Is it ever right to go against conscience?
Author’s Note: The last section, “Takeaways”, was written by Jack.
Reader’s Note: This post introduces the theme for May: Life Scripts.
Length: 1,150 words
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Moral Injury refers to an injury to an individual’s moral conscience resulting from an act of perceived moral transgression which produces profound emotional shame. The concept of moral injury emphasizes the psychological, cultural, and spiritual aspects of trauma. Distinct from pathology, moral injury is a normal human response to an abnormal event.
Moral injury is a concept that’s been around for about a decade. It’s included in the Trauma literature in psychology. The concept is currently used in literature to describe the mental health of military veterans who have witnessed or perpetrated an act in combat that transgressed their deeply held moral beliefs.
Here, I want to tell a story about a man I knew in the army. It epitomizes the concept of moral injury.
I met a lot of Texicans during my time in the military. A Texican is someone who is native to the state of Texas, but they have a Mexican cultural and ethnic background. They usually come from several generations of Texans, but their distant ancestry is from Mexico. They are fiercely loyal and patriotic.
His story starts out during the 9-11 attack. He had just graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Economics, and then 9-11 happened. So instead of looking for a job, he decided to enlist as an E-6 (staff sergeant). Most college graduates try to get in as an officer, but he wasn’t there for the job benefits. He was in it for the action.
I was already in the military when 9-11 happened, but I reenlisted three more times.
So by the time this guy came into my office, we were already ten years into “The War on Terror”. He told me about his experience in Afghanistan.
He and his unit were assigned to secure a road that goes through a valley. He was manning a 50 cal.
He saw a group of Taliban that had set up a bottleneck in the road to prepare an ambush. So one day, a convoy comes along the road. He phones his superior officer warning of an imminent attack. He told his officer that he can see what’s happening, and that he can stop it before it happens.
But the answer from the brass was always NO, because they had to “follow the rules of engagement”. Basically, the rules of engagement forbade us to initiate a conflict without a provocation. It required us to be attacked first, before responding with armed force. In reality, this means we have to sacrifice a few of our guys before we can deal with the situation.
This went against everything he believed. He joined the military so that he could “kill the bad guys” and save the lives of his comrades. He wanted to tell his children about acts of heroism and how he had done something good for his country. But he couldn’t do this because the rules of engagement required him to sit back and watch a few guys die before he could do anything. This demoralized him so much that he plunged into a crisis of belief.
There are a number of themes woven throughout this guy’s experience. But basically, everything he believed about life — the army, the country, patriotism, the rules, trusting and obeying authority — everything failed him at that moment. He felt like he had wasted part of his life serving in the military, and he decided that he wanted out.
Recently on Σ Frame, there’s been a few posts about this kind of thing – how following the rules leads to bad outcomes, God’s seemingly erratic concept of justice, all the confusion that surrounds these issues, and strategies about how to deal with certain dilemmas. (See the list of links below.) I thought this talk about Moral Injury fit right into this theme.
In addition to those military veterans who have endured severe psychological trauma, there has been another war being fought on the home front. This war may not compare to Afghanistan or Iraq in terms of mortal casualties, but the spiritual death toll is just as bad, if not worse, in terms of the sheer numbers of people affected.
I’m talking about those guys who go through the wringer in their marriages, and then get cuckolded, frivorced, separated from their children, and stripped of everything they’ve worked for in life.
I’m talking about those children who grow up in broken homes and never get to experience God during their childhoods.
When these men finally stumble across the Red Pill, they realize that the truth about sex and relationships is much different than what they ever believed before. And if their broken marriage wasn’t heart breaking enough, the Red Pill is even more filthy and rotten. I can totally understand how following certain Red Pill precepts, even those that conform with Christianity – assuming the sale, enforcing frame, dread game, selective defection, Tit-for-Tat, etc. — would go against the conscience of a man.
Some men just can’t swallow a pill this bitter.
And then there’s the aspect of ability. They can’t just “learn game” and “get their lives together”. They can’t just snap their fingers, or read their Bibles, or follow some ad hoc magical formula, and “become a better man”. Enter Jason’s rejoinder here.
All this demoralizes them so much that they plunge into a crisis of belief. Everything they believed about life — the presumed goodness of women, the Soul Mate Myth, being The Nice Guy, the sanctity of marriage and family, faith and loyalty, following the rules, trusting and obeying authority — everything fails us in our modern culture. Men feel like they have wasted part of their lives seeking after marriage and family, and a lot of men bite the bullet in one way or another.
It is a huge let down. Men are pressed into acting against their good consciences in order to get good results, and many men don’t know how to rebuild their self-image around this afterwards.
(I don’t intend any disrespect to veterans by making this comparison, but only to say that the conditions of our modern western culture result in Moral Injury to men!)
- Which is more ethical — “pre-emptive strikes” or “following the rules of engagement”?
- Is it ever right to go against conscience?
- Why isn’t the trauma surrounding divorce considered to be a Moral Injury?
- Σ Frame (Jack): Parental Divorce Ruins Daughters’ Future Marital Commitment and Confidence (2021 February 24)
- Σ Frame (Jack): Strategies for the Iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma (2021 March 17)
- Σ Frame (Jack): The Spiritual Confusion of Clinging to the “Rules” (2021 March 24)
- Σ Frame (NovaSeeker): Viewpoints on Man’s Confusion about How God Works in the Life of a Believer (2021 March 29)
- Σ Frame (Jack): God’s Concept of Justice (2021 April 2)