All the Bombshells From Jinger Duggar Vuolo's Book Becoming Free Indeed

In Becoming Free Indeed, Jinger Duggar Vuolo shares how she came to reject the severe doctrine of the church she grew up in and moved forward with her faith intact.

By Natalie Finn Jan 31, 2023 6:00 PMTags
Watch: Jinger Duggar Vuolo Reveals Which Siblings She Still Talks To

Jinger Duggar Vuolo has continued to cut the ties that were binding her to the past.

In her latest book, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear, the sixth of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's 19 kids repudiates the teachings of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, whose practices she once took as gospel but which she recently referred to as "cult-like."

Not that rejecting the beliefs that defined her adolescence was easy—and deciding to lay it all out on the page was an even bigger leap of faith for the 29-year-old.

"While this is not the first book I've written, it is the most challenging," Jinger, who previously co-authored books with her sisters and husband Jeremy Vuolo, writes in the introduction. "The process has been far more emotionally exhausting than I thought it would be. It's been tough because it's so personal. At times, I've wondered if I should even write it. But I know it's necessary."

The Complete Duggar Family Tree

She acknowledged that she may upset some people with her take on IBLP and its former leader, Minister Bill Gothard. (One glance at the comments on her Instagram shows that she's followed by supporters and critics alike.)

"When you grow up in a tight-knit community where everyone believes the same things about everything—not just who God is, but also how men and women are supposed to dress
and speak—it's hard to even consider the possibility that what you were taught was wrong," Jinger writes. "My prayer is that this book will help anyone—no matter what community you grew up in or what you were taught—to learn how to honestly examine your beliefs."

But Jinger also hopes the book, written with her friend Corey Williams, will give readers a sense of why, through the "highs and lows, the trials my family has endured, and the changes in what I believe and how I live," her faith is stronger than ever.

Here are the most eye-opening parts of Becoming Free Indeed:

We independently selected these deals and products because we love them, and we think you might like them at these prices. E! has affiliate relationships, so we may get a commission if you purchase something through our links. Items are sold by the retailer, not E!. Prices are accurate as of publish time.


Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear by Jinger Duggar Vuolo

For revelations from Jinger, check out her book.

Cue the Sun

Jinger Duggar Vuolo writes that she and husband Jeremy Vuolo not only didn't go on any movie dates while they were courting in 2016—they never watched a movie together until their honeymoon.

And that film was The Truman Show, which Jinger—who had been on TV in one reality show or another since she was 10—promptly compared to her own life, "except for the spouse-picking part."

"Five of my siblings took their first breath on television," the 19 Kids and Counting and Counting On star notes. "That makes them, like Truman Burbank, reality stars at birth."

#FreeJinger? Thanks, But No

Just because she was a little insulated growing up doesn't mean Jinger wasn't online—and she saw when Television Without Pity's frequent Duggar musings spun off into the "Free Jinger" discussion board. Mainly, as far as she could tell, because she particularly enjoyed as-seen-on-TV family trips to New York, Chicago, London and other big cities.

"They assumed that if I wanted to live in a big city"—which was true—"that also meant I wanted to break away from the values of my childhood, since most cities are overwhelmingly secular," Jinger writes. She also suspects the critics singled her out because they thought her name was "funny."

She found the "Free Jinger" sentiment "caring" but misguided, as she didn't see being able to do whatever she wanted without considering how it went against her or her family's religion to be her idea of "free."

Jinger Wasn't Even Honest With Her Diary

With Duggarmania in full swing, 14-year-old Jinger's stolen diary wound up listed on eBay for $100,000 in 2008.

However, she writes, the girl who tried to sell it—after taking it from Jinger's room during a visit to the Duggar home—ended up returning it a few weeks later, perhaps having realized "there was hardly anything shocking for the thief to turn into a profit.

And Jinger still has it to this day, the journal serving as a time capsule of the person she wasn't.

"When I read it today, I'm struck by what is missing," she writes. "I was afraid to say the wrong thing; to confess my inner desires even in a diary. I didn't express any of the feelings and fears that were a constant part of my childhood. Rather than serving as a true chronicle of Jinger Duggar's inner life, my diary was yet another place of performance: a tool where I practiced projecting the version of myself that I wanted everyone—parents, siblings, friends, or fans of the show—to see."

Jinger was afraid of a lot as a kid—thunder, tornadoes, terminal illnesses striking her family, car crashes, snakes—"but," she writes, "by the time I was fourteen, my worst, most all-consuming fear was the fear of what others thought of me."

