Mark Douglass is a speaker, author, and life coach who resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  His memoir, Flashbacks of Abuse, is a gripping story of how in 2004 he and his then twelve year old daughter were nearly killed when they stumbled into the middle of a gangland kidnapping while they were tourists in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The incident took only a few minutes of his life, yet it had profound consequences.  In protecting his daughter from harm, he realized how forty years earlier, he had not been protected by his parents when he was endangered in a different manner by his parents' best friend, Steve.

What followed was a long adventure and struggle with post traumatic stress disorder, a re-evaluation and reframing of his traumatic childhood, and a new dawn in his life filled with hope and peace.

Mark Douglass

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Our guest today is Mark Douglass, a speaker, author, and life coach who speaks about forgiveness. Welcome, Mark.

1.) Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a speaker, author, and life coach. I have been married to my wife, Ann, for over thirty years. We have two adult children.

In my youth I was a “big man on campus’, as they say. I was a high school honor student, “most likely to succeed”, high school class president, Harvard graduate, and varsity athlete. I went on to law school and have been an attorney in Minnesota since 1980.

2.) What has brought you to speak about the importance of forgiveness?

In 2004, while traveling in Europe with my then twelve-year-old child, we were almost killed as we accidentally stumbled into the middle of a gangland kidnapping.

3.) You survived that incident without a scratch?

No. Not exactly

After the incident I began suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was anxious. I was always looking over my shoulder. When I was out in public, say, grocery shopping, it became a real struggle for me to go from my car, across the parking lot, and into the grocery store. I constantly scanned my environs. I looked in every car I walked by. I looked at every person approaching me. I was filled with fear that another gunman might come into my life.

When my family went to a restaurant, I had to know where all the exits were located. I had to sit at a table or booth such that I could watch the front door and the cashier. I needed to be aware of the possible approach of a gunman.

I had nightmares. I knew I needed help.

4.) What did you do?

I talked with my wife a great deal. I prayed a lot. And, I sought psychological counseling with a psychologist who was a retired police officer. With the therapist’s help, I began to see parallels between the street crime I witnessed in Europe and my childhood in the USA.

5. How did nearly being killed in Europe relate to your childhood?

I was repeatedly molested as a teen-ager by my parents’ best friend, Steve. Both, Steve, and my parents have long departed this earth, but issues relating to my childhood abuse plagued me for decades.

Over the years, I struggled with depression and self-esteem issues. A few times throughout the years, I considered suicide as a solution to my pain.

Oddly, my desire to make acquaintance with death changed as a result of the incident in Amsterdam. I wanted to live. That narrow brush with death, coupled with my growing awareness of my own mortality, proved to be a valuable gift as I worked my way through the pain and confusion of my past during therapy.

After a long inquiry of “Why me?” “Why did this have to happen?” I began to reframe my questions to “How might I look at things differently?” “What can I do to change the past?” “How can I let go of my childhood burdens?” “How can I let go of the burdens of the shooting incident in Amsterdam?”

4.) What did you do then?

I simply and deliberately chose to forgive the Amsterdam gunman. Although I would never meet him again, I started and end ed each day, and many times throughout the day, with forgiving him. I made this choice because I realized I could not change the past, but I could change how I viewed the past. I could change how the past showed up in my everyday thinking.

I found that forgiving the gunman so liberating I chose to expand my forgiveness.

5.) How did you do that?

Well, even though my parents’ best friend, Steve has been dead for decades, I realized that he occupied my thoughts all to often. How absurd is that? Dead for decades, yet ever present and alive in my mind.

I chose to forgive the man who molested me repeatedly throughout my teen-age years.

Like the gunman in Amsterdam, I forgave Steve. I forgave and forgave and forgave.

6.) What about your parents?

Like so many survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I continued to be angry at them for not seeing what was going on with Steve so many decades ago. I was angry that they did not protect me from Steve.

Yet, they, too, have been dead for years. Each day, however, I held these conversations with them. “Why, Mom?” “Why, Dad?”

I chose to forgive them. And forgive them. And forgive them.

7.) Are you trying to preach some sort of religious solution here?

No. Not really. Certainly, Jesus commanded his followers to forgive others. And, the Lord’s prayer speaks of forgiveness. But, whether you are a believer, or not, I am saying that forgiveness is a choice, a conscious choice. A rational choice.

8.) What are the benefits of forgiveness?

The primary benefit is freedom. You are no longer shackled to the past. When you forgive, you choose to let go of all that energy you previously directed to the past. Free of these chains, you can expend your energies here and now. You can turn to a bright future.

8.) But, doesn’t forgiveness let some very bad people off the hook?

I am not advocating releasing other people from being responsible for their actions. Forgiving is not pardoning. When people commit wrongs, they should be held accountable. Sometimes this means being fired from a job, divorced from a spouse, or even being prosecuted for a crime and being sent to jail.

Forgiveness is not condoning bad behavior. Nor is it absolving someone for his bad behavior.

It is just saying and living, “I no longer am hooked-in. I no longer will exspend my energy there.”

9.) Where can our listeners learn more about forgiveness?

They can read my blog at

10.) Where can our listeners learn more about childhood sexual abuse?

There are many places on the web. But, they may wish to order my book,
“Flashbacks of Abuse---How a machine-gun toting sociopath freed me from the chains of my childhood.” It is available through my website or on