Posts tagged " soul wound "

Soul Care Conversation (Spiritual Model for Healing from Moral Injury; First Step – Acknowledgement)

February 9th, 2017 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

(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. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last month we discussed a study by Duke University on a successful therapy for military sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study reviewed an article published in the JAMA Psychiatry suggesting that cognitive processing therapy (CPT) significantly reduced PTSD symptoms. (“Duke study shows therapy effective for military sufferers of PTSD,” News and Observer, written by Gavin Stone, 28 November 2016)

As we discussed, CPT is a method of treatment that involves evaluating the thoughts and beliefs associated with a patient’s traumatic experience, which for many in the military involves blaming themselves for events in combat that are out of their control. We then did a deep dive into guilt and shame as it pertains to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Guilt and shame is also a symptom for warriors experiencing moral injury.

In our conversation we discussed that people experience guilt and shame for various reasons. Many find it difficult to move past guilt or shame, which can lead to chronic psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. However, guilt and shame have more than psychological implications. From the perspective of a chaplain or a pastoral counselor, guilt and shame as it is associated with trauma and trauma care must also consider a spiritual dimension.

For this reason, we discussed a spiritual therapeutic model which includes the following components:

  1. Acknowledge – take an honest assessment of thoughts and behavior, then acknowledge guilt and shame, and anger
  2. Forgiveness – choose forgiveness of self in the trauma experience as well as others who may have had responsibility
  3. 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
  4. Renewal – begin to retrain mind
  5. Amends – restoration involves a direct way to repair what has been damaged or broken (for the veteran, maybe difficult to go back to place of injury, however, there are other ways; contribute to refugee or orphan fund in the area of the war, volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen, etc)
  6. Accountability – be in a community that offers accountability and support

We will discuss in some detail each of these components. For this week’s conversation, let us discuss the first component, acknowledge.


“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 has deep roots in traditional religious rites in both Judaism and Christianity.

As we examine the religious act of confession, we are reminded that 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 because of human sin. All of creation is in need for God’s healing. What are we to do? 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.


When we sin we alienate ourselves from God, community and self. Sin blocks us from becoming all that we are created to be. We acknowledge our sin through confession. Confession enables us to be reconciled to;

  • God
  • community
  • self

Confession. The word stirs up memories. Whatever the memory, most likely it is not pleasant. 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.

As humans, no matter if through faith we are committed to God, we still have difficulty turning away from sin. We recognize our weakness and constant need for turning back to God and be reconciled. We do this through confession of our sin.

Soul Care Conversation (Faith Community Response, Seek a Restorative Path)

August 5th, 2016 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

(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. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week, we considered the second core response of the faith community; providing support. We discussed the use of liturgy and ritual, how to connect with community resources, and the practice of congregational and pastoral care. This week we will begin a four week discussion on how the faith community can respond by assisting the veteran to seek a restorative path. Our first topic will discuss the background of why this is important.


Walking with the injured, broken, and lost on a healing journey is a means of justice and the center of the faith community’s mission and ministry. We discussed in a previous blog the capabilities and strengths within the faith community for seeking justice. We discovered that Jesus conveys the message to be healers, peacemakers, and justice doers when faced with brokenness, emptiness, alienation, and violence. Through compassion, love, mercy, and forgiveness, Jesus models how to transform lives and restore dignity and purpose to the injured, broken and lost.

Jesus’ message focused on something radically different; those who know God’s mercy must share it with others. Jesus instructs his followers to do the same. The God of restorative justice works in and through the faith community to bring healing and wholeness.

In Hebrew the word for justice is “mishpat”, it means caring for those most in need within a society. Our communities have many who are in need. During this last year we have established the fact that the veteran community has many distinctive challenges. We also determined that the faith community is uniquely positioned to provide support and care.

