On the Rachel Hollis Divorce: Girl, Here’s Some Mercy

Relishing Other People’s Struggles Just Reminds Me How Little I Believe in Mercy for Myself

Sarah Condon / 7.14.20

Whenever someone we envy goes through great suffering, our first instinct is always to revel in their pain. As Christians, the next step is to ask for forgiveness for that very common sin. And hopefully, God willing, to find some compassion for those we once envied. 

I am of course talking about the mommy blogger and Instagram influencer, Rachel Hollis.

If you are not familiar with Hollis’ body of work then you are not a white suburban mother of young children. Hollis offers advice (more like edicts) for how our lives would be better if they just looked more like hers. Her highly successful book Girl, Wash Your Face warned against very “controllable” things like struggling with your weight. I do not know what her metabolism has done as it careens towards 40, but mine has decided to crawl into a grave of nachos. Her Internet narrative boasts of four amazing children and a husband in whom there is no guile. I do not know how anyone actually manages four children but Hollis never posts photos of her mountains of paper plates and fruit roll-up wrappers — which is how I would be handling that situation.

Also, it has just been announced that she and that husband are getting a divorce. 

To be clear, divorce is heartbreaking any time it happens. Especially when there are children involved. And it would be devilishly tempting to write a piece about Rachel getting what she deserves. But nobody deserves to have their life set on fire. Besides, we always think it will be deeply satisfying when these falls from grace happen to people like Rachel Hollis. And in the end, any relishing we do in other people’s struggles is just another reminder of how little we actually believe in God’s grace and mercy for ourselves.

I am not interested in unpacking her life’s tragedy so much as I am interested in how she has chosen to frame it. In her Instagram unveiling she wrote this:

… having been such an open book to this beloved community, we hope you can allow us a human moment. We hope you can understand our need to process these changes away from social media.

She asks for a human moment. As though she is normally something other than human. Which, to be clear, she is. But we all are something other than human on the Internet. 

It really does not matter if you claim vulnerability or a persona that tells it like it is, no one is actually honest in their social media accounts. We share only the parts that are quirky and relatably messy. Just enough, not too much. Too much makes you look sad or desperate. That does not an Instagram influencer make. Projecting a certain image of yourself is an art form that not everyone is good at. Rachel Hollis was incredibly gifted.

I struggle with pointing the sword of righteousness at her too much. Mostly because I have my own social media that is “produced.” Albeit, with far less production value. My brain certainly analyzes how photographs of my adorably cute children or images of my most beloved drag queens will play to my audience: “Who will love this super fun (and deeply edited) image of our family life?” Or, more sinisterly, “Who will see this and envy me?” Such a response is chocked so full of sinfulness, it is easy to see how a social media empire could be built upon it.

And lately, I struggle with social media for other reasons. I wonder how tone deaf my rolling Script of Me is when the world is literally burning around us. Right now, when my children are struggling with tiresome loneliness, I wonder if the last thing they need is for me to post a photograph of them. They probably just need me to leave the phone in the other room so they can crawl into my lap. 

And I can only hope the same thing for Rachel.

There are ethical ramifications for social media influencers that we have not begun to consider. I wonder how many marital fights have been picked from photographs posted with #datenight. How many children have been silently resented in real life because they fall short of the children we see on our tiny screens? How many vacation images have been edited to invoke the envy of people who cannot begin to afford to get away? I wonder that about Rachel’s accounts, but I also wonder it about mine. And I pray for mercy for both of us.

For so many reasons, we know not what we do. We are in the 1920s of cigarettes when it comes to social media. Everyone’s got a light cough, but we are convinced it must just be pollen season. Wash your hands, girl, it’s the cigarettes.


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6 responses to “On the Rachel Hollis Divorce: Girl, Here’s Some Mercy”

  1. Duo says:

    Being ancient, I have no clue who this is: being part of a dysfunctional family growing up: the the point where observers found our WASP coldness and alcoholism “cruel”, the missing wound is always the victims, the 4 humans they created, that are now damaged, forever, by them. Forget about all the “reasons” the wreckage of divorce is both necessary and brutalizing to the most innocent among us.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This is SO good. Fabulous gut check that gave me chills. Like Holy Spirit convicting kind of chills. ❤️

  3. Sue says:

    yes amen….grace and mercy
    (we all have low anthropology)

  4. Pierre says:

    I think you’re right on when you suggest the underlying motivation of virtually all posts on any given social media platform is “Who will envy me?” Or admire me, like me, feel worse about themselves because of me, etc. It’s all of a piece.

    When I took a tropical vacation this winter, it was incredibly liberating to have excised any need or desire to post photos online. The trip was for me, not for anyone else’s vicarious consumption. I’m trying to preach that small-g gospel of social media freedom to whoever will listen! My sinfulness shows up in plenty of places, but I’m trying to not let social media/the internet be one of them…

  5. L. Jones says:

    The Law is still alive and well and it is very curated ????. This article brings to mind that the whole concept of a “role model” is sketchy at best- particularly one that is a self-proclaimed. It just doesn’t seem healthy for us to look to other people as “examples” when our lives and paths and relationship to God are all very individual and intimate. When I see the cookie cutter on its way down, I run like hell. ????

  6. dcm says:

    You have heard it said, “anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery”, but I tell you to allow people the space to have a human moment.

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