Battling an Eating Disorder in Her Early Teens

"Convinced my body was an embarrassment, I ate very little," Jinger writes. "I'd go days hardly consuming any calories. My weight dropped, but my body image didn't improve. It almost never does in those situations because the weight isn't the problem. No matter how thin I was, I wasn't satisfied with the way I looked. This obsession with body image was terrible for my physical health and it certainly wasn't good for me spiritually."

She credits her mom, Michelle Duggar—who, Jinger writes, told her that she, too, had struggled with eating issues when she was her daughter's age—for helping her get out of that toxic headspace and make sure she was eating balanced meals and not exercising excessively. (Michelle spoke in 2014 about battling bulimia as a teen, having given her blessing to her daughters to share her story in their 2014 book Growing Up Duggar.)

"I felt no judgment from her, just love and care," Jinger recalls. "I knew I was going to be okay because she had been through it." 

The Pressures of Courtship

Jinger recalls that "from the moment" she and Jeremy started talking on the phone, "there was an expectation of marriage."

But such was the nature of courtship, which was one of the social rituals mandated by the Institute in Basic Life Principles, whose teachings Jinger grew up with and touted alongside sisters Jana, Jill and Jessa in their 2014 book Growing Up Duggar.

She and Jeremy, also a Christian with a reformed-Baptist pastor father but not a member of IBLP, were not set up by her parents—and the Duggars initially didn't approve of him, so it took five months before their courtship commenced. (Jeremy told Us Weekly in 2021 that Jim Bob Duggar sent him sent him a 50-page questionnaire that included some "intensely personal questions" to get a read on the young man.) 

Afraid of having a "dating spirit" that would lead to impure thoughts or otherwise astray from her righteous path, Jinger recalls not even telling her sisters she liked Jeremy—so when he asked Jessa if Jinger had talked about him...she hadn't.

Quite the Catch

Before Jinger met Jeremy, she writes, "at least 20" and maybe as many as 26 guys asked her dad for permission to court her—including five in one week. But she didn't think all that much of it.

"I hadn't shared more than a passing hello with any of them," she recalls. "I'm guessing a few confused me with one of my sisters. Several had seen the show and decided they wanted to court a Duggar girl. A similar number of guys were interested in each of my sisters."

Jim Bob would ask Jinger and her sisters what they thought and, if they said no, he'd duly relay the message. "I'm not going to lie; it was kind of nice to tell my dad, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' and not have to tell the suitors themselves," she writes. 

Jeremy—a college-educated former professional soccer player from Pennsylvania ("He was unlike the previous guys in every way," she writes)—was the last guy to ever ask Jim Bob about courting Jinger. (And Jeremy finally got the answer he was hoping for "after five months of almost weekly conversations with my dad.")

Jessa and Ben Came Through in a Big Way for Jinger and Jeremy

Jinger writes of how much she admired the relationship older sister Jessa had with her eventual husband Ben Seewald, whom she married in 2014. In fact, Jinger met her future spouse at an IBLP conference in Big Sandy, Texas, in 2015 not because Jeremy was a member, but because he was there to visit Ben and Jessa.

Once the younger couple were courting, per the book, Ben and Jessa "pulled some strings" to get Jeremy on Jinger's mission trip to Honduras and El Salvador so they could spend serious time together and see if they really had chemistry.

Ben and Jessa also facilitated Jeremy's surprise visit to Arkansas when they took Jinger out to a Mexican restaurant and, lo and behold, Jeremy showed up with their tray of food. "I'll never forget the shock," Jinger writes, recalling "the sweet visit and at least a few days where we could talk in person rather than over the phone."

Ultimately they courted for three months and were engaged for another three before marrying on Nov. 5, 2016. They're now parents to daughters Felicity, 4, and Evangeline Jo, 2.  

Disentangling From IBLP

Jinger calls IBLP founder Bill Gothard "one of those dangerous teachers" who purports to be preaching the truth about Christianity but is actually teaching "a religion of their own creation."

She once thought he was a "modern-day prophet," she writes, recalling how in one of many thank you notes she wrote him after a visit to IBLP headquarters or a conference, she thanked him for her very existence because he had taught his flock to procreate until they physically couldn't anymore. "If my parents had decided to stop having children when
most Americans did, I wouldn't exist," Jinger reasoned at the time.

IBLP and Gothard did not respond to E! News' requests for comment.

Severe Social Anxiety

When Jinger first moved to Texas to be with Jeremy, she started feeling anxious everywhere she went, including church. Determined to meet people, she asked a fellow parishioner to brunch and "cried right up until I left for the restaurant," she writes. Jinger made it through the meal but recalls feeling as if she could have burst into tears at any moment.

