Recovering from Moral Injury after War

Excerpt from the book Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War discusses how moral injury is not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but often overlaps with it.

BY: Rita Nakashima Brock & Gabriella Lettini


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The veterans in this book are very clear about the complexity of their moral positions and do not indulge in the easy and self-indulgent stance of slipping into a victim role.  They remain fiercely committed to avoiding denial and forgetting. They seek to remember what they did personally to harm others and to take responsibility for how they violated their own moral conscience as their route to recovery. 
Engaging in collective conversations about moral injury and war can help us all to strengthen the moral fabric of society and the connections that tie us to the rest of the world. Our collective engagement with moral injury will teach us more about the impact of our actions and choices on each other, enable us to see the world from other perspectives, and chart pathways for our future.  If we achieve deeper and more open ways to grasp the complexities of human relationships, we will be able to understand power and the vast and complex ways we can misuse our power.

We cannot turn the clock back to pre-war times; we cannot bring back the dead, or undo atrocities and environmental destruction. We must resist offering hasty forgiveness to absolve ourselves and others. If we can take the time, instead, to listen to what veterans say to us, to befriend them as we journey together toward a different world, we can together, discover how deep transformation leads us toward the moral conscience that is the deepest most important dimension of our shared humanity. In doing so, we can come to understand the honor and integrity of military service and the importance of the moral criteria for war, which the military itself teaches, and what it would require of every one of us to send any one of us to war.

Soul repair is how we hold on to our own humanity and how, at the same time, we can face the unbearable truths of who we can be in war. It requires us to engage the difficult truths of war and our relationship to it, a process that is at once both individual and collective. It is about “re-membering,” the truth of what we did and who we are, so that we might reweave our moral fiber as people and as a nation.
In accepting our moral responsibility for the many devastations of war, we may begin an honest reassessment and renewal of our relationship to our own humanity, to each other, to the rest of the world, and to all that sustains life. We come to know another way to live is possible. In “Soldiers of Conscience,” Joshua Casteel affirmed “I have a different picture of tomorrow’s humanity and I want to be involved in creating that.”


Adapted excerpt from Soul Repair by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini. Copyright © 2012 by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston.

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