There are some stories that touch your heart and you know they need to be shared. I recently had a conversation with Pastor Mark Sowersby about his tragic childhood, and yet his ability to forgive those who hurt him in the most horrific ways [How To Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally and Isn’t Sorry – Episode 184.] Mark’s story has personally challenged me to examine my own heart for those I need to forgive. Our words are powerful. They can bring life or death. Mark shares about words that hurt feelings and how to forgive them.
Be sure to read to the bottom for a chance to win a copy of Mark’s book!
Words that Hurt Feelings and How To Forgive Them
By Mark Sowersby
From very early in my life abuse was all I knew, I was a victim of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. It was the atmosphere, culture, and reality I lived in.
While there are many things I remember, I clearly remember moments that did not come with a punch or a fight but came as a result of rejection from people I least expected. My home was so dysfunctional, rejection and abuse were common. I felt numb to the shock and pain. I was not raised, I survived.
It is ironic that a person who has gone through so much abuse and neglect can be completely crushed by a single seemingly insignificant event. A careless word spoken, a minor event triggering a rush of emotions, feelings, and actions. The final card that causes the whole house to come crashing down.
I remember going into seventh grade, it was called junior high then, and it felt like a rite of passage. I was growing up and looking forward to going. It meant more independence, my own locker, and switching classes. I was maturing. I looked forward to getting involved in school every way I could–sports, drama, and student government. I was looking for a place to belong, be safe, and escape the dysfunction, pain, and abuse.
Let me share with you a little bit about my education. I have dyslexia, and due to the dyslexia, they put me into a program called Special Education. I had an Individualized Education Plan, but one of the casualties of my upbringing is I had to be my own advocate. Special education was not what it is today. In those days all special education students were put in remedial classes; it did not matter whether you had a learning disability, or behavioral issues. While I didn’t move between classes as much as I wanted, I still had some independence.
When careless words spoken bring crushing pain
At the beginning of seventh grade there was an announcement that we were going to elect class officers. It was a big deal, we would have a president, vice president, and treasurer. I was one hundred percent all in, looking forward to being a part of something bigger and healthy. When they posted the date of the meeting, and where the classes would meet to vote on the offices, I was excited and could not wait to vote. The day came when we were supposed to get together as a class and vote on the elections. I waited and waited for the announcement. The announcement never came to my classroom; we never went up to the auditorium, never heard about the value of student government, never got to hear what people said, or did not say. I remember going to our vice principal and asked when the meeting was and why we had not been called. I’ll never forget what my vice principal said to me. “Mark, we did not call you, because we do not call romper room students to do things like that.”
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2
His words crushed me and brought me right back home to the abuse and dysfunction. I felt belittled, shunned, and rejected. What hurt so much and why I still remember it decades after those careless words were spoken, even with so much other abuse in my life, is because I never expected it to come from an educator, a teacher.
From that time on, I have always been very aware of being marginalized, silenced, and rejected. The vice principal never put a hand on me and never physically abused me. But the words spoken by the vice principal in seventh grade kept me on guard, and left me feeling suppressed, silenced, and held back. They also gave me a heightened awareness and sensitivity to others who have been marginalized.
When God redeems your pain
Out of all the abuse I endured, his words crushed me, sunk their fangs deep inside, and colored my perception of reality, they rang true in my heart and mind because they reinforced the rejection and lies that my abuser heaped on me. Yet, I needed to carry them to the altar and forgive the person who uttered them.
As I walked through the valley of forgiveness, trusted the Word of the Lord, and stood on God’s promises, I would ask the Lord to help me forgive those who trespassed against me–my abuser, my mother, and others. The statement from seventh grade would call out to me, this one story would come up. I would say Lord help me forgive that vice principal. It took just as much faith to forgive that rejection as it did any other rejection or abuse.
God is good and He has been faithful. The straw that broke the camel’s back, God redeemed and used it. This made me more aware of who I am, gave me a will to fight and endure, it pushed me to persevere. I learned to never allow myself to be pigeonholed, and never give up. I laid my anger and insecurities at the altar. I held on to the truth that God never gave up on me.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
God gives me the ability to walk in grace and forgiveness through His love and mercy. May the Lord be glorified. May you, too, find the peace that forgiveness brings.