And she did start crying another time when a woman at church just started asking some friendly questions in an effort to get to know her. 

"The pressure of figuring out what to say, combined with the fear of saying the wrong thing, became overwhelming," she writes. "I couldn't keep back the tears...Moments like that almost didn't feel real. They were more like out-of-body experiences. They weren't who I thought I was."

Jinger realized that she'd done almost everything in her life either as part of a familial unit, with at least one parent or sibling around her at all times, or with her husband, and was "rarely in isolated social settings," she writes. When she was with a person she'd just met, "I didn't know who I was, either, so I'd try to adapt to the other person's personality—or I'd freeze."

She ties it to the impression she got from Gothard's seminars, that it was a woman's "job to be agreeable and encouraging. Many of the women I interacted with seemed to make a point to avoid any topic that might lead to conflict. They didn't want to express their opinions. They didn't want to talk about their own likes and dislikes; interests and hobbies."

On one occasion, she remembers, she found a piece of glass in her food at a restaurant and didn't even tell the staff. "I smiled and said it was no big deal," Jinger writes. "That's a small example of an attitude I carried with me and struggle with to this day. I assume that I must be happy and see everything in a positive light, even if there's glass in my food."

This Is Not Me and What You're Saying Isn't You

Gothard preached that if wives were too opinionated, their husbands would seek out other women "for support and submission," Jinger writes. 

She couldn't help but have that and the rest of the IBLP leader's teachings on her mind as she embarked on marriage to Jeremy, and she admits that during their first year in Laredo as husband and wife she "acted like I was the one responsible for my husband's happiness and fidelity to me. For my entire life, I'd been taught that when I married, I needed to perform for my husband."

In turn, "I never expressed an opinion" that year, she writes, even though Jeremy obviously wanted to know what she was thinking, telling her more than once, "'Jing, you're not a Stepford wife.'"

To which she replied the first time, "What's a Stepford wife?"

Remembering "Gothard's Girls"

Jinger recalls laughing with her sisters at the mall while trying on a blonde wig as they joked about "being ready for headquarters."

Meaning, she writes, that the blonde hair made them look like "Gothard's Girls": Girls and young women, most with "long hair, big smiles and petite body types," many from single-parent homes "without a father or grandfather to guide and protect them," who worked at IBLP headquarters in Hillsdale, Ill.

"For us, this wasn't more than an odd quirk of our little world," Jinger writes. "Now, after everything that's happened over the past 10 years, I realize the joke wasn't funny."

Gothard would invite a girl to talk, she explains, and after awhile he'd "rub the women's feet and hold their hands, both of which were strictly forbidden between a man and woman who were not married. A lot of Gothard's girls have said that Gothard would touch them inappropriately or engage in explicitly sexual activity. Ten of those ladies filed a lawsuit against Gothard in 2016." 

He resigned from the IBLP board in March 2014 amid a review by outside legal counsel into allegations he had sexually harassed and molested women. In June 2014, IBLP stated the investigation determined Gothard "acted in an inappropriate manner" but didn't commit criminal acts. (Gothard said in a since-deleted statement, "My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong.")

The 10 plaintiffs dropped their complaint in 2018, but said in a joint statement to Recovering Grace, "We want to make it abundantly clear that by dismissing our lawsuit at this time, we are not recanting our experiences or dismissing the incalculable damage that we believe Gothard has done by his actions and certain teachings. Nor are we disregarding that his organization chose to protect themselves instead of those under their care."

Gothard, now 88, has denied any wrongdoing, stating on his website that the same women who accused him of sexual misconduct "had written marvelous letters of gratefulness to me during those 20 years, thanking me for 'being their best friend,' 'bringing about the turning point" in their lives, and "giving them help and encouragement" that they will always remember. There was never a hint of harassment because there was none."

Praying for Josh Duggar

Jim Bob and Michelle's eldest child, Josh Duggar, 34, is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence after being convicted in December 2021 of receiving child pornography.

Josh was also found guilty of one count of possessing child porn, but that verdict was vacated before sentencing. The father of seven with wife Anna Duggar pleaded not guilty at trial and appealed his remaining conviction in December in hopes of getting a new trial. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments Feb. 16.

Jinger writes that she hasn't seen or spoken to her brother in almost two years but continues to pray for him.

"One of the hardest realities in my life is that my brother Josh very publicly displayed some of the same hypocrisy as Gothard," she writes. "He used his platform, and even his job at the Family Research Council, to promote some of the same ideas Gothard taught. But while he looked the part in so many ways, the true Josh appears to be much different. He was living a lie."