Jinger Duggar Vuolo Gets Real About Writing Becoming Free Indeed - Exclusive Interview

Jinger Duggar Vuolo spent the majority of her childhood living in fear. Though the reality series "19 Kids and Counting" and "Counting On" were created by her family to open up Christianity to a widespread audience, Vuolo constantly found herself worried she wasn't doing what she needed to do in order to please God.

On television, the Duggar family showed the world what their lives were like following the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), led by a man named Bill Gothard. By following these seven principles, followers were guaranteed a successful life. However, these rules left a young Vuolo feeling unclear about how to live out her life as a Christian and even fearful that she would be punished for making any unintentional mistakes along the way.

The sixth-eldest Duggar has since stepped away from the IBLP and has completely changed her thinking on what it means to live a Christ-centered life — all of which she is now sharing in her new book, "Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear."

In an exclusive interview with The List, Vuolo opened up about the hardships she faced while writing "Becoming Free Indeed," what her daughters think about seeing their mother in the spotlight, and if we'll ever get the chance to see her return to reality television.

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support on its website.

Why it was important for her to write this theological memoir

You have said you questioned whether you should even write "Becoming Free Indeed." After you started writing, did you ever have any hesitations about finishing it?

Yes, for sure. I had been walking through six years of disentangling my faith from fear. And the community I was raised in is very tight knit, so I was afraid of how people would react to my story and afraid that maybe some people would not appreciate what I was sharing. I went back and forth.

As I was writing the book, there were many days where I would just cry. I was like, "Is this worth it? Is this what I'm supposed to do?" But the more I thought about it and the more I heard stories of people who had been through similar stories [to] what I've been through or worse, I started to realize, "No, I feel like this is what I'm supposed to do, and I have a responsibility to share this story."

Fear is a big theme throughout the book. Are you still afraid of how family and friends will react when they read it now?

Yeah, that's something that is real, because I was raised in this community and I still have a lot of friends there, so it is something that comes to my mind a lot. But I know that this is what's most helpful — to speak truth. It always is, even when it's hard.

What was the most difficult part of the book for you to write?

All of it, really. It's hard to say. Certain areas may have been more casual. In others, I'm more vulnerable than I've ever been in any setting. That always makes me think, "Once something's out there, it's out there," so I want to share and be as vulnerable and open as I possibly can be in hopes that it will help someone else who's walking through the same challenges, whether they're in a place where they're under a teacher who's claiming to speak for God but doesn't, or they're fearful of everything around them. [I want] to share the struggles I've walked through and show that you can come out on the other side stronger.

Did you tell your family the plans you had for this book before you started?

I had started writing some, and then I shared with my family that I was planning on writing this book. I have done that from the start of since I've been married. Differences we've had, we've discussed and talked about. A lot of times, you agree to disagree, and I'm like, "Okay, we can have different perspectives on things." I did share with them that I was going to be writing this book.

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support on its website.

What it was like putting the finishing touches on Becoming Free Indeed

You also voice the audiobook for "Becoming Free Indeed." What was the experience like reading your book out loud? That had to be such a different interpretation for you.

Yeah, it was for sure. Reading aloud [was] so interesting. I was like, "Wow." I felt the emotions come up when I was reading certain sections. [During] the sections I was more passionate about, I felt waves of emotion, and I thought, "Man, this is crazy." Whenever you write a book, you're working on so many sections, but reading it all together aloud was something that I was really grateful for the opportunity to do because it hit me differently than when I'm editing and writing stuff. It's interesting how that works.

In the acknowledgements of the book, you mention fighting off a security guard to get the cover photo. Can you tell us this story?

[Laughs] It was really funny, actually. We were shooting at the Row in downtown LA for this cover shoot, and there was a security guard who was very ambitious and was making sure he was doing his job. Although we had permits to shoot around the area, he was very specific about where we could shoot and where we couldn't shoot. 

The camera people were like, "I think we're allowed to shoot here." He's like, "No, I don't think you are. Move on." 

He would be like, "You can have a minute," and then he would just leave, disappear, and then he would come back.

He would try to give us some direction as to what we were supposed to do, [and] the camera guys were like, "Let's just grab our shots. Let's be quick, snappy. Let's try to get out of here because this guy is very bothered that we're here." [Laughs] It's a place where people do photo shoots all the time. That's why we chose it.

She has no plans to return to reality television

In "Becoming Free Indeed," you talk about writing "Growing Up Duggar" with your sisters and about how much your beliefs and opinions have changed since you wrote that book. Do you have regrets about writing that book?

When I was writing that book, I genuinely believed everything I was writing. I thought that the world would benefit from these teachings of Bill Gothard. Not the entire book was about that, but a ton of principles of Bill Gothard's were in the book.

