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Joshua Harris Apologizes for Mistakes in 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' in Powerful TEDx Talk (Video)

( [email protected] ) Dec 08, 2017 11:40 AM EST
Joshua Harris, author of the 1997 bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye, has given a TEDx Talk identifying what he got wrong in the controversial book.
Pastor and author Joshua Harris identifies what he got wrong in his 1997 bestseller "I Kissed Dating Goodbye." YouTube video screencap

Joshua Harris, author of the 1997 bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye, has given a TEDx Talk identifying what he got wrong in the controversial book.

"In today's world, we spend so much energy being right and proving others wrong," he says in the talk's description. "Twenty years ago I wrote a best-selling book about dating that I'm now realizing misguided and even hurt some people. I'm hoping that my experience of listening to my critics and reevaluating my conclusions will inspire others to see that progress and growth always involves the humbling process of admitting mistakes."

Harris wrote "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" when he was 20 years old, had been homeschooled his entire life, and had not yet been in a dating relationship. The book discusses the problems with contemporary "recreational dating" and presents "biblical courtship" as an alternative. In his book, Harris also urges Christian singles to commit to "purposeful singleness," as romantic relationships should exist only as a means to preparing for marriage.

"I was young, I was religiously zealous, I was certain, and I was restlessly ambitious," Harris recalled. "Youth, zeal, certainty, ambition ...they have the tendency to set the world on fire. I was writing to fellow Christians, I was saying, 'We need to be serious about our faith, we won't have sex until we're married, and if we want to avoid premarital sex, we should radically change our lifestyle, and that means we should stop dating.'"

The book quickly became a staple among the Christian community, selling over 1.2 million copies and propelling Harris to instant fame.

However, two decades later, Harris, now a married father of three, admitted that over the years, a number of individuals have shared how his book negatively affected them and promoted a damaging and unhelpful view of sexuality, relationships, and dating.

Joshua Harris
(Photo : Amazon)
Released in 1997,

Harris said that while there are some good ideas in "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" -- like the fact that "you don't have to be in a dating relationship to be a whole person" -- his eyes have been opened over the past few years to "see some fundamental problems" he included in the book.

"I didn't leave room for the idea that dating could be a healthy way of learning what you're looking for in a long-term relationship, that it could be a part of growing personally," he said. "I gave the impression that there was one formula that you could follow, and if you followed that, you'd be happily married, God would bless you, and you'd have a great sex life and marriage."

He added, "Obviously, the real world doesn't work that way."

However, the 42-year-old pastor and author said what he regrets most is the fact that he transferred the fear inside of him to his writing.

"Fear is never a good motive," he said. "Fear of messing up, fear of getting your heart broken, fear of hurting somebody else, fear of sex."

Harris, who went on to serve as senior pastor of Covenant Life Church for several years, said he finally understood the problems in his book after he stopped being the pastor of a large church and went to graduate school.

"I stopped having to be constantly right about everything," he said. "I just became a student who was listening."

Today, Harris said he's working with those who have been hurt by his book and is even producing a documentary that shares his journey and delves into how religious communities talk about sex and relationships.

"It's been such an emotional roller coaster for me," he said. "There are moments where I feel contrite and there are other moments where I swing over and I'm defensive and I'm mad that people are blaming me for things...I just want to run away from the whole process. But, the reason I don't, is because I believe that this is the pathway of growth for me, that I'm going to learn things in facing up to what I got wrong."

"There's transformational power in admitting that you got something wrong," he added.

Earlier, Harris told NPR that while the Bible gives "certain commandments and guidance" relating to sexuality and relationships, Christians often take truths from God's word and add extra human regulation onto them, the pastor contended.

"For example, there are clear things in statements in Scripture about our sexuality being expressed within the covenant of marriage. But that doesn't mean that dating is somehow wrong or a certain way of dating is the only way to do things," Harris said. "So you can kind of, like, back up and say well, because of this, then you should do this, this and this as well. And I think that's where people get into danger. We have God's word, but then it's so easy to add all this other stuff to protect people, to control people, to make sure that you don't get anywhere near that place where you could go off course. And I think that's where the problems arise."

In addition to "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," Harris, along with his wife, Shannon, has written several other books on the topics of relationships and dating, including "Boy Meets Girl" and "Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)."


Tags : Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Christian sexuality, Sex, dating, marriage, TEDx Talk, TED talk