3 Reasons I’m Reevaluating I Kissed Dating Goodbye – By Joshua Harris

In Dating, Relationships, Single by Debra Fileta16 Comments

I’m truly thankful to be sharing my space at TrueLoveDates.com with Joshua Harris today. But I’ll be honest, it’s a little surreal for me. It feels like just yesterday I was that 16-year-old girl, sitting under a tree at Creation Fest East, listening to him share about his best-selling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. It swept the nation like wildfire and totally changed the dating culture within the Church. Fast forward a couple decades, and here we are today, taking a second look at how his book impacted the dating scene – in both good ways, and not so good ways.

While my message of True Love Dates offers a different approach to dating than Joshua’s IKDG, what we have most in common is that we both believe in the importance and significance of this on-going conversation about love and dating within the Church. I’ve been so impressed by his heart and humility displayed through the process of the documentary he’s working on. If you haven’t heard about it, please read on.

I’m honored to have him here, sharing his heart and giving you a glimpse of what God is up to! We would love your feedback in the comments below! — Debra Fileta 

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When I was 21, I wrote a book offering suggestions to Christians on a more intentional way to approach relationships and romance.  It was called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” When it first came out in 1997, a lot of people read it.

A lot of readers liked it. And many others thought it was terrible — and told me so. For a long time I ignored the voices of those who didn’t appreciate my book or its ideas on relationships. It was easy to label the critics “haters” and bask in the warmth of those who found my book helpful. But twenty years later, I regret that I failed to carefully engage with criticisms of my book. So why am I doing it now? There are many factors but three reasons stand out.

1. I started listening to hurting people in my own church.

About six years ago when I was still a pastor I was sitting in my living room with members of my church who had come to talk about weaknesses in our church’s leadership and culture. The gathering came about following a sermon I had preached from 1 Peter 5:3 that says pastors are not to “Lord over” or be “domineering” towards the people in the congregation. As I concluded the message I said, “If there are ways that the leadership of your pastors has been unhelpful I want to hear from you.” Wonderfully, people responded. So we held a series of meetings in my house where people could gather together and tell their stories.

As I listened to those stories I began to see a new side of church life. Ever since I had come to the church I had been a leader of one kind or another. I was the one speaking. I was the author of books. I was an advocate of the church and our values. But as I sat there listening I realized how different the experience of the average person could be. I heard how values could be applied in graceless ways. I heard about people feeling rejected if they didn’t measure up. I heard about people who felt like the only way to be accepted by God was to do the things the church culture seemed to demand and live up to a standard that the “good families” set. I heard about ways that we leaders hadn’t listened to those who disagreed with us. And I knew it was true because I saw that mindset in my own life.

My eyes were opened to the fact that in a church culture even well-intentioned practices and godly values can be applied in a way that deeply hurt people. That was the beginning of a dawning realization that my own book could contribute to this kind of unhealthy culture in a family or in a church community.

2. I became a student.

Two years ago I stepped down from being a pastor to attend a graduate school of theology (it’s a long story and I talk more about it here). Stepping away from being “the leader with answers” to being “a student with questions” gave me a willingness to engage with new perspectives—even those that made me uncomfortable. Studying church history helped me see that every generation of Christians has blind spots and makes mistakes. Why should we be surprised that we will need to reevaluate? Then fellow students began to graciously share ways my writing had negatively affected their approach to relationships. They weren’t just faceless people on the internet, they were my friends. Listening to their stories gave me the courage to invite others to honestly share their experiences with my book.

One conversation with a fellow student was with a woman named Jessica Van Der Wyngaard. During a dinner with other students who’d worked together on a professor’s film, I asked her what the dating scene was like at our school. Unbeknownst to me, Jessica had read my book as a teen, passionately championed its ideas but then had experienced painful disillusionment with its ideals (you can read Jessica’s story here). She had a vision to create a documentary to talk about the real experiences and challenges faced by Christian singles. When I told her about my journey of reevaluating my own book we began a discussion that eventually led to a documentary film project called I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye (You can learn more about this project here).

3. I realized the issue is bigger than my book.

Many people have wanted me to quickly make a statement about how I view my book now—either an apology or a defense. But I have purposefully drawn out the process. I asked one of my professors to oversee a process of study in which I examined the historical, spiritual and sociological factors at work in the church when I wrote my book and in the twenty years after its release. I read hundreds of stories from people who were influenced by my book and had phone conversations with many of them. I reread my book and examined how it aligned with Scripture. The vision for the documentary is to capture more of this journey as I meet face-to-face with both readers as well as Christian authors and thinkers who are addressing the topic of singleness, sex, romance and dating.

