Nearly three years after apologizing to Christians and calling his advice against dating in his best-selling 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a “huge mistake,” author and pastor Joshua Harris revealed he and his wife are separating. Harris has come under fire over the years for several aspects of the book, and in a statement on his website says he no longer stands by everything he wrote. “I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner,” he says. “There are other weaknesses too: in an effort to set a high standard, the book emphasized practices (not dating, not kissing before marriage) and concepts (giving your heart away) that are not in the Bible.”
The statement Harris released on his website read as following.
“For many years people have asked whether I still agree with my book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In addition to this question, some readers have told me the book harmed them.
Two years ago I began a process of re-evaluating the book. This included inviting people to share their stories with me on my website, personal phone calls with readers, an in-depth study of issues surrounding my book overseen by one of my graduate school professors, and finally, creating a documentary film that captured the conversations with people who were reshaping my thinking.
For me, it’s been important for this process of reevaluation to engage other people and other voices. It has been drawn out because I did not want to be superficial in my response, and I have made it public because I think my reevaluation should be commensurate to the public reach of my book.
While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner. I recommend books like Boundaries in Dating by Dr. Henry Cloud and True Love Dates by Debra Fileta, which encourage healthy dating.
There are other weaknesses too: in an effort to set a high standard, the book emphasized practices (not dating, not kissing before marriage) and concepts (giving your heart away) that are not in the Bible. In trying to warn people of the potential pitfalls of dating, it instilled fear for some—fear of making mistakes or having their heart broken. The book also gave some the impression that a certain methodology of relationships would deliver a happy ever-after ending—a great marriage, a great sex life—even though this is not promised by scripture.
To those who read my book and were misdirected or unhelpfully influenced by it, I am sincerely sorry. I never intended to hurt you. I know this apology doesn’t change anything for you and it’s coming too late, but I want you to hear that I regret any way that my ideas restricted you, hurt you, or gave you a less-than-biblical view of yourself, your sexuality, your relationships, and God.
And to those of you who benefitted from my book, I am so grateful that something I wrote helped you. The fact that a flawed man could write a flawed book and somehow that could help some people is amazing to me. But, to borrow an analogy from the automotive industry, if a car serves some people but a flaw in its design causes damage to others, good intentions by the carmaker and even the endorsement of other customers don’t override the problem. I cannot recall all the copies of my book that have been published. However, my public critique in written and documentary form, and the numerous media interviews I’ve done in the past two years, are my attempt to both apologize and spread the word of about the problems I see in it.
In light of the flaws I now see in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I think it’s best to discontinue its publication, as well other supplemental resources tied to it (this includes the two books I wrote after it whose content is similar). My publisher, whose encouragement in this process has been deeply meaningful to me, supports this decision and will not reprint the books after the current copies in their inventory are sold.
Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you’ll think for yourself and be compassionate toward those whose experience has been different than yours.
Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best on your journey.
There are mixed reactions going around in different circles about this revelation, but regardless of whatever individual opinions and thoughts are going around, our prayers and support should go out to the Harris family. We may not know the internal struggles that have caused them to reach this decision, therefore let us pray for them. This however leads to the next question: Is the culture of idol worship we place on Christian authors and pastors repugnant? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.