Che Fece … Il Gran Rifiuto By CP Cavafy: Reading and Meditation

August 24, 2020  • Executive Leadership Seminars Department

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Che Fece … Il Gran Rifiuto. CP Cavafy


When confronted with conflict, or perhaps simply with opposing views, it can be difficult to find the strength of inner voice. Agreement is so often readily offered – our internal desire to please, to demonstrate respect, to be a team player, can overtake the truth of “the great No” within us. Why is it so easy to fall into step with statements or actions that we may not believe in, while it takes great muscles of courage to vocalize the righteous “no”?

This poem’s title comes from Dante’s condemnation of Pope Celestine V, who resigned the papacy to live a life of hermitage in 1294. This great “No” was declared an act of cowardice by Dante, who placed Celestine in Hell. Cavafy, however, sees honor in standing with convictions and principles, offering “the right no.”

I’m a born people pleaser. Fear of conflict has driven me to utter fascination with it – where do our values and convictions stem from, and when do we throw politeness and fear of rejection aside to stand with them? When do we betray our principles for advantage? When the “Yes” is ready within us, yet our conscience tells us otherwise, how do we find the grit to refuse? 

Brianna Curran, Washington, DC 


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