The reason I’ve taken a slower route is because I want to get at root issues and not just provide flippant, quick-fix answers. Part of what I’ve learned is that the issues at stake run deeper in me and in my generation than just what was good or misguided about a single book. I’m learning that it has to do with whether we approach life from a posture of fear or one of faith. It has to do with our attitude toward what it means to be made in God’s image for relationship. It has to do with the kind of Christian communities we form. It has to do with how we conceive of healthy practices for Christian living. Is there always one right way to practice principles? And what does it mean to know God’s blessing? If we do things “exactly right” or “by the book” does God promise us marriage or a great sex life?

I’m still walking through this process of reevaluation. Jessica and I want to produce a high quality documentary to help tell this story and spark conversation among Christians about these important topics. In hopes others might value this too, Jessica launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for our volunteer crew to complete filming and ultimately give the film away as a free resource. (I won’t make a penny from it.)

I’m hoping that my personal journey of revisiting the good and bad of my book will help individuals, families and churches have an honest conversation about what is healthy and what has hurt us in the way we’ve thought about dating, relationships and marriage as Christians.

We will never get everything perfectly. But we’ll never grow if we’re not willing to admit that and own up to our shortcomings.

Comment below: How do you think the Christian Dating culture was impacted by IKDG? How did it affect you personally?

Please tune in to Joshua’s Facebook page Wednesday night at 8:30 pm ET/5:30 pm PT for a special Facebook Live event announcement about a 24-hour matching challenge that will run from 3 p.m. ET/Noon PT Thursday, Aug. 3 to 3 p.m. ET/Noon PT Friday, Aug. 4. During that time, all those who make a Kickstarter pledge commitment to Jessica’s “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye” film project will have their dollars matched.

Learn more about Joshua Harris and his new documentary. 

Catch up on more articles about dating and relationships from TrueLoveDates.com.  

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16 Comments on "3 Reasons I’m Reevaluating I Kissed Dating Goodbye – By Joshua Harris"

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Adam
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Josh H, I loved IKDG, I think it is a terrific book. I’m very grateful that you wrote it. I was homeschooled and appreciated your testimony. Because you were a cool dude that had strong morals. You were willing to look “uncool” because your purity and integrity were more important to you than your public image. I’m a pastor now, and I still recommend your book. I understand point number one you’ve just made. But I don’t believe that it is a direct condemnation of the book. Perhaps a caution for how its lessons are applied to people. We should… Read more »
Ediel Jonathan
Guest
That’s amazing. I’m from Brazil and this book had an important role in my growth as a christian. In fact, I learned a lot of godly values and tried to apply them in my life. However… sometimes it was a really heavy burden! Now I understand that is “(…) Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4.6 Honestly, the feeling of knowing and practicing the “most right way” led me to judge myself as the owner of the truth. Every dating out of the IKDG was in my concept a sin,… Read more »
Esther
Guest
Josh, thank you for taking the time to share more about this project, so that we can better understand the motives behind it – I feel like the “vagueness” of this project has been a huge confusion to many, including myself. Your post cleared a few things up for me personally, but I too feel strongly like Adam commented above. One thing that I took away from this book as a teenager was the very fact, you were bold, you were different, providing a generation seeking wisdom, and God’s best for our lives with encouragement that it was okay to… Read more »
Dominik
Guest

I understand the good intentions behind IKDG, but I felt that it insinuated one person’s experience to be the experience that everyone should have, or is most holy. Unfortunately, I feel that reading the book negatively impact my view and expectations of relationships and as well as how I thought God saw relationships. Initially I loved the book, but as I learned different life lessons, I came to different views of relationships. Today I can say that I feel I’m in a healthier place than before. Thanks for listening!

Amy
Guest

I grew up in SGM and read your book, even met Josh once at a conference. Unfortunately, my experience was nothing but legalism. It was pushed on young teens as the way it should be and held there by our parents and church. This shaped the way young girls and guys interacted and caused many to fall away from youth group and church. I appreciate the values you expressed in your book, but the way it was presented to us was without grace.

