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Pause for Thought: Itís My Choice

Our choices matter

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore our understanding of what it means to do something for the greater good.

Preparation and materials

  • If possible, you will need to identify an abbey or monastery that is close to your school and display an image of it.

    Alternatively, have available an image of any abbey or monastery and the means to display it.


Leader: What have you found most frustrating about life over the past months of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Encourage student responses, particularly about activities in which they have not been able to participate, places they have not been able to go and people they haven’t been able to meet.

Leader: Many of our frustrations arise from the strict laws of lockdown. If we break the law, we are liable to prosecution and a fine. However, if we adhere to the government advice, we may experience other frustrations. Perhaps we know people who have bent the rules by meeting in groups of more than six, mixing households or travelling from one tier to another. Maybe some went a lot further. Many of us may have stuck to the rules and advice that we were given.

I wonder how much we considered others in our decision-making. Did we choose to do what we wanted rather than deny ourselves for the good of others?

Show an image of a local abbey or monastery, or any abbey or monastery if a local option is unavailable.

Leader: Not far from here, there was once an abbey/monastery (insert local information). Many centuries ago, a group of believers lived together there in community (there may be a living community there now). One of the key elements of the community was that each member chose to make a public vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. Let’s consider those elements one by one.

- The vow of poverty meant that each person promised not to own any personal possessions or money. Everything was either shared or given to those in the surrounding area who had a greater need.
- The vow of chastity meant that each person promised to deny themselves a sexual relationship, either within or outside marriage. This was intended to ensure that nothing would distract them from their priorities of prayer and service for the benefit of the community.
- The vow of o
bedience meant that each person gave up their right to make personal decisions without first consulting others. Often, the others from whom they had to seek advice were older, wiser men and women, the leaders of the community.

Why did they choose to do this? It’s because they believed that it was more important to consider the needs and perspectives of those around them before their own personal wants and desires. They chose to deny themselves for the greater good of the community.

Time for reflection

Leader: ‘The greater good’ is a way of life open to every one of us. It encourages us to consider the people whose lives are affected by who we are and what we do. It gives us a wider perspective on life: our friends and family, the local community, our national identity and our international identity. It encourages us to consider the impact that our choices might have on others. It helps us to consider the consequences of how we spend our money, where we go and our relationships with one another. Thinking about the greater good enables us to participate in a positive way in other people’s lives by the choices that we make. This is what motivated the members of the religious community who lived at the abbey/monastery.

Living for the greater good is a way of life that we can all choose. It’s about personal choice. We are fully in control of our participation; nobody forces us to do so. Of course, it takes more than a little courage to participate. Sometimes, it means denying ourselves what would be our first choice of action because of its consequences. This will entail us experiencing a measure of frustration. It means occasionally opting out of activities that our friends might suggest. It’s a tough choice, but it’s our choice.

I hope you can see why living for the greater good is something that we should consider during the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Because of our age, most of us are in a fortunate position. We can probably cope with the virus. However, as we look around, we see many who are less able to cope. That’s where living for the greater good comes in.

It’s a tough choice, but it’s our choice.


‘(Everything I do), I do it for you’ by Bryan Adams, available at: (4.10 minutes long)

Extension activities

  1. Look at your plans for the next week. Discuss them with a friend. Discuss how living for the greater good might make a difference to the way in which those plans are carried out.
Publication date: February 2021   (Vol.23 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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