To err is human; to forgive, divine. No one knows this better than the Duggars, who faced not one but two shocking scandals involving the family's oldest son, Josh Duggar, and lost their hit TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting, as a result. After several months off the air, the outspoken Christian family is back in a three-part special entitled Jill & Jessa: Counting On.
In addition to updates on milestones concerning Jessa Seewald's pregnancy (which feels a little moot since she already gave birth) and Jill Dillard's forthcoming missionary trip to Central America, the Sunday, December 13, episode shed light on the muddied waters in the Duggar household as individual family members opened up about whether they had forgiven Josh (again) or not. Spoiler alert: There were tears — lots and lots of tears.
The Girls Revisit the Molestation Scandal
Generally speaking, Josh's siblings reiterated that they have forgiven him for the molestation of young girls that Josh committed when he was a teenager. "When the police report was released to the world, that wasn't right," Jill, who, along with her sister Jessa, was one of Josh's child victims, lamented. "We really had to work through it because, as a victim, you've already worked through it. You've already dealt with it and moved on, and you don't want it rubbed in your face."
Jessa claimed she was "surprised" by the news outlets picking up the story when it broke, but said upon further reflection, she understood. "Because of who my family is, the Christian values that we hold to, people are like, 'Y'all aren't perfect?' and I'm like, 'We never claimed to be perfect,'" she explained.
Younger sisters Jinger, Jana and Joy were clearly distraught over the situation, crying through their interviews. Jinger called it "one of the toughest times" in their lives, while Jana said it "was a lot of stuff to work through." Joy said the last four months were "the hardest ever," but added that they were "getting through it."
Jill and Jessa Struggle With Josh's Cheating Confession
When it came to Josh's second scandal, involving the cheating website Ashley Madison, Jill and Jessa weren't finding it quite as easy to forgive. Recalling the day Josh confessed that he had "gotten addicted to pornography and been unfaithful to his wife," Jessa said everyone was "devastated" (which is understandable, considering she and sister Jill had recently done a televised interview with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, basically coming to Josh's defense).
"It was one thing months before, when we looked back on the situation that happened when he was a teenager and saying that was so long ago, but here's something that's present-day, like, this is an issue happening right now," Jessa explained. "It was really difficult to come to grips with that."
And she wasn't alone. Jill also struggled with her feelings following Josh's second scandal. "[My husband] Derick and I talked about how earlier this year, when Jess and I were talking with Megyn Kelly, we wanted to say the truth, and I feel like we did that," she said. "Looking back, I still would have done that — I still would have said the truth of what happened — but knowing now what Joshua was hiding, I feel like it wasn't right for him to let us speak our words without having the full knowledge of what he was hiding." Coming from Jill Duggar, those are strong words, people. She also added that from this experience, she's learned something important: "Don't be a hypocrite."
Josh's Younger Brothers Draw a Line in the Sand
Josh's brothers seemed even less interested in rebuilding a relationship with him now, drawing some clear boundaries for the father of four. "After everything kind of started to settle down . . . we got word of a second thing that we had no clue about," John David recalled. "That was a little bit more of a shock probably than the first stuff coming out, because you look at your brother and you want to think the best about him."
But John David knew he could no longer think the best of Josh, and that had implications beyond his relationship with his older brother. "For me, making sure that I'm the man that I need to be, that I'm an example to those all around me, and it is a big load, it's a big weight upon me now," he sighed. "I know, hey, I've got a whole bunch of younger siblings looking up to me and I've got to be an example to them, because whatever I am, that's what they want to be. I know that's what it was for me and Josh. I always wanted to be like Josh. One of the toughest things I ever had to tell my older brother was, 'I don't want to be like you anymore.'"
Joseph also adamantly distanced himself from Josh. "Even after the first thing came out about him when he was younger, I never had quite as close a relationship as I did whenever I was really young," he began before adding, "But then over time, it built back up. But then whenever this next situation came up, it blew my mind. I had no idea." Unlike his sisters, Joseph wasn't crying during his interview, but he was clearly emotional and finding it hard to continue.
"I don't think there's any way any of us would have known that my brother's living such a secret life," he managed after a pause. "Just, whenever somebody is — somebody you respect the most — is willing to get up and proclaim what we believe as Christians, about being true to your wife, you never would expect that person to be the one that's involved in it, and it broke my heart."
Jill and Jessa Argue Over Who Got Fatter During Pregnancy
In a rare (and welcome) moment of levity, new moms Jill and Jessa (who was 35 weeks pregnant at the time the special was taped) argued with each other over which of them gained more weight during pregnancy. "You are not as big as I was," Jill told Jessa who insisted, "Yes, I am!" Jill, who gave birth to her son, Israel, seven months ago, replied, "I was huge." Jessa ultimately argued that she was just as big as Jill had been, but masked her weight gain with "lots of dark clothes." Just for the record, this argument was never really settled.
One person who didn't speak up during Sunday's show (at least, not much) was Josh's wife, Anna Duggar. In a preview clip, she recalled, "I was just like, I'm going to wake up and everything's going to be OK and this really can't be true." Guess this means you'll have to tune in for the next installments to find out where her heart falls on the forgiveness scale.
Tell Us: Do you think the Duggars should forgive Josh . . . again?
Parts 2 and 3 of Jill & Jessa: Counting On air December 20 and 27 on TLC at 9 p.m. ET.