The Human Cost of Collateral Damage

For the past few months, I have written articles based on songs that have set up camp in my mind, egging me on until I give them a different kind of voice, including John Lennon’s song, Imagine, and Tom Petty’s song, The Waiting. For the past week or so, my mind has repeated just one tuneless phrase: Collateral Damage. Maybe, it’s because of the latest conflict my country, the United States, is having with Iran and the attacks on each other that have plastered the news.

My article is a longer piece than I usually write, but this subject is too important to skim over. I wholeheartedly appreciate anyone who will take the time to read this through. Instead of five or ten minutes of your time, today, I am asking for fifteen.

We see stark changes today that are unearthing our shadow sides that are coming out to rectify our collective human soul. I feel humanity is coming to a decision point on which road we will take that will set our future in stone. I hope my message will be heard and considered ahead of whatever we will be facing.

Thankfully, as far as I know, there has been no collateral damage reported from the current threat—just military people. And here, I don’t know what I am even thankful for. People died. Yes, they are considered bad people, so no harm was really done, right? They took more than enough lives to warrant their own. It was justified. The pang in the pit of my stomach tells me this isn’t true in a hopeful future.

What popped out at me during the news reports after Iran retaliated was our knee-jerk reaction to go right to the stock markets and see if we lost any money that day. How will Wallstreet react? Oh great, the markets didn’t drop! Investors dollars spared-the haves keep on having! Have we come to this norm that dollars are more important than lives? A little later, we got the report that no one was injured, whew! And then that began to change days later as reporters delved deeper into the story to find there were injuries, but, still, no collateral damage for now. The trouble is I am not sure what to believe anymore, and herein lies a great danger to our world because it is this distrust that can lead to fanaticism, and we see it happening.

The phrase collateral damage has always irked me, especially when it is used casually by military and government leaders or pundits during these unending years of wars. Collateral damage—injury inflicted on something other than the intended target. This sounds neat and clean, but do we understand the actual cost to humanity itself? I believe the price is deeply disturbing on our collective soul level.

Can we believe that the loss of life, property, and the sense of safety that wreaks havoc on those involved and their extended families and towns does not create collateral damage that comes back at us at some point? Do we believe we won’t pay for the thousands of drops of blood and tears shed by innocent victims?

How many times have we read about a bombed wedding party or section of neighborhood in a far-off land listed as collateral damage? It’s more times than I can count! What kind of toll does this collateral damage have on those innocent victims? Here is what I see as the real cost to this collateral damage:

  1. Extreme collateral damage causes the loss of life, shelter, and, in some cases, basic survival needs that paralyzes the human spirit.
  2. The loss of provider income or caregiver takes a significant toll on the family and the local economy.
  3. Emotional instability from grief and fear causes the inability to work, learn, sleep, and eat. Individual and group health and productivity plummets, or worse, creates a retaliation mindset.
  4. The loss of trust in government, other countries, the press, and even neighbors and friends create a more dangerous world.
  5. Resentment of the attacker, even if the victims were against their government’s actions or positions, spark counter-reactions that stall progress for democracy and peace.

What toll would it take on your loved ones, if you happened to be the unlucky one, the dispensable human for a justified cause? What if it was your father or mother or wife or husband or child? How would your world be turned upside down? Imagine having to live with bombs going off over your head every day or burying half of your relatives in one day. Could you keep a positive attitude about life and the world around you? Imagine losing your wife, who was not only the love of your life but the person taking care of your home and children, and taking care of your mother or father in their old age? Imagine losing your father and the only income for the household and destroying your hopes of higher education and a better life in a second. Imagine living without water or electricity for months and months from the collateral damage. At what point would you decide that collateral damage was an unacceptable standard?

I know all the arguments that will be coming at me. I have heard them many times before: humans will always have war, you can’t change how people act, some bad players must be taken out at all cost, you are naïve to think things will change. There’s many more, but these are the top remarks.


Helen Heinmiller
Helen Heinmiller
Helen Heinmiller is an inspirational author, teacher, and speaker bringing a 21st century perspective to all aspects of life. After fifteen years in corporate America and another twenty years studying personal and spiritual growth, Helen discovered a vital link between our connection to the divine and our ability to manifest good health, enriching relationships, and satisfaction in work and service. She believes that divinity is woven into every aspect of life to include all parts of society and business because, when embraced, our divine connection powers the inspiration that's needed to succeed. Helen is the author of two inspiring adventure novels, The Rustling of Angels and, her thriller, Final Redemption. Through the art of storytelling, Helen reveals real paradigm-shifting truths about who we are as humans and the inherent power we all share to change the negative direction of the world today. Her mission is to bring this message to people, businesses, and organizations to inspire and build new inspirational conversations and positive solutions for the world. Helen is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. Thank you for sharing this Helen. We all have a circle of influence that extends beyond our immediate family. Doing what we can to improve the lives of those around us – being an others-centered person – may seem like a small thing in a big world, but it’s also what can give us a sense of purpose and meaning. It begins with me.

    • Hi Maureen! How are you doing? Thanks for your wonderful compliment. It makes me so happy to reach people and plant seeds!

  2. Thank you, Helen, for sharing your thoughts. I just put a care package together for my nephew who was deployed to Kuwait out of the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, NC a few weeks ago. So the first part of this piece drew me in very personally. It’s not lost on me how easily it once was to just shake my head when it was someone else’s family member out there. It’s puts things into perspective when it’s your own. Thank you.

    • Thanks Melissa, I think one of the biggest reasons is that only one percent of Americans serve in the military. Back when we had World Wars we probably had more consideration to collateral damage.

  3. Thanks Helen, took 15 minutes to read and one thing is certain as I often would explain to those who sat in the back of my police car on their way to jail, is that every decision made and acted upon has collateral damage. I actually had to explain that to someone once. Amazing!

    • Hi Lynn, I am surprised only once! Growing up, I always thought humans, especially Americans, were so grounded and wise. Then I read Power vs. Force by Dr. David R. Hawkins who states that on the scale of evolution humans were just in kindergarten and I began to see his reasoning. Thanks for reading my article.

    • Helen should clarify that it was more than once but this one conversation was stuck in my mind for this individual who had almost no clue as to what he was about to experience. Yes, it was more than once and that is a shame to see how many don’t get it the first time.