All entries for Monday 22 July 2019

July 22, 2019

Selflessness or self–love? Is it an ethical choice? – Georgina Newton

Faced with the choice of how to spend our time, we often face a stark choice – spend it on ourselves or spend it on others.

How should an ethical educator, seeking to apply and embody the Nolan Principles of Public Life, behave? Selflessly, surely. Not selfishly? The two can appear to be completely opposed to each other.

Now consider your car for a moment. You ask it to take you to work and on holiday, perform at high (and low) speeds, navigate narrow country lanes and wide open motorways, carrying all kinds of cargo and in all kinds of weather. But you know you have to respect its needs. New tyres, MOT, a good service (check those spark plugs) on occasion the requisite “aircon regas”. New wiper blades, clean car mats and ash trays. A good wash with the jet hose and polish with a chammy leather. All that, before you’ve even started putting in the fuel, be it diesel, petrol or a charge of electric.

So we know how to respect and take care of a high performance machine. Mainly because if we don’t, we know that we will soon have oil leaks, squeaky wipers, bald tyres and failed MOTs. We will be sitting in the gutter by the road-side waiting for a pickup and an expensive garage bill. Do we consider any of that “routine” maintenance of our car “selfish” in any way? No. We regard it as essential maintenance. It keeps our vehicle in good condition and make it ready to take us where we want to go, when we want to go there. What a luxury. It keeps the car legal, functional and safe for us and for other people.

So why are we so apt to short-change our bodies, relationships and selves when it comes to spending time and resources on them? Why might the performance of regular routine maintenance appear to be a selfish act?

In order to perform at the high levels you demand of yourself you need to be in tip-top condition. So is self-love an indulgence? Is prioritising your wellbeing an optional extra? You might be able to run on low fuel until the dashboard warning light turns red, but we all know that if you do it for too long you’ll be stuck by the roadside with a whole new set of priorities. If you don’t take time to refuel, refresh, be rested, connect with others and if you don’t ensure that you’re able to perform to the max there’s no way you’ll be able to continue for any length of time.

So put yourself through an MOT. Draw up an action plan. Deal with those essential repairs and put a plan in place to address the “advisories”. That way, there’ll be much more of yourself to give and be selfless with.


The 7 principles of public life. (1995, May 31). Retrieved from Gov.UK:

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