What We Can Learn From Josh Duggar's Downfall

You’ve probably heard about the Duggar controversy. If not, I’ll tell you only that Josh Duggar committed a serious crime as a teen, it was dealt with extensively, and the family moved on. As often happens with the idiotic decisions we make in our youth (because we’ve all made them), his actions are now coming back to haunt and hurt him and his family.

Before we begin, let’s establish these understandings:

  1. Josh Duggar was completely and heinously wrong in what he did, and I feel tremendously for the victims and the parents, none of whom deserved this grief.
  2. I respect the family, but I’m not a Duggar-worshipper or even a follower.
  3. This article is not about the Duggars. It is about what we can learn from this experience. If you’re only here to tell me you’re sick of hearing people excuse his behavior, go back to number 1. If you’re only here to get mad and say that he should be removed from society until the day he dies and then hung by his toes from the mast of the Black Pearl and sunk to the bottom of the bottomless pit, you’re only here to vent your rage instead of reading for meaning, and you need to go back to school.
  4. See number 1.

I tend to stay away from overt controversy on this blog and, frankly, it’s none of my business, but I’m bringing this up because we can learn two things from this debacle that can help us as we build up our homes and relationships. These two things are about (1) people worship and (2) forgiveness and consequences.

(1) People Worship

We’ve all done it. We say things like this:

  • “If only my family were like theirs (the Dugggars or someone else’s).”
  • “Maybe if I were as godly a mother as she is, my kids wouldn’t fight so much.”
  • “If my husband were a better example, my boys would behave better.”
  • “I’m a failure; why can’t I be more like ______________?”
  • “I wish I were as patient as my sister/friend/mother.”
  • “Her kids are so much nicer, better educated, and more sociable than mine.”

Sound familiar?

The fact is the families you are comparing yourself to have their own problems. Sure, some of them have stronger marriages, more sociable children, scholastically superior accomplishments, more understanding husbands, more patient mothers. Maybe those are traits you long for in your own home and you’re pining. Be aware that what you see is not the whole story.

Those families have issues that you don’t know about. It could be something dark, like in the unfortunate case of the oft-worshiped Duggars, or maybe infidelity, abuse, alcoholism, or pornography. It could be something like an over-working husband, a distant marriage, a shopaholic wife, malcontent, disrespectful children, debt, screen addiction, gossip addiction, chasms between parents and children, eating disorders, questionable friends–whatever!

No human being or mortal family is perfect–no human being or mortal family is worthy of our worship. None. They will all fall from the pedestal of worship we place them on.

Just like the Duggars. Just like my family. Just like you.

Don’t worship people.

(2) Forgiveness and Consequences

Spend 15 minutes reading the comments on any Duggar article since the revelation, and you’ll see a handful of logical responses. The rest are polarized.

Pole number 1: Duggar fans are anxious to forgive and forget–an admirable trait. They are horrified that the family they loved (and possibly worshiped) has a dark spot in their past and has plunged from their high pedestal. They are hurting, but forgiving. They respect the parents for dealing boldly and humbly with the sin as soon as it was confessed, even voluntarily (from my understanding) involving the police and seeking rehabilitation for Josh and counseling for all involved.

They don’t want Josh to suffer any further consequences for what he did when he was a dumb kid, because they say his actions and life since reveal that he repented. They say it should be like it never happened.

The problem with that view is that it did happen.

Pole number 2: Duggar critics are still slobbering at the mouth claiming the sole purpose of the Duggars was to suppress women and reproduce for their own personal financial benefit…because a women who enjoys being intimate with her husband is obviously brainwashed and having lots of children makes you rich. Ahem. They think people who live by faith and welcome the blessings God sends their way are Santa-believing freaks. They’ve been waiting anxiously for the Duggars to fall, and they are reveling in what they see as a victory and a huge smear on the Christian church and faith.

They are not about to forgive, regardless that this issue occurred when Josh (now 27) was 14. They don’t acknowledge that it was dealt with years ago in numerous ways, and that the family is continuing to be straightforward, humble, and responsible. They want Josh and his parents to feel every single consequence of the actions of his teen years again. They want him to pay and to keep paying, even if that means hurting his victims again by dragging this whole thing through the mud. They want to inflict pain because pain was inflicted.

The problem with that view is that repentance, forgiveness, and healing have already occurred–where does it end?

