Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. Philip Bustrum


Sacrifice, altruism, prosocial psychology, behavioral psychology, Christian, generosity


This grounded theory study examined how participants described and reflected on their lives and what led them to choose sacrifice. The study was grounded in a Christian understanding of sacrifice, defined as the willful giving up of one’s positions or possessions for the sake of serving others. Using in-depth, open-ended interviews and follow-up interviews to co-construct meaning, participants were asked to reflect on their childhood, adolescence, and emerging adulthood to reflect on and describe any messages, relationships, or experiences that they thought contributed to their eventual choice to sacrifice. The interviews were free-flowing and filled with beautiful and engaging stories.

The data were analyzed using a constructivist approach to grounded theory. There were five major and five secondary themes that bubbled up, with the top two major themes laying the foundation of the grounded theory that was developed. Although many of the themes played a role in the eventual choice to sacrifice, it was the combination of the top two major themes that, when combined, seemed to be the catalyzing ingredients needed to make the choice to sacrifice. These two themes were the development of empathy (most often through the experience of suffering) and an experience with God that led to an ongoing and growing relationship. This was not only born out in the data but was also cited as causal reasons for sacrifice by participants.

The grounded theory developed from the research is titled “Sacrificial Dynamite: The Convergence of Developed Empathy and Ongoing Relational Experience With God.” The findings added to and affirmed a number of studies that have been undertaken in the field of prosocial psychology. Prosocial behavior, generosity, and altruism are all similar concepts to what I have described as sacrificial action. This is still a relatively new field of inquiry and there is a need for further research on the concept of sacrificial action and what helps develop, encourage, and catalyze the action.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access