Contemplating this query, I couldn’t think of a time that I had said an unlikely yes. Looking back on the yeses in my life I saw unwarranted yeses, self-betraying yeses and unexamined yeses. There were rash yeses, self-harming yeses and exhausting yeses. But I didn’t see any unlikely ones. It seemed that I was always likely to say yes.
What came to mind instead was an experience of the Light leading me to say an unlikely no. My father is a vile person; immoral, hateful, viciously critical, mean, and dishonest. But I’ve always tried so hard to have a relationship with him. My family likes to tell about the time my three year old niece came out from the bathroom with her hair parted on the side and slicked back with water and said proudly, “I’m my daddy’s son.” They think it’s so cute, but it makes me cry, reminding me of my willingness to do anything, even the impossible, to win my father’s love and approval.
Having a relationship with my father was just a long battle of saying yes to him and no to myself—no to my integrity, no to my spirit, no to my self-respect—but I couldn’t end the relationship. I remembered the fourth commandment and thought a good person would have a relationship with her father. I tolerated his rudeness, his meanness, and his abusiveness. He telephoned or sent emails calling me filthy names or telling me how stupid I was; he came to my house when I wasn’t home and was so obscene that my husband kicked him out; my daughter was afraid to answer the phone in case he was the one calling; but still I tried to maintain a relationship.
Then one day he sent me a birthday card with a brochure for the Catholic Church, the title emblazoned on the front “The One True Church”, and I knew I was done. It seemed like such a minor thing in the face of all of the other abuse he had committed, but it was the proverbial last straw. I remember feeling that he had abused me physically, mentally, and emotionally my whole life, but he wasn’t going to tell me what to believe. And so I said no. No to a relationship. No to any contact. No to any involvement. No. No more.
Thinking about this I realized that for me, saying this unlikely no was saying an unlikely yes. I saw that by leading me to say no, by giving me the Light and strength and awareness to say no, the Light was really leading me to say the life-affirming yes.
Saying this no to my father led me to to say the yeses that had been missing in my life. To say yes to healthier relationships. To say yes to self respect. To say yes to loving and taking care of myself. It was by saying the ‘unexpected’ no that I was able to say yes to life itself.
— Mica Coffin