Ivy
Guest
The book was recommended to me by a homeschooling mom I knew. I was interested in the topic and read Boy Meets Girl and I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I understood the points that were being made about dating and how christians shouldn’t approach romance the rest of the world does. What I didn’t understand was why there wasn’t a better way to date. It seemed to me that there had to be a middle ground between courting and the dating that was described in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The couples I looked up and admired at my church hadn’t met… Read more »
Anthony
Guest

I believe if you have a desire to marry than God is okay with you getting married but if your desire is to focus on God only then you’ll be single. I think we as Christians need to do more action then speaking we are here to love,work and laugh.

Steve240
Guest
I have a blog where I have critiqued IKDG and have been blogging for quite some time. You can read my blog for more details on my criticism of his book. My blog is titled IKDG Wisdom or Foolishness. I believe IKDG has both wisdom and foolishness. Over the years Josh Harris has basically been silent about the problems with IKDG and even failed to clarify what he was “kissing goodbye.” Had Josh Harris used his blog to admit problems and clarify things perhaps IKDG wouldn’t have had the issues that it did. There were problems in Josh Harris’s own… Read more »
Bee
Guest
I read IKDG in my first year of Uni, I was 18, and proceeded to refuse to date anyone who wasn’t ‘husband material.’ Needless to say, I’m still single almost two decades since, because no one measured up to someone I could get married to, and therefore I didn’t date. Even when I ditched the principles of the book years later, I had grown older and got into a rut in my dating life. While obeying the ideals set forth in the book may have protected me from hopping from relationship to relationship and perhaps saved me some heartache, it… Read more »
Rena
Guest

Josh,
I wish I had read your book IKDG as a young single woman, but unfortunately, you hadn’t written it yet. I believe you presented Godly principles and if someone is wise enough to follow them they can be spared a lot of unnecessary heartache. I hope you don’t change your core values when revising your thoughts. I believe they honoured God and provided guidelines to protect people’s hearts. Blessings. 😊✨

Hannah
Guest
I honestly haven’t read IKDG, but have heard plenty of comments, feedback, articles, etc. about it. Many people vary in opinion and have different perspective and all. I believe your book has made a HUGE impact and still does! I mean, you wrote it 20years ago and people are still sharing stories and testimonies about it! I think that God used you and your book as a conversation starter and I believe the conversations within both Christian communities among them and Christians with non-believers will continue to happen! And eventually, I believe it IS the ultimate goal: Give God all… Read more »
Sara
Guest
I read IKDG about twenty years ago and took it to heart. I accepted the marriage proposal of the first guy who “courted” me. Twenty years later I am the single mom of three teenage boys and, while I want them to be pure, I don’t want them to feel the pressure to marry the first person they date out of a sense of obligation. And that is the issue with IKDG, The feeling of obligation and duty to stick with the person even if you begin to realize after six months of “courting” that this person is not the… Read more »
L.
Guest
Josh, I read your book and I still recommend it to teens because I think it is one of the most cogent pleas for purity in Christian relationships. Yet I have suffered as a result of my application of IKDG. As Bee mentioned above, I have tended to apply it’s principles as rules and become awfully discouraged over a lack of marriageable men or possibly not being marriageable myself and being confused as to which (if either) is correct. I refuse to lay the blame on you or your book, but I believe that my mindset toward relationships has resulted… Read more »
Ewygene Templonuevo
Guest
Hi, Josh. Thank you for your honesty. I was around 13-16 years old when my friends recommended that I read IKDG. They said that I would like it because the ideas you wrote were the same with my personal values. However, as much as I hate not finishing any book that I had started reading, I did not finish your book. Nope, I was not even halfway through. I can’t explain it at that time (not that I can do so now) but there’s something strict and stifling with the way you discussed. I am sure that I finished the… Read more »
Hannah Grace Palmer
Guest
My launch into the world of Christian dating and relationships was reading IKDG. I read it as a teen and I conformed immediately to Josh’s teaching. Imagine the confusion that followed in the months and years to come as I read over half a dozen more Christian books about relationships, all with different stances, and all claiming to be the most aligned with scripture. Over the past four years, I’ve dated (not courted) a few guys, and had an extremely hard time trying to implement the advice I was given, and ended up learnng more from getting my heart broken… Read more »
Lee
Guest
I appreciate this article. I am 40 and read IKDG when it released. Swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. Led a book study on it. Dug my heels in when older Christians expressed concern. And well, I’m still single. Is it Josh’s “fault?” No, he wrote a book; he didn’t hold a gun to my head. IKDG does contain wisdom, but like anything else, must be approached with a healthy dose of scripture and good judgment. Things I lacked the skill to use at the time. I wish I had dated back then so I would have had a better… Read more »
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