When an individual experiences an extremely traumatic situation, one that is so contradictory to their personal values that a person has experienced Moral Injury.
Moral injury is a profound impairment of a person’s emotional value system or the person’s soul. It is intimately bound up with their sense of shame and the experience is a spiritual transgression of the greatest magnitude. Moral injury is often talked about in military circles where it pertains to serviceman’s issues dealing with life and death situations and the effects it has on them but, in actuality, it is the existential crisis that can be dealt with by anyone. The consequences of combat make it a clear and present issue for the military. Moral injury is often mentioned in the same breath as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but it is more than a stress reaction to combat. It is a profound and pernicious wound. When experienced it leaves an indelible mark upon the soul and literally reorients the person’s perception of reality.
Looking at the mechanics of mora injury we have to ask ourselves how and why does this happen?
Personally, I believe this is determined by experiences from childhood. If the person grows up with values exhibited by the adults around them that are counter to the morals they profess the values/morals crisis is resolved early, usually in adolescence. So when this person is faced with what could be a traumatic event is a situation that may not necessarily fit within their moral framework but it is absolved by their values. The horrendous experience is justified by the ends.
The person who did not have this sort of upbringing will see it differently. The person who is morally injured by the traumatic event was probably raised within a morally uncompromising community, where these concepts were modeled by people in his environment or at least he was not aware of the more flagrant violations. This person has taken on this modeled behavior as his personal value system. In so doing he is ripe for existential conflict and spiritual angst. For him to go against his values is to abandon how he relates to his environment and to revolt against his place in it. To be in this place is to be debilitated by questions of right and wrong and the kind of person he is.
Values are interesting concepts that do not necessarily require an ethical position per se but are more of an internal compass pointing toward that which is most familiar (FAMILY). Values are an emotional perception of the world and one’s pace in it. It is an edifice that provides comfort in decision making and structure in implementation. This is how African Americans have dealt with a moral injury of disenfranchisement for centuries. We can see the injury in the statistics of African American people. As the attempt to live up to a deeply flawed and desperately unjust system that deliberately traumatizes; the African American uses his individual values to build inside a paradox. Those who are deemed successful at this are those who live with values that are not a compass but a barometer. The moral injury of exclusion and cultural destruction is so devastating, so abrasive, it is incredulous. When one is forced to make-up values on the spot, base on arbitrary attitudes and fear for personal safety the morally injured show their injuries.
-Brotherhood of SincerityClick to Buy Book – LIBERATION THEOLOGY