(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community.
We continue our conversation on a proposed spiritual therapeutic model toward healing from moral injury. As a reminder, this six step model includes;
- Acknowledge (confession) – take an honest assessment of thoughts and behavior, then acknowledge guilt and shame, and anger
- Forgiveness – choose forgiveness of self in the trauma experience as well as others who may have had responsibility
- Self-acceptance – renounce self lies like; I’m no good, I’m nothing, I’m worthless, I can’t be loved, and accept the reality of being a child of God
- Renewal – begin to retrain mind
- Amends – restoration involves a direct way to repair what has been damaged or broken
- Accountability – be in a community that offers accountability and support
We have discussed the first four steps; confession, forgiveness, self-acceptance, and renewal of the mind. This month, we will discuss the fifth step, making amends.
Making amends is an integral component in any recovery program. Addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling creates moral wreckage. Broken relationships and a deep soul wound result.
In these situations an apology will not suffice. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) calls for making amends.
Additionally, AA understands that making amends is a delicate process, therefore the guidance of a sponsor or counselor is required.
Making amends is a critical component toward recovery from addiction. This process also has importance to a veteran regarding restoration from doing or experiencing harm resulting in moral injury. The same components exist;
- experiencing the reality of broken relationships and a deep soul wound
- offering an apology is not enough
- needing someone to be a confidant, listener, counselor or friend
We will look closely at these three factors in making amends as they relate to healing from moral injury.
Experiencing broken relationships and soul wounds – The conduct of war often descends into brutality. Even when the outcome may bring peace, broken and shattered lives along the way become a reminder to those who were engaged in war’s harsh realities. A sense of brokenness and alienation from God, others and self occurs and the consequences are grievous wounds to the soul. A soul wound goes deep because the battlefield strips away the veteran’s belief system. At the very core of the wound is the feeling or brokenness and hopelessness.
From the opening pages in the first book of the Torah, the Hebrew scripture tells us something has gone wrong; loving relationships have been broken, creation has been marred, humanity has been separated from God, all resulting in the need for God’s healing. Good news begins right here; God does not simply step in and by coercive force make things right. Rather, love shapes God’s activity; patient and persevering. Love becomes the “healing balm” that galvanizes God’s response to a broken world.
Offering an apology is not enough – The core ingredient to experience healing is restorative justice. Restorative justice becomes the central focus. One of the clearest and most holistic words for justice is the Hebrew shalom, which means both “justice” and “peace.” Shalom includes wholeness, or everything that makes for a person’s well-being, security, and the restoration of relationships that have been broken. Restorative justice is about repairing broken relationships with other people.
For a veteran who may have experienced a moral injury while in combat, it may be difficult to see how they can experience “wholeness” after what they may have done or seen. Yet, it may be in service to others that the veteran begins to see the positive connection with others, and see this as a way to make amends.
Shalom is not a passive concept, rather it is lived out in community. That is why justice always has to be social. So restorative justice, most simply, means putting things right again — ﬁxing, repairing, and restoring broken relationships. And doing justice restores our relationship with God.
Needing someone to be a confidant, listener, counselor or friend. – The faith community is uniquely positioned to be a blessing to veterans who have experienced a soul wound. After wars of the past, the faith community has played a key role in helping veterans find healing of the soul. Clergy and laity have offered through their actions hope, love, patience, forgiveness, trust, and comfort. They have offered words of assurance from Holy texts. Both actions and words living out the sacred Love story provide remarkable healing power.
Also, other veterans can be a solace to one another. Through a like minded community, veterans can encourage and support each other.
Restoration will involve a lot of lists. In particular, the veteran should make a list of all the people he/she has hurt physically or emotionally. The memories may be painful, especially when listing family members. When attempting to make direct amends, there might be people unwilling to forgive. This is where the veteran should turn to a counselor or clergy to assist the veteran through the painful process.
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR “MAKING AMENDS”
We are reminded of the scripture that states, “An eye for an eye.” However, there is much more to Biblical justice than this statement. In fact, the Hebrew and Christian texts call for justice is a much deeper and more involved approach. Rather than retribution, justice involves making amends.
The Biblical concept of making amends involves restoration:
- restoration of self
- restoration in community
- restoration to God
Human failure is nothing new. In fact the Bible contains so many stories of people of faith who failed; Samson, Abraham, David, Solomon, Jonah, all of the Disciples, and the Apostle Paul. The evidence of failure is sobering.
But, equally overwhelming is the evidence that God restores those who have failed. There are passages from both the Hebrew and Christians texts that reveal God’s character as the One Who Restores! God reclaims and restores those who in a moment of weakness failed. This is God’s Love in action! Restoration involves;
- acknowledging the wrong
- making amends with those harmed
- making peace with God
In the Hebrew texts, the Law of Moses specified the various circumstances and processes for restitution to one’s neighbor (the victim) and sacrifice to God (Leviticus 6:2-7). All are as important as the other.
In the Christian texts, there are numerous examples of restoration, one being the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19). This story reiterates the importance of acknowledging the wrong, making amends to neighbor, and making peace with God. Zacchaeus shared before Jesus and his neighbors that “I will give half of my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I overcharged people on their taxes, I will give back four times as much.” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham.”
Restoration is not only possible, it is hoped for and encouraged.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE VETERAN
Let us briefly explore each of these three areas.
Acknowledging the wrong – “Acknowledge” is defined; to admit to be real or true, recognized the existence, truth, or fact of. A synonym is confession. Confession is a written or oral statement acknowledging guilt.
Confession. The word stirs up memories. Whatever the memory, most likely it is not pleasant. In fact, for many confession connotes pain from failure and being weighed down with guilt. However, confession offers us healing through a face to face encounter with the grace, love, and forgiveness of God.
The first step toward restoration with God is to acknowledge our sin. Confession becomes a vital part of our fellowship with God as it provides an opportunity to be reconciled within the community.
Making amends with those harmed – An amend has to do with restoring justice as much as possible. The idea is to restore in a direct way that which we have broken or damaged – or to make restoration in a symbolic way if we cannot do it directly.
There are many ways for a veteran to make amends, however, amends may not be possible to the person(s) directly injured or wronged because danger remains where the harm occurred. There are indirect ways. Veterans can offer assistance to organizations assisting war refugees. Additionally, there are non-governmental organizations (many faith-based) serving in war torn countries that are in need of not only financial assistance, but volunteer service.
Sometimes it will be difficult to make amends even indirectly. Veterans have another option, to make “living” amends. This simply means that the veteran lives differently. Amends are about genuine change in our behavior instead of a simple apology. We take on a whole new way of living.
Making peace with God – In Christian traditions, the prayers of confession and great thanksgiving prior to communion can make peace with God. More powerfully, the communion service is not only a means to confess, repent, and hear words of assurance, but we also participate in the powerful act of receiving God’s grace through the bread and wine. Hope and new life not only become words, but experienced realities. Communion becomes an act of making peace with God.
BENEFITS TO MAKING AMENDS
If we have not made any effort to make amends to those we have harmed, we may then have a lot of people, places, and things to avoid. We tend to live in isolation. In fact, large areas of our lives become closed off to us. When we make amends, are lives are open to new possibilities. We will experience a new freedom and Shalom.
Lastly, we are reminded in Micah (6:6-8) that God does not require our words or acts in worship to make peace, but “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” To do this, we become restored people.
Next month we will discuss the last step, accountability. Until then, thank you for the conversation…