Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

On the importance of “no”

Author: Paulo Coelho

“Hitler may have lost the war on the battle field, but he ended up winning something,” says M. Halter. “Because in the 20th century, men created the concentration camp, resuscitated torture, and taught their fellow men that it is possible to close one’s eyes to the misfortunes of others.”

Perhaps he is right: there are abandoned children, massacred civilians, innocent people in jail, lonely old people, drunkards in the gutter, crazy men wielding power.

But then perhaps he is quite wrong: the Warriors of Light exist, and they never accept what is unacceptable.

The most important words in any language are small words. “Yes,” for example. Love. God. These are words that are easy to utter, and they fill in empty spaces in our world.

However, there is one word – also a small one – that we find difficult to say: “No”.

And we see ourselves as generous, understanding, and polite.  Because “no” is considered to be cursed, egoistic, not at all spiritual.

We have to be careful here. There are moments when we say “yes” to others and in fact are saying “no” to ourselves.

All the great men and women in the world have been people who, rather than say “yes”, said a very big NO to everything that did not fit their ideal of bounty and growth.

Warriors of Light recognize one another just by looking. They are in the world, they are part of the world, and they were sent to the world without provisions or sandals.  Often they are cowards.  They do not always act properly.

Warriors of Light suffer for trivial things, worry about petty matters, and feel incapable of growing.  Occasionally Warriors of Light feel they are unfit for any blessing or miracle.

Warriors of Light frequently ask what they are doing here.  Many times they feel that their life has no meaning.

That is why they are Warriors of Light.  Because they make mistakes.  Because they ask.  Because they continue to look for a meaning.  But above all because they have the capacity to say “no” when they are faced with things they cannot accept.

We may often be called intolerant, but it is important to open up and fight against everything and all circumstances if we see injustice or cruelty.  No-one can admit that, after all is said and done, Hitler set a pattern that can be repeated because people are incapable of protesting.  And to reinforce this fight, let us not forget the words of John Bunyan, author of the classic “Pilgrim’s Progress”:

“For all that I have suffered, I do not regret the problems that I have faced – because they are what brought me to where I wanted to arrive.  Now that I am close to death, all that I have is this sword, and I hand it over to whoever wants to follow their pilgrimage.

“I carry with me all the marks and scars of the combats – they are the witnesses of what I have lived through, and the rewards for what I have conquered.  It is these cherished marks and scars that will open for me the gates of Heaven.

“There was a time when I was always hearing stories of bravery.  There was a time when I lived only because I needed to live.  But now I live because I am a warrior, and because one day I want to be in the company of Him in whose name I have fought so hard.”

So scars are necessary when we fight against Absolute Evil, or when we have to say “no” to all those who, sometimes with the best of intentions, try to impede our journey towards dreams.

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