How to Be Successful and Still Compassionate
Article by Kira M Newman, Book by Christopher L. Kukk (2017)
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What is the Science?

Can compassion lead to success in the workplace? Research into compassion, purpose, and work seem to offer a resounding, “yes.” For example, workers who receive compassion from their bosses and colleagues are more likely to improve work relationships, increase cooperation, and offer better customer relations. Other research suggests that compassionate workplaces “increase employee satisfaction and loyalty.” There are even studies on compassion which look to Darwinian theory in suggesting that compassion and benevolence are “an evolved part of human nature, rooted in our brain and biology, and ready to be cultivated for the greater good.”

Pulling from this growing field of research on compassion, Christopher L. Kukk’s new book The Compassionate Achiever: How Helping Others Fuels Success, suggests four steps to cultivating compassion:

1)    Listen to learn. Basic practices of active listening, Kukk suggests, can train our brain to mirror our coworker’s, thereby increasing communication.

2)    Understand what options can help. With compassionate listening, says Kukk, comes better insights into the problems of our coworkers, allowing us to respond in more helpful ways.

3)    Connect to resources. Compassion in the workplace does not mean solving everyone else’s problems. Rather, Kukk shows how deferring others to appropriate resources is often the best way to move forward.

4)    Take action toward a solution. Kukk suggests that when we practice compassion, we also practice the responsibility, persistence, and optimism needed for success in the workplace.

“Compassionate achievers challenge the notion that you have to look out for number one in order to be number one.” – Christopher L. Kukk

What is the Theology?

Partnership between the science and the theology behind compassion may be found in how both methods critique commonplace strategies for getting ahead at work, such as ruthlessness, self-interest, and hyper-competitiveness. Surely Christians should seek advancement and success at work. Yet, they do so in a way that embodies (Zech 7:9; Col. 3:12) the compassion demonstrated by the Father (Exod 33:19; Isa 49:15; Ho 11:8  and Son (Matt 9:36; Mark 6:34). Preachers may therefore appeal to this science in partnership with Christian virtues in order to empower Christian workers toward compassionate success.  

What to Consider

  • How does this research compare to commonplace assumptions about succeeding in the workplace? Does this research support or challenge how you currently seek success in your work?
  • How  have you seen compassion contribute to success in your work? How have you seen workplace ruthlessness stun the success of you or your colleagues?
  • Where might Kukk’s four practices overlap with best practices in pastoral care and counseling?
  • How can you begin to implement Kukk’s four compassion practices in your work?

How to go Deeper

  • Help your church develop a theology of vocation by preaching and teaching on how theology and science can inform the Christian’s work. Explore questions such as: “How does the Sunday morning connect to Monday-Friday workweek?”
  • Train your church staff and volunteers to model practices of compassion in their ministries. How can you create a culture of compassion in your church?
  • Ask parishioners to share stories about how they have witnessed the effects of compassion—or a lack thereof—in the workplace.

Relevant Scripture

All references in parenthesis refer to Lectionary readings. For more information on what the Lectionary is, please click here. For additional Lectionary resources click here.

Related Research

By | 2019-04-30T23:30:09+00:00 August 3rd, 2017|Flourishing, Purpose, Research|4 Comments

About the Author:

Michael Wiltshire serves as an assistant pastor at Rose City Church in Pasadena, CA. He holds an M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary (2016) and a B.S. from Cornerstone University, double majoring in Biblical Studies and Youth Ministry. While studying at Fuller Theological Seminary, he co-led the Fuller Faith and Science student group and worked in residential community. Michael is passionate about pastoral care, and is dedicated to exploring how preaching, practical theology, and organizational systems can empower churches to care well. A Michigander at heart, Michael enjoys cloudy weather and the NBA.


  1. Rich Gideons August 4, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    I think a key scripture to add is Philippians 2:1-16, which is really all about being humbly compassioniate especially as modeled by Christ through humility.

  2. August 4, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    I’m glad the research supports this notion, but I wonder if it varies by field. I.e. are there some fields where compassion helps, and others where it “hurts” (from a strictly business/efficiency sense)?

  3. August 10, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    I have not thought much about the idea of compassion in the work place. Thesis very counter cultural and a great way to be a witness for Christ!

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