Moral injury

an injury to an individual's moral conscience and values

Moral injury is an injury to an individual's moral conscience resulting from an act of perceived moral transgression which produces profound emotional shame.


  • Moral injury results when soldiers violate their core moral beliefs, and in evaluating their behavior negatively, they feel they no longer live in a reliable, meaningful world and can no longer be regarded as decent human beings.
    • Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini, Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After War (2012), p. xv
  • Moral injury is present when
(1) there has been a betrayal of what's right
(2) by someone who holds legitimate authority
(3) in a high-stakes situation.
  • What does leadership malpractice add to the elements visible in betrayal of what's right by the self in a high-stakes situation? Primarily, it destroys the capacity for social trust in the mental and social worlds of the service member or veteran. I regard this as a kind of wound contamination in the mind, preventing healing and leaking toxins. When the capacity for trust is destroyed, its place is filled by the active expectancy of harm, exploitation, or humiliation.
  • The experience of moral injury can lend itself to potential, prophetic insights into the effects of one’s culture on the wider world. Instead of seeing moral injury as a disorder in need of clinical treatment, it can be the basis of a religiously informed social ethic empowering veterans to engage the broader social conditions and policies that lead to war in the first place.
    • Joseph Wiinikka-Lydon, "Moral Injury as Inherent Political Critique: The Prophetic Possibilities of a New Term," Political Theology, vol. 18, no. 3 (May 2017), p. 219.

See also

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