet on social media.
For good and for ill, this is how our world often works, right? A person of influence says something ill-conceived, people call them out, they apologize, and go silent. But what seems new to our age of digital policing is the limitlessness critique of someone’s misgivings.
There doesn’t seem to be a word count for how much we can hate someone. Or perhaps, the internet simply allows us to be who we truly are: righteous people endlessly indignant about everyone’s transgressions but our own.
I don’t agree with 99% of what Rachel Hollis says (maybe even 100%, I don’t know). But I do know that she is a mom to four children. A mom who, tomorrow, may feel especially alone - trapped in a prison of her failures from this past year. And it makes me wonder, how many other moms feel the same way?
How many moms feel their insecurities, failures, and mistakes compounded tomorrow because, while Mother’s Day is meant to celebrate all the hard work and sacrifice and love shown by us mothers, deep down, we know we know we just don’t cut it. We don’t deserve it. Perhaps some of us can set all that aside to enjoy brunch and the day tomorrow, but we know Monday is coming, which means more lunches to pack, diapers to change, bottles to feed, and heads to bathe.
We all know what I think (maybe) Rachel knows: Celebrating ourselves isn’t enough. It won’t ever be enough.
Motherhood is a deep blessing, but motherhood itself isn’t enough. Nor is being unrelatable or hiring someone to clean your house. None of these attempts seem to ever leave us fulfilled. Nor are we ever as successful as at them as we would hope to be.
But to our failures and feelings of not enoughness, God responds with a different word. When we confess to him and apologize to our neighbor, he responds with nothing more than “I forgive you.” No bells or whistles. No champagne or breakfast in bed. Honestly, we may not even feel forgiven, but that doesn’t change the fact that his forgiveness is true for us.
His word of forgiveness means we can confess our weariness and our apathy and our lack of conviction, and therefore it’s a word for everyone - moms included.
This word is for the mom who puts work first,
the mom who doesn’t particularly like being a mom,
the mom who puts all her worth into motherhood,
the mom who isn’t yet a mom,
the mom who lost her temper just this morning,
the mom who is burned out and dead tired.
And it’s a word for Rachel Hollis.
However, it seems like instead of this word, Hollis is only getting an echo back of the confession she’s been shouting for years. Article upon article detailing her every transgression continues to come out in the wake of her cancellation. Just last week, Katherine Rosman’s New York Times piece entitled, “Girl Wash Your Timeline,” ended with this quote from a former follower of Ms. Hollis:
“If in a strange world Rachel Hollis came to me for advice,” Ms. Kennedy, 34, said, “I’d say, ‘Girl I believe in you, but you need to keep working at it and get it right.’”
Yes, there are consequences to sin. And yes, sometimes the law needs to continue to do its work on people before they can give up their self-righteous confessions for repentance which begs to be answered by Christ’s forgiveness.
But honestly, I don’t really care whether Hollis’s apology was heartfelt or not. She did apologize. And I can’t help but wonder what would happen if she heard, perhaps for the first time, and perhaps surprisingly and charitably so, that she no longer needed to cling to an image of herself as master of the universe.
If we could accept Hollis’s apology, I can’t help but wonder what might happen to this influencer who preaches the need to not apologize. Perhaps she would start to believe that she was free to apologize - and that she was free to confess something different than her own self-worth. Perhaps she could offer that word to others in her life, too.
Perhaps if we reminded mothers that they shouldn’t define themselves by how well or ill they are killing the motherhood game, we would free them up a little bit, too. Perhaps they would know they didn’t have to hold it all together all the time and that they could admit when things weren’t going swimmingly.
Tomorrow, please celebrate the mothers in your own life. But I hope you also know that when you see mothers - like Rachel - who are beat down, tore up, and dying of thirst because of the shame and guilt of their sin, don’t just tell them that they are a good mom, give them the words that fill your mouth on account of Christ. Remind them that they are forgiven and therefore free to mother well, to live well, and to work well.
Happy Mother’s Day, Rachel Hollis; you are forgiven.