Stage Three: Refusal of the Call

REFUSAL OF THE CALL: The hero is reluctant at first. The hero balks at the threshold of adventure.

  • Star Wars: Luke refuses the quest until he learns his aunt and uncle are dead.
  • The Lion King: Simba refuses to return to Pride Rock and accept his destiny.
  • Groundhog Day: Example of the negative cycle caused by refusing the call.

You’re being asked to say ‘yes’ to a great unknown, to an adventure that will be exciting, but also dangerous and even life-threatening. It wouldn’t be a real adventure otherwise. You stand at the threshold of fear; you hesitate or even refuse, temporarily. Your family fears for your life and don’t want you to go; people mutter that the journey is foolhardy. Should you not just stay – let someone else do it, take the risk, save the day? Even Christ, in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion, prayed “Let this cup pass from me.”[6] He was, for a moment, refusing his Call – seeking a way around the ordeal he, like anyone, knows he must face. In fiction, too, strong characters like Rambo, Rocky or a cowboy in a Western, refuse many calls.

And yet you must go, and it must be you. Continuing to refuse can lead to tragedy – looking backwards (like the man mentally stuck in the nursery) is denying what is real in the present. The only time you should refuse is if the call is actually a temptation to evil. The Three Little Pigs wisely refused to open the door to the Big Bad Wolf’s powerful arguments. Odysseus had to stop up the ears of his men with wax, and have himself tied to his ship’s mast, so they wouldn’t be lured onto the rocks by the Sirens’ bewitching, attractive song. “… The Devil hath power t’assume a pleasing shape …”[7]

This stage can combine with the next two: Meeting the Mentor, and Crossing the First Threshold. There may be secret doors here. When Belle in Beauty and the Beast is told she has the run of the Beast’s house, but for one door she must never enter, she is compelled to answer her inner call to open it. If Pandora is told she can never open the box, she won’t rest until she’s had a peek. If Psyche is told she must never look upon her lover, Cupid, she will find a way to see him. Humans are of satiable curiosity.[8]

Questions to consider: have you ever refused a call? Or accepted?

[6] Matthew 26:39.
[7] Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2, line 564.
[8] See Rudyard Kipling, “The Elephant’s Child”, Just So Stories. Macmillan & Co., London: 1902.


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