When I first read about Jaspers and his concept of loving struggle I had a bit of trouble getting my mind around it. However, with continued contemplation of the concept, I think I am beginning to get it.
Now, I seem to find the idea of this loving struggle echoing in the words of many people whose work focuses on peace and conflict resolution, and I am beginning to see why Jaspers thought our survival depends on our ability to enter into a loving struggle with others.
One place where I am repeatedly reminded of the importance of the loving struggle is the radio program On Being. This program from American Public Media, focuses on “big questions at the center of human life”. One recent program focused on forgiveness and revenge. As I listened to the guest, Michael McCullough, I suddenly found myself thinking, “He is talking about the loving struggle.”
McCullough is a research psychologist whose work focuses on the social and biological factors involved in forgiveness and revenge. In his interview, he compared and contrasted situations in which individuals sought revenge and situations in which people offered forgiveness instead of revenge. He looked at interpersonal situations, but he also extrapolated to global political examples, and he said that people seem to be hardwired to seek revenge when we are wronged, but “if you can convince me that you’re safe, right, that I don’t have to worry about being harmed in the same way a second time, maybe I’m willing to move a little bit forward” and look for a peaceful resolution.
How does the perpetrator convince the victim that he/she is safe? By engaging in a loving struggle. McCullough offers two wonderful examples. One figure of public forgiveness whom Michael McCullough writes about is Bud Welch. His 23-year-old daughter Julie died in the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Another touching example comes from Uganda. In both cases, by engaging in loving struggle, the cycle of violence is being broken. It is worth a listen: