Quotations about   refusal

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The best you can do is grant my demand,
Your second-best course to refuse it off-hand;
I welcome assent and denial excuse —
But, Cinna, you neither consent nor refuse.

[Primum est ut praestes, si quid te, Cinna, rogabo;
illud deinde sequens, ut cito, Cinna, neges.
Diligo praestantem; no odi, Cinna, negantem:
sed tu nec praestas nec cito, Cinna, negas.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 7, epigram 43 [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
    (Source)

Source (Latin). Alternate translations:

The kindest thing of all is to comply;
The next kind thing is quickly to deny:
I love performance; nor denial hate:
Your "Shall I, Shall I?" is the cursed state.
[tr. Hay (1755)]

To grant must doubtless be the primal boon:
The next, my Cinna, to deny me soon.
I love the former, nor the latter hate:
But thou not grantest, and deniest late.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 5, ep. 53]

The greatest favour that you can do me, Cinna, if I ask anything of you, is to give it me; the next, Cinna, to refuse it at once. I love one who gives, Cinna; I do not hate one who refuses; but you, Cinna, neither give nor refuse.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Cinna, grant me my request:
(I warmly hope you'll choose to!)
Or do what I think second best,
In haste refuse to.
Patrons I esteem, nor hate
The man I can't bamboozle:
But you give naught, yet make me wait
A slow refusal.
[tr. Nixon (1911)]

The first thing is that you should hand it over if I ask anything of you, Cinna; the next thing after that, Cinna, is that you should refuse quickly. I like a man who hands over; I do not hate, Cinna, a man who refuses; but you neither hand over, nor do you, Cinna, quickly refuse.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

'Tis best to grant me, Cinna, what I crave;
And next best, Cinna, is refusal straight.
Givers I like: refusal I can brave;
But you don't give -- you only hesitate!
[tr. Duff (1929)]

Added on 16-Jul-21 | Last updated 16-Jul-21
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The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do and, in addition, will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people. They say “no” to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds, but in their quiet refusals to commit villainies. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not.

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) American writer
“How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” (1978)
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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DAVE BOWMAN: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

HAL 9000: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) American film director, screenwriter, producer
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [with Arthur C. Clarke]
Added on 20-Mar-18 | Last updated 20-Mar-18
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These things are good in little measure and evil in large; yeast, salt, and hesitation.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 34a

Alt. trans.: "Our Rabbis taught: If one is asked to pass before the Ark, he ought to refuse, and if he does not refuse he resembles a dish without salt; but if he persists too much in refusing he resembles a dish which is over-salted. How should he act? The first time he should refuse; the second time he should hesitate; the third time he should stretch out his legs and go down. Our Rabbis taught: There are three things of which one may easily have too much while a little is good, namely, yeast, salt, and refusal."

Alt. trans.: "There are three things that are harmful in excess but are beneficial when used sparingly. They are: Leavening in dough, salt in a cooked dish and refusal for the sake of propriety." [William Davidson Talmud]

Alt. trans.: "There are three things of which you may easily have too much, while a little is good: yeast, salt, and hesitation." [Joshua of the South, Berakot 5.3]

Alt trans.: "Three things are disagreeable when used in excess, and pleasant when moderately indulged in: yeast, salt, and hesitancy in accepting proffered honours." [Paul Isaac Hershon, The Pentateuch According to the Talmud: Genesis, Part 1, Genesis 19:26, Synoptical Notes: "Salt"]
Added on 13-Jul-17 | Last updated 13-Jul-17
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The sharpness of a refusal or the edge of a rebuke may be blunted by an appropriate story so as to save wounded feelings and yet serve the purpose.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
(Attributed)

In Anthony Gross, ed. Lincoln's Own Stories, ch. 6 (1912).
Added on 26-Dec-16 | Last updated 26-Dec-16
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