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.
While attending grad school (between 2015-2018) 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 called I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye that captured the conversations with people who were reshaping my thinking.
For me, it was important for this process of reevaluation to engage other people and other voices. It was drawn out because I did not want to be superficial in my response, and I made it public because I think my reevaluation needed to be commensurate to the public reach of my book.
Needless to say, 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.
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 in many readers—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 wrong view of yourself, your sexuality, and your relationships.
And to those of you who benefitted from my book, I am grateful that something I wrote helped you. 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 several years, are my attempt to both apologize and spread the word of about the problems I see in it.
In light of the flaws in I Kissed Dating Goodbye my publisher agreed in 2018 to discontinue its publication along with my other books on relationships.
In the time since my books were unpublished and the documentary was released, my beliefs have shifted significantly. My own marriage ended. I see how damaging purity culture and its ideas about sex and gender have been to so many—myself included. In particular I’ve apologized for ways my books and teaching harmed LGBTQ+ people.
At the time I filmed the documentary about my reevaluation, I was trying to do so within the confines of the evangelical church I’d found my home in for so long. But since then I’ve realized I no longer believe in the same way. While I no longer identify as a Christian, I’m grateful for people both within and outside of the church who are talking honestly about religious trauma, the danger of purity culture teaching, and the danger of manipulative, controlling, fear-based religion.
Whether you agree or disagree with my views, I hope you’ll think for yourself and be compassionate toward those whose experience has been different than yours. I wish you all the best on your journey.
— Joshua Harris