Family Tell-All Books: Justifiable or Dishonoring?

With the United Kingdom’s wayward Prince Harry’s new tell-all book, Spare, behind-the-scenes personal family interactions, relationships, and secrets are revealed. 

As well, Jinger Duggar Vuolo, of a highly popular and beloved Conservative Christian reality TV show with her family, 19 Kids and Counting, has a soon-to-be-released book Becoming Free Indeed, promising readers an expose and critique of her life behind the cameras.

So why are individuals writing tell-all books? What’s in it for them? Are they just trying to tell their stories? Are they hoping to set things straight? Are they looking to encourage their families to face issues, seek help, and be reconciled? 

Tell-all books prove to be very lucrative, especially for high-profile people. So what is the true motivation behind writing books that expose one’s family to public ridicule? Why are individuals writing them? Are there financial gains to be made in revealing personal family details?

For publishers, bringing in big revenue is the driving force behind tell-alls, especially with high-profile families. It may also be the reason behind some authors’ willingness to write one.

So before becoming one of the millions of readers rushing to read the newest tell-all books, the following are a few things to consider before picking one up and diving into it:

Whose Story Is It Anyways?

So is it okay for an individual to write a tell-all? After all, it is their story, right? Or are they really telling other people’s stories without their consent? Which way is it? 

Understandably individuals have the freedom to share their own story, experiences, and journey in life, but where does one’s story cross a line to where it’s more about exposing someone else’s stories? 

Do people have the freedom, right, or even the responsibility to expose their family’s frailties and faults to the world? What does Scripture say about uncovering family flaws? Is it justifiable, or is it dishonorable?

Proverbs 17:9 describes how “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”

Exposes usually reveal personal and hidden details about people, so it’s good to seriously consider Matthew 7:3‘s caution, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” 

Still, some justify exposing the sins of family members, noting how God writes and exposes many individuals’ sins in the Bible. But they’re not God.

What Does It Mean to Honor Our Father and Our Mother?

Many tell-all books aim at exposing the sins of the mothers and fathers, but the Bible clearly commands children to honor their fathers and mothers (Exodus 20:12).

Ephesians 6:2-3 explains how it’s not just an encouragement from God to honor parents but much more. It’s a command that comes with a promise: “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

It’s one repeated throughout Holy Scriptures, too, and a command God takes very seriously. In fact, ignoring it comes with a pretty harsh consequence. Matthew 15:4 explains, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’” 

Sadly we see over and over again family members rising up and pitting themselves against each other. “For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies are the members of his own household” (Micah 7:6).

So is it okay to expose a parent’s weaknesses, sins, and secrets to the world? Does God call us to be respectful of how we speak and write about them?

Tell-All or Family Feud?

Often, tell-all books come across as payback or getting-even books, often bringing public disgrace, openly airing grievances, pitting family members against each other, and tearing families apart.  

However, God clearly instructs us to refrain from settling scores in our lives. He urges us to trust Him to bring justice on our behalf. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Likewise, James 4:11-12 strongly cautions, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Often, believers don’t think God’s directives apply when dealing with their immediate family, but His instructions apply to parents, siblings, and other family members, too.

Does God Know and Care?

Proverbs 15:3 assures us, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

People don’t have to expose and reveal their family’s mistakes, errors, and sinful actions to the world because Jesus assured us, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17).

Even if it seems like it at times, no one on earth is getting away with anything. They can trust what God’s Word tells us. Everyone, including family members, will be held accountable for their words and actions. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 12:36, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” 

As well, we are reminded that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Are there Tell-All Consequences?

Ephesians 4:29 urges, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Do tell-alls benefit and build up others? Unfortunately, their pages are often full of gossip, which Proverbs 11:13 explains, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

Especially as Christians, we want to refer to Scripture in what we say and write about others, especially our parents and family members. As Leviticus 19:16 urges, “Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.”

As God points out, exposing the sins of others has the potential to endanger their lives. Exposing others’ failures to the world comes with consequences both for the ones who are exposed and the ones who expose.

Likewise, Proverbs 13:3 clarifies the effect that speaking carelessly of others has on those who practice it: “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”

What individuals say about others has the potential to bring destruction to their own lives, too. When speaking of others, 1 Corinthians 16:14 urges a simple motivation, “Do everything in love.”

Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Negative Space

Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman,,,, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.

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