How can the faith community seek a restorative path for the veteran and the veteran’s family? For the  veteran community, seeking a restorative path can include any or all three practices;

  • trauma awareness and healing
  • restorative justice
  • conflict transformation


War’s violence press questions of faith into the lives of those who fight them.  When a warrior steps onto the battlefield he or she immediately is confronted by the kinds of horror and hardships that has moved humanity through the centuries to reach for the Holy. Many of our returning warriors have lingering fear from their experiences resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some also struggle with guilt or shame from ethical and moral challenges that they faced resulting in moral injury. Others feel broken and hopeless so much that they agonize from a soul wound.

For many veterans, the war does not end when they come home. Most veterans who experience some form of trauma while in combat will exacerbate their trauma by making poor choices after their return home. It is a daily battle against an enemy who attacks the mind and spirit. Because of combat trauma, veterans are more vulnerable to experience a soul wound that may lead to self-medication, homelessness, and suicide.

As of 2014, the Veterans Administration estimated that there are 22 million veterans in the US. If you add the 1.4 million serving in military service to the veteran population, 7.4% of US citizens have or are serving. This is significant. Our neighbor may be a veteran or active service member and we do not know that they are because;

  • the veteran has not identified him or herself as a veteran for various reasons
  • the faith community does not know how to recognize that they are veterans or active military, or they lack empathy

Let’s look at each of these variables.

Veteran has not identified her or himself as a veteran – Understanding this reality will assist the faith community in its approach to the veteran community. Some of the reasons veterans are reluctant to identify themselves as veterans are;

  • do not desire to be labeled a hero or zero
  • do not want recognition
  • do not want special considerations
  • do not want to be set apart
  • concern for being judged
  • concern for their personal and family safety

Faith community does not know how to recognize veterans or lacks empathy – Some reasons may be;

  • unaware of military/veteran cultural identity
  • struggle with the realities of war and it’s complicity
  • does not desire to compromise its “moral standard”
  • does not feel “qualified” or has the skills to provide the required care and support
  • does not know where to start
  • does not really care (the warrior volunteered to serve, this was their choice…)

The result of this dynamic is that the veteran community is an under-served demographic often overlooked by the faith community in mission and ministry.


The veteran community challenges are diverse and complex. The faith community can role model the ways to seek justice by caring for those in need as a way to restore relationships and support reconciliation.  Seeking justice alongside veterans and their families can be a way for communities of faith to more deeply explore and understand their needs.

So, how can the faith community bring light into the dark places where many of our veterans experience life? How can we journey with our veterans on a path toward healing, justice, and restoration? How can we explore the places and the processes that can bring light to those who struggle in the darkness of their souls? A warrior returning from war leaves the life of danger in combat only to experience a life of uncertainty at home.

By offering opportunities to seek a restorative path, the faith community extends to the veteran possibilities for healing and restoration by being;

  • a place where the veteran can share the troubling experiences of war
  • a place where the veteran can explore the difficult questions of faith
  • a place where the veteran can question, grow, and gain resiliency
  • a place where the veteran can experience community

Are there other ways? What have you done to seek justice with the veteran community? Next week, we will look at the first practice to seek justice; trauma awareness and healing. Until then, thank you for the conversation…




Soul Care Conversation (Spirituality and Meaning)

February 18th, 2016 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

(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. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week, we concluded our conversation on the spiritual implications of PTSD, Moral Injury, and Soul Wounds. We will now begin to explore the various components of spirituality and how it effects our veterans. This week our conversation will take us to understanding the “why.”


I shared in a previous conversation about my first visit to the Marines in Afghanistan, at Regional Command Southwest (RC-SW). Captain Brown, the Navy Command Chaplain for RC-SW took me to visit the Concussion Restoration Care Center, (CRCC). It was at the CRCC wounded warriors would have an opportunity to begin their healing following a trauma event. In 2011, a behavioral health team of a psychologist, psychiatrist, and social worker realized after months of counseling wounded warriors that there were three issues; why, guilt, and fear, that could be better treated by a chaplain. They decided to bring a chaplain on-board as part of the team and sought Captain Brown’s advice.