We’d love to hear about your experience with forgiveness in the comments below.
Author, Forgiving the Nightmare
About Mark Sowersby
Pastor. Husband. Father. Reverend Mark Sowersby has been married to his wonderful wife Jennifer for 18 years and is the father of four children. Mark has been an ordained minister with Assembly of God for over 25 years and is currently the Pastor of Calvary Community Church in Dudley, MA. Pastor Mark holds a BA in theology from Zion Bible College/Northpoint Bible College.
In 2019 Pastor Mark went through a time of great healing. He began speaking about the experiences of his past and God’s grace and the transformational work of forgiveness in his life. He now speaks about his story through his ministry, Forgiving The Nightmare.
When he isn’t serving his congregation and his community through ministry, teaching, and support, you can find him on all the trails and lakes in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Upstate New York, spending time with his family.
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, Mark is giving away a free copy of his book, Forgiving the Nightmare.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you learned about how to forgive when careless words are spoken and you will be entered into the contest for your chance to win a copy of his book.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday, October 31, 2022. Continental United States only.
(If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).
My experience with Forgiveness is two-fold: It can be easy, uplifting and then I easily move on. But there are some things I’ve been simply stuck in and even though I pray and forgive, it’s heavy on my heart and it seems as if maybe I didn’t actually forgive because I still feel the anguish and pain. I wish this post by Pastor Sowersby solved it for me…but it hasn’t, I’m sorry! But I always have Hope through Christ’s love-always❤️🙏🏼
Although it is very difficult, finding a point where there can be some empathy for the other person helps to be able to forgive. Seeing that person as flawed (instead of evil – though sometimes evil IS the correct adjective) allows a glimmer of light that it is not so much about me as it is about the other person and this space allows room for some forgiveness.
I found hope from the words of this message about how careless words can hurt and destroy hope. I was not popular in school and felt marginalized by my peers because of my shy personality. I had gifts of creativity that helped me survive but I always knew God was with me. In order to try to fit in, I always gave in to any request and was the ultimate “people pleaser” which carried into my past two marriages. It only brought me into contact with controlling persons who were either abusive or manipulative and never did I feel valued or cherished. I hope this book will help me gain a new perspective on living life that only pleases the Lord and to seek His ways and not to be controlled by anyone except the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your words.
I learned later in life that I had a different father. Only my mother remains to tell the story and she’s not sharing. And she fails to acknowledge her part in my abuse by my stepdad. I’ve forgiven the betrayal and remain her caregiver.
Oh my goodness, if what he endured at home wasn’t enough to squash him emotionally, physically, relationally, hearing those words from the vice principal was line the last straw to push him down never to come up, but he did come up and became more compassionate and sensitive to other’s situations and treatment. All of that has I believe prepared him to be a pastor and truly care for the people God has given him to pastor. I truly have learned so much from Pastor Mark about forgiveness. I thought I knew for I have sought to always forgive and my hubby has an amazing forgiveness story that I was a part of but what Pastor Mark endured yet forgave them all, has made a lasting impression on me. If he can forgive all the abuse he suffered, I can surely forgive and let the Lord deal with the abusers always praying for them to repent and receive Jesus as Savior. Thank you, Michelle, for choosing Pastor Mark to have on your podcast and thank you, Pastor Mark, for sharing your life story and your healing with us. This is one of the best podcasts you have done even though I LOVE them all and have heard them all. I shared this on FB too.
. The straw that broke the camel’s back, God redeemed and used it.
Thanks be to our faithful and ever-present God -and to Mark Sowersby, and always to Dr. Michelle. For
It is so sad when those in leadership or education do not recognize the weight of their words. Thank God for the healing which He brought to this man and how He is using the past to redeem the present and help others.
Thank you for sharing your story. I never told anyone about my abuser, a family member, when I was 12. But I did confront him when I was 18 and let him know I would watch him the rest of my life to make sure he never touched another child. I am now 63 and he is still very afraid of me. I am a very healthy, loving, faithful, Christian woman. I share my story when I know it will help someone.