Let’s not beat around the bush: 19 Kids and Counting is a “reality” show in the same way that Masterchef, Big Brother and The Block are “reality” shows: yes, it is portraying people who are playing themselves and not characters, but the situations are highly contrived, and the episodes heavily edited to show just a small part of reality. If the cameras were not there, the Duggar family would not be going skydiving, driving around London on OMG! the wrong side of the road!!!1!1 or pretending to discipline their children with gentle words instead of beatings.
The problem is that many viewers have fallen for the wholesome image they present on the show, and believe the Duggars to be role models. This, of course, is Michelle and Jim Bob’s goal in having the TV show (they see it as a “mission”), but I’m not sure why their network, TLC, doesn’t sneak in some subtle criticisms. There were a handful in the first season, but they have disappeared as the series has continued.
This list of rules is displayed in the Duggar family’s dining room. I thought I might explore their hypocrisies by using their own guidelines as a starting point, as I believe it is important for there to be some truth out there to counter the garbage. If I can persuade one teenage girl that no, she really shouldn’t want to live like a Duggar, this will have been worthwhile.
1. Always use soft words, even when you don’t feel well.
This comes up frequently in episodes of 19 Kids and Counting, and it speaks volumes about their emphasis on appearances over truth. Even if you are in immense pain, you must have a smile on your face, and act as if nothing is bothering you. Why? Apparently to be a model for others. But I think when others are in similar pain they won’t really be concerned about following a model of sweetness and soft words, unless they’ve been told that this is what they MUST do while the cameras are pointing in their direction.
2. Always display kind actions and joyful attitudes, even if you have been mistreated. Have the right response by quickly forgiving others in your heart even before they ask.
More of the same, but a little darker in its implication. Been sexually abused? Smile and forgive! I’m not, of course, saying that any of these children have been sexually abused. But if they were to be put in that situation, this is the kind of advice they are being given with which to process it.
3. Always be enthusiastic and look for opportunities to praise others’ character.
Josh Duggar exemplifies this by taking photos of government workers and laughing about how they’re not really working at all (although he has no evidence to support such a claim).
4. Always deflect praise and be grateful to God and others for the ways they have benefited your life.
Wait, so you’re meant to look for reasons to praise others but then you’re meant to deflect praise? With 21 people living in that big house, it’s just going to be one massive, never-ending chain of “You’re kind!” “No, but you’re godly!” “No, but you’re so gifted at the violin!” “No, but…” How do they ever get anything done?
5. Always use manners and be respectful of others and their belongings.
Again, I’ll bring up Josh on this one. Pick a random photo from his Instagram and you’ll find him having absolutely no respect for anyone. As for manners, well… check out the episode where Michelle and a few of the kids go to a public school, just for one example off the top of my head. Their hosts are doing their usual thing of dancing at the school assembly and the Duggars sit their squirming and looking uncomfortable and judgy. Nice.
The bit I’m referring to starts at 2:51. The whole thing is absolutely gold though. For bonus points, the first part of this three parter shows Michelle pretending to actually home school her children.
6. Always do what is right, even when others may not, or when no one is looking.
7. Thank God for how He made you, for what He has given you and everything He allows you to go through. (Romans 8:28)
8. Don’t mock or put others down. Develop compassion and pray for others.
Again. Josh. Instagram. It seems to be his number one hobby.
9. Never argue, complain, or blame. Quickly admit when you have done wrong and ask for forgiveness (even if you were only 10% at fault). Don’t wait till you’re caught. Be sure your sins will find you out. He who covers his sin will not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes it shall find mercy.
This is not the only instance in which things the Duggar parents say give me a seriously creepy vibe regarding privacy and secrecy. They have designed their house so that no one (except the parents themselves) has privacy, and Michelle, by her own admission, uses her “quality time” with each child to ask them if they have a sin to confess to or if any of their siblings have confessed sins to them. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t have a lot to hide themselves would be so preoccupied with secrecy.
10. Have a tough accountability/prayer partner to daily share your heart with and to keep you in line (your parents, spouse). The power of sin is in secrecy.
Again with the secrecy. Everyone is a mole; no one can even think about escaping without being compelled to confess it to their prayer partner, who will in turn spill the beans to Mom.
11. Be attentive and look for ways to serve others with sincere motives and no thought of self-gain.
The Duggars have done some volunteer work for various organisations over time. However, they did so while being filmed for an international television program. No thought of self-gain? Also, one of the times that they did “volunteer work”, and Jim Bob went on and on and on about how they wanted their children to have servants’ hearts and give their time to others – the place they were volunteering was a wildlife park. The stuff they were doing out of the “generosity of their hearts” – feeding cute baby animals, etc. – is stuff that I recently had the option of paying $150 to do at the Adelaide Zoo. Those are fun things you do for self gain, not just to serve others!
12. Think pure thoughts (Philippians 4:8, Romans 13:14).
Not sure how they can enforce this one – oh wait! Rules 9 and 10.
13. Always give a good report of others. Don’t gossip! Never tale-bear unless physical harm will come to someone. (Use Matthew 18.)
Again, I am concerned for these children if they ever found themselves in harm’s way. This rule has a caveat for physical harm, but psychological harm can be just as, if not more, damaging to a child than physical harm. And if they’re following this guideline, they can say nothing about their (theoretical) tormentor other than to praise them.
14. Never raise a hand to hit.
Does this one apply only to the children, then?
14. Never raise a foot to kick.
Couldn’t combine this one with rule 13?
15. Never raise an object to throw.
16. Never raise a voice to yell.
This is getting ridiculous.
17. Never raise an eye to scowl.
How would that be even biologically possible? Try it!
18. Use one toy/activity at a time. Share!
I understand the motivation behind this one – a dozen or so actual minor children can surely create a lot of mess. But heaven forbid they should want to use their imaginations and combine toys that weren’t originally designed to go together? This one makes me a bit sad.
19. Do your best to keep your surroundings neat, clean and organized.
20. Never let the sun go down on your wrath. (Don’t go to bed angry or guilty)
Certainly can’t argue with the going to bed angry thing; it’s a rule I live by myself. But why did you have to add guilt to it? Why are these kids constantly guilty? Maybe we should work on the root problem first?
21. Amendment J.O.Y. – Put Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.
I could write an entire post about this one. And plan to. The draft is actually in progress, it’s just that at the moment it would be epically long and I’m trying desperately to work out how to cut it down. Suffice to say, I have never seen a hypocrisy as great as the Duggars advocating this particular rule.
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