Moral injury and moral distress are enormously significant ideas in spiritual care, especially when caring for members of certain communities. What do these ideas mean? How should aspiring chaplains understand them and where they fit into career or vocation in spiritual care? This field guide session will provide an overview of moral injury and moral distress, as well as offer examples of their impact on individuals and communities. Why are moral injury and more distress so important for chaplains to understand? As our colleagues at the Shay Center for Moral Injury note, Painful emotions such as guilt, remorse, shame, outrage, disgust and despair are common with moral injury. However, because these feelings come from moral judgments, a person might be able to push them aside to avoid the pain of facing them. A person experiencing moral injury may not be as emotionally available to others as they were and seem distant or different. Their relationships may be disrupted because they fear others will judge them, and they self-isolate. Or they may no longer trust others or themselves and become cynical. They may mask their inner pain with alcohol or drugs or become emotionally numb. They can become alienated from societal norms and lash out in anger at the slightest provocation. They may lose their moral foundations or faith, leave careers they once loved or have suicidal ideation. Understanding moral injury is of paramount importance for chaplains caring for individuals experiencing it.
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