The chaplain selected had to be the “right” chaplain. Not all chaplains have the temperament to collaborate with a behavioral health team in order to partner with the team and the wounded warrior. From my 30 years of experience in the military chaplaincy, I know many chaplains who would have tried to answer the warrior’s “why”, rather than walk with the warrior through their journey of finding their own answer.

Bringing a chaplain on board as part of the healing team had two important implications. First, this certainly was unusual since the spiritual domain is not a common field for the medical and mental health models for treating the symptoms of combat trauma. All too often the spiritual and the soul are relegated to the purview of the religious counselors and religious leaders as a separate entity of care. The wounds to the soul are not addressed as part of comprehensive whole person care. Also, combat trauma has not been treated traditionally as a spiritual or moral injury.

Second, trauma affects the human capacity to make meaning in life and how meaning-making systems can function as part of the healing process from trauma. The answer to the question “why” most often is complex. The “right” chaplain has the capacity and sensitivity for trauma care in order to journey with the veteran. The chaplain understands that God will not simply step in and by coercive force make things right, and neither should the chaplain. During the veteran’s journey to find an answer to why, a relationship between faith, spirituality, and trauma should be explored.


During my Pathways Program I learned that meaning making is how people understand life, life’s events, relationships and self. However, trauma is the ultimate challenge to meaning making. Trauma rips apart people’s meaning-making processes because it tears them away from the comfort and confidence of their meaning-making systems. Once this occurs, most often the survivor plunges into chaos and volatility in ways that cannot be denied or ignored, but often are hidden except to those closest to them. People of faith are not immune to the effects of trauma.

Meaning and purpose are central in human life, particularly when individuals confront highly stressful and traumatic life experiences. Some researchers have suggested that traumatic events frequently challenge one’s core beliefs about safety, self-worth, and the meaning of life.

For individuals whose core values are spiritually grounded, traumatic events may give rise to questions about the fundamental nature of the relationship between God and humankind, and between God and self. Survivors may question their belief in a loving, all-powerful God when the innocent are subjected to traumatic victimization. In this way, traumatic experiences may become a starting point for discussion of the many ways in which survivors define what it is to have “faith”.

Trauma can shake one’s faith.  The veteran wants to understand why? Why did the traumatic event occur? Why did they survive? The journey to understand the why can be a long process for the veteran.


Meaning making is a key component in trauma healing. Recovery of meaning in life may be achieved through changed ways of thinking, involvement in meaningful activities, or through rituals experienced as part of worship services or some other spiritual involvement. As we consider the spiritual issues that affect the veteran’s soul, a place to begin is how spirituality provides meaning in life.

Trauma interferes with the practices that embody our systems of belief. The soul of a veteran often demonstrates the ineffectiveness of our prayers, our worship, our scriptures, and our faith. For many of our veterans, their traumatic experiences with which they struggle will affect their understanding of God and faith.

For many people, the presence of a meaning-making system, such as faith, serves as a protective factor when trauma strikes. Paradoxically, faith can be counter-productive as well. The pain and terror of trauma can infuse such doubt in God and God’s faithfulness that the veteran reaches a point of denying God and their faith. The veteran can question God’s ability to intervene in the situation. The veteran can feel that God is punishing them and blame God for the loss. This becomes a way that the veteran may create meaning.

But the opposite can be true as well. Faith and spirituality can assist the veteran in developing a sense that love shapes God’s activity; patient, persevering, and long lasting. It is through love that God responds to a broken world. Also, it is through spirituality and religiosity that the veteran experiences a community with shared beliefs. This becomes another way to create meaning.

What ways have you experienced in creating meaning? How can the faith community become a part of the veteran’s journey to find the answer to “why”?

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes in his 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that the primary motivation of a person is to discover meaning in life. Throughout this powerful book Frankl insists that meaning in life can be discovered under all circumstances, even in the most miserable experiences of tragedy and loss. Through his own experience Frankl shared that people can discover meaning through doing a deed, experiencing value, and even by experiencing suffering.