Looking back now, ["Becoming Free Indeed" is all about] saying, "No, I no longer believe that." ["Growing Up Duggar" is] something that I look back on, and I'm like, "Oh. It's sad that I wrote that." But at the same time, I'm doing the best I can to move forward and to speak truth [and] to come back and say, "No, that wasn't right." I'm grateful for this opportunity to come back and, in a sense, correct what I said.

Another thing you write about is when "Counting On" was canceled. You said it was really upsetting because you were so close to the crew, but it was also a relief for you. Would you ever want to return to reality TV?

At this point, I don't see myself returning to reality TV.

I miss the crew so bad. They were like family to us because they were at our house multiple days a week for years. There's that side that I miss — the friendships. But as far as being in the public eye, it has its pros and its cons.

For [my husband and me], too, we've chosen to keep our kids out of the public eye, our two girls. So it would be very challenging to ever do something like that again and keep your kids out, [who are] a huge part of our lives.

How she hopes to raise her daughters

Are you planning to ever show your two daughters your reality shows?

To show them those, yes. I've shown them a couple clips before, and [Felicity]'s always like, "What are you doing, Mom?" or "Is that even you?"

She watched our engagement because I wanted them to see that. Somebody showed them. I think [my husband] Jer's parents showed them the engagement. Felicity, our oldest, talks about it a lot. She said, "Mom, I remember you had such big eyes when you said 'yes' to Daddy," and I was like, "Yeah." It's sweet.

She can see all of these times in my life and see what it looks like, but she has no clue what [a reality show is] for. She's probably like, "It's just another video." She's only 4.

What do you want to tell your daughters, or what have you already told them, about how you were raised?

They're still very young, 4 and 2, so they don't comprehend much. I think those conversations will happen later, the older they get. But at home, as we're raising our kids, we want them to know that Jesus is a kind and loving Savior. He's there and he's gracious, and I want them to see that Mom and Dad are the same at home as we are in public. That's what we want to show our girls.

As far as the other stuff, they don't understand any differences. They're still so young.

They're in that mid-point age where you don't know what they're interpreting.

Yeah. They do pick up on a lot more than we think, which is interesting. [Laughs] We're always like, "Oh."

My little one would say "what the heck" all the time. And then Grandma, Jer's mom, came and visited [and said] "We don't say 'what the heck.'" And she goes, "But we do say 'what the heck' because Mom and Dad say it." I'm like, "Oh, yeah." [Laughs

Little things like that — they'll pick up on whatever you say or do, and it's funny what they think is okay.

They always pick up on stuff you don't think they will.

Yeah, like conversations that are happening — they're always listening. [Laughs] It's really cute.

Do you plan to homeschool them similarly to how you were?

I don't have any plans for homeschooling throughout. I thought about maybe the first year. Part of that [has been because] it's been so crazy out here to figure out what's open [and] what's not still in California.

We have awesome options for school, whether that's public school, private schools, Christian schools. We have every single option, so I'm not planning on homeschooling throughout.

Here's what fans need to know about Jinger Duggar Vuolo

In your new book, you say that a lot of people who don't even know you have set expectations for you. What would you say is the most misunderstood thing about you?

People have opinions on my life as a whole. They look in and say Jinger is either happy or not happy [based on] if I'm wearing makeup or not. I'm like, "What the heck is that?" I'm fine. I'm happy. I'm like, "I just chose not to brush my hair today. Maybe you do that, too." [Laughs

It's interesting; people will have assumptions about that, or about why we have our kids out of the public eye, [or] even why I write this book. That's been a huge one. But I'm living my life and seeking to speak truth [and] share some of my life with the public around me. Because I'm in a public spotlight place, I want to share as much as I am willing to share. 

Then at times, there are weeks where I'm like, "I want to be off social media for a few weeks." When I'm off social media, sometimes there will be assumptions as to why. "Oh, no! Jinger's going to vanish from this." I'm like, "No, not right now. I'm just taking a break."

It's interesting [how] people have opinions about what you're doing and what you're not doing [and why], but that's part of being in the public space.

What kinds of other stories are you still hoping to share with fans?

In this book in particular, I feel like I'm more vulnerable than ever because I thought long and hard about what stories to share. I have a healthy perspective [on how] whatever you put out there is out there forever, so I wanted to think through what could actually be helpful. That's all I want to share — what is helpful.

When I walked through struggles with eating or not eating, eating disorder stuff, that was a challenge that I wanted to share, because I know so many girls struggle with that, and it's so important to open up and talk about it and get help. That was one thing that I was very vulnerable about.

Writing this book in general has been so hard. Every day, I feel the weight of knowing that so many people I still love are in it. So this'll probably be my last book I write, I've said. But [I wrote it] because this is something I've been passionate about for years and [I] wanted to be able to share my real self and be as vulnerable as I possibly could to hopefully help even one person.

If you need help with an eating disorder or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (text NEDA to 741-741).

"Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear" is available now.

This interview has been edited for clarity.