Where do I stand?

In the middle.

As Mike Huckabee says, “Josh’s actions are, in his own words, ‘inexcusable,’ but not unforgivable.”  I believe in complete forgiveness of the penitent sinner, just as God has forgiven us through Christ. Being a mere mortal, I’m not good at forgiveness, because it’s hard, but I firmly believe in it–honestly, I do, even though if the victim were my child, I would have had a hard time not wanting Josh Duggar to feel serious pain…quite possibly somehow related to the front grid of my Chevy Express van. I would not, however, have acted on that impulse, but would have sought proper punishment, forgiveness, and healing, just like his family did over a decade ago.

I also believe in moving on as best we can. We must forgive and live, especially for the sake of the victims. Josh has shown (from what we can see) repentance and change over the past 13 years, so this grotesque action as a dumb kid should not completely define him forever. Don’t you love it when someone takes something you did, say, 20 years ago and defines you by it, regardless of your penitence and growth since that time? Yeah, that’s my favorite.

There’s more. Unfortunately, we can never make life return to how it would be if a sin never happened–not on this side of heaven. Even forgiven, we must live with the earthly consequences of our actions. Josh hurt people. That affected them; it changed them forever. It affected and changed him, too. There’s no amount of forgiveness that can make those consequences completely go away in man’s eyes, and we do have to accept that when we have caused pain. When the hurt caused by Josh the dumb kid rises up again, Josh the responsible adult must deal with it, however many times he has to drop on his knees and beg forgiveness from those he hurt. Just like me, just like you–no excuses.

What can we learn from those opposing poles?

When someone does us wrong, forgive. It isn’t easy. It may have to be repeated, since we humans tend to un-forgive. Just keep forgiving and move on as best you can–easier said than done, I know, especially if one of your own is the victim. Turn to Christ for the strength.

When we do someone wrong, understand that we must accept the consequences like a man (or like a woman, but “like a man” sounds better), humbly, honestly, and without trying to pass the buck. It’s called personal responsibility, even if what we did was when we were young and foolish idiotic.

Own up, forgive, move on, don’t get a national television show, help the victims heal, and be prepared for the consequences to slap you in the face from time to time.

Oh, and don’t be a stupid kid–too late? Yeah, for me, too.

In summary

–Don’t worship people; nobody is perfect…or even close. Everybody falls at some point.

–Forgive others, forgive yourself, embrace Christ’s forgiveness, and own up to the consequences of your actions, even when those consequences come from those unwilling or unable to forgive.

Here is a better article about this whole thing, particularly if a little voice in the back of your head is asking, “Would this have been such a big issue if they weren’t such vocal Christians?”

Four More Random Lessons From the Duggar Issue

1. Why dig up what happened with a stupid 14-year-old more than a dozen years ago, unless, of course, it’s to intentionally cause harm? Lesson: don’t dig up the past in your personal relationships.

2. The Duggars are receiving criticism for “covering up” this incident. Just because they didn’t advertise this issue to the public does not mean they hid it or buried it. They dealt with it when Josh first confessed over a decade ago, they have since, and they are again–certainly not perfectly, because they are human, which is why we don’t worship people. They even voluntarily turned their own son into the police–would you do that? Lesson: practice personal accountability.

3. Third, you think I’m forgetting the victims and protecting the perpetrator, don’t you, just because I wouldn’t actually run him down with my van? How do the victims feel about this? Well, we could ask them if only their parents would further tarnish the girls’ reputations and plaster their names all over social media and the news. But they’re not. They did what they felt was best to protect their girls over a decade ago–certainly not perfectly, because, blast it all, they didn’t get any less human since the last paragraph. They sought counseling, removed the perpetrator until he had been properly “rehabilitated,” and protected the girls’ names. Despite the critics and media ripping open old wounds, the Duggar parents are still doing whatever they can to protect their girls today by keeping their names out of it. Wouldn’t you? Read this truth about the victims. Lesson: do whatever you can to protect your kids–even more than the Duggars did.

4. As Christians, especially those in a position of authority or in the spotlight, we are called to live a “higher” life. We must be above reproach. People are watching like hawks to find fault with us. They will find it, because we’re human, but we can make it as difficult as possible by living the kind of life Christians are called to, and not just when the world is looking, but all the time. That’s a big calling. Lesson: walk the walk.

What are your respectful thoughts?