This is a part of the process known as Post-Traumatic Growth. Next week, we will look at spirituality and suffering. Until then, thank you for the conversation…



Soul Care Conversation (Faith for a Warrior)

July 1st, 2015 Posted by Blog 4 comments

Last week, we began our conversation around the need to be about soul care with our veterans. We shared about the role of spirituality in the warrior’s life, the spiritual issues a warrior faces, especially while in harm’s way, and the affects of trauma and violence on the warrior’s soul. I had mentioned that this week we would share around the theme of faith and why faith is important to the Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airmen, and Guardian.

Faith of a Warrior…

“I tell you the truth, I have not seen faith like this in all the land of Israel.”––Matthew 8:10. Jesus makes this emphatic statement about the faith of a Roman Centurion, a warrior.

“On the day I cried out, you answered me. You encouraged me with inner strength.” ––Psalm 138:3. The Hebrew scripture also reveals the importance of faith for David, another warrior.

Faith, defined as;

  • confidence
  • trust
  • belief
  • reliance
  • loyalty
  • commitment
  • dedication;

Faith is central

Faith is central to the character of our Service women and men. Whether it is the commitment to one’s country, belief in the mission, loyalty to one’s battle buddy, reliance in training, or trust in God, faith has significance for the warriors of the U.S. Armed Forces.

As an Army Chaplain for over 30 years, I can attest to the importance of faith to the warrior. Whether one is an Army paratrooper on an airborne operation, an Air Force Security Force Specialist on the firing range qualifying with his or her personal weapon, a Marine rifle platoon leader conducting a humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, or a Navy Corpsman providing medical care to a wounded Sailor, or a Guardian on a drug interdiction operation, the warrior relies on faith in order to successfully accomplish the mission.

While attending airborne school, my class had a lull between training events. I used the opportunity to conduct some “hip pocket” leadership training on the importance of faith in order to successfully complete airborne school. I shared about the need to have faith in one’s equipment (belief that the rigger correctly packed the parachute), faith in one’s training (reliance on the procedures and standards for safety), and faith in God (courage to exit the aircraft that comes from trusting in God).

No matter the military occupation skill or the situation that the warrior faces, faith is important. From the moment the warrior puts on the uniform at basic training until they separate from the military, they face death. Whether it is the fear of one’s own death, or the training in the killing of another, or engaging the enemy on the battlefield, each forces the warrior to decide what she or he truly believes. Faith becomes central.

Changing religious landscape

And yet,

  • The 2014 Religious Landscape Study suggests that the number of religiously unaffiliated is growing among the Millennials.
  • This is the largest age demographic of our warriors.
  • Therefore, our men and women in uniform are among the least likely to be part of a faith community.

Why faith? 
If religion is not important, then why is faith? For me, understanding our veterans and the challenges they face centers around faith. I have looked into the questioning eyes of a paratrooper about to exit the aircraft, or a Soldier on a live fire range ready to move with his squad to take an “objective,” or the surgical team prepping for the arrival of a Marine who stepped on a land mine. All look to the chaplain. Why? Maybe because the chaplain represents the Holy, or because the chaplain is a man or woman of faith, or because the chaplain  brings a sense of peace and calmness even in the midst of chaos. Or maybe, the crucible of death turns the warrior to seek out the Holy in faith. These are matters of the soul.

Until next week, I look forward to your reply and continued conversation…


Soul Care Conversation

June 16th, 2015 Posted by Blog 2 comments

What do you desire to share, ponder, process, and pursue? I would hope that we can begin to assess the unique strengths and capacities we have for care; map the assets we have as faith communities or faith partners; and explore, engage and equip leaders and concerned congregations to the specific needs within the veteran and caregiver community. So, let us begin the conversation…

Monday-Morning Quarterback, Hindsight Prompts the Question: Is That How Good People Act?

May 19th, 2015 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

Here I would disagree with Taub and Horton. Not only does society have a responsibility but it has the resources for “burden sharing.” The faith community has unique strengths and capacities to share the moral burdens of war by providing a social support, established spiritual traditions of prayer and meditation, and the practice of rituals stemming from a rich history of healing, forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation.