You are Obdurate when you refuse to do what other people want.

When you are unwilling to change your opinion, or the way you do things; when you are stubborn and persistent in what you want to do; you are Obdurate. When you cannot be persuaded and are resistant to a softening influence, you are Obdurate.

Thank God for you!

It’s useless to lecture a human.

~ Rick Riordan

For the past three days I have been reading Paulo Coelho’s Like A Flowing River. Having finished the book, as is my wont, I continued to read every word (including promotional material) to the back cover. There were a few pages devoted to the author’s biography. I was shocked to read what I read.

Coelho’s father was an engineer and his mother a homemaker. Coelho dreamed of an artistic career. But this was frowned upon. In school, Coelho discovered his passion for literature and his true vocation (his North Star): to be a writer. When their attempts to suppress his devotion to literature failed, his parents took this as a sign of mental illness.

When he was seventeen, his father had him committed to a mental institution where he endured sessions of electroconvulsive therapy. His parents brought him back to the institution again when he got involved with a theatre group and began to work as a journalist.

I like talking to a brick wall- it’s the only thing in the world that never contradicts me!

~ Oscar Wilde

But they couldn’t cure him of his mental illness. All their force, compulsions and pleas broke against his obdurate will. While they shouted their commands in his ears, he continue only to listen to the voice of his soul. While they kept trying to reset his inner compass, it kept pointing obstinately to his North Star.

Thank God for human will!

I’m not stubborn. My way is just better.

~ Maya Banks

You can surely imagine the horror of having a man of Coelho’s talent, for moving the hearts of people in the way he does, compelled to be something he was not. He must have been called intractable. Accusations of disobedience and pleas of love must have been thrown at him. He must have been reminded- many times- of how they had his best interest at heart and that they were only trying to save him from himself. You know the drill, don’t you? Haven’t you heard the litany a million times too?

Had Coelho given in to their demands, what a terrible loss it would have been to the lives of millions who have been touched, whose lives have been altered, by his words. He was BORN to be a writer. Being a writer is his North Star. This was to be his contribution to the world… a contribution only he could make. The world would have been much poorer had he been obedient.

Thank God for his Obdurate spirit!


Freddie once told me that I was the worst kind of stubborn-because I wasn’t stubborn at all. I was patient. Patient, but determined. A stubborn person could be distracted, or tricked. But not me. I just held on and on and on, never giving up until I got my way, long after everyone else stopped caring.

~ April Genevieve Tucholke

42 thoughts on “Obdurate”

      1. My younger son is exactly this and my husband keeps telling me that he will be very successful in life! I think I too love the trait though it is sometimes difficult to deal with on a daily basis!

  1. I really like how you have revealed the positive in this word. Goes to show how things indeed, including the meaning behind a word, can be so contradictory if we go a bit deeper. And it is up to us what meaning we make of that relative experience in life. A thought-provoking post, and am really happy to see one of my fav authors quoted here – Oscar Wilde! I had read some things about Coelho’s biography earlier but it is always a treat and learning experience to see what others emphasize in these stories. Thanks for revealing a new perspective through your re-telling of his life.

    Beauty Interprets, Expresses, Manifests the Eternal

    1. To me it has never been a negative or undesirable trait Beloo. It is when people are determined, mulish and intractable that something new happens in the world.

      I love Oscar Wilde too. 🙂

  2. Am so glad he lsitened to his voice of soul. Read only 2 books and I always feel ALCHEMIST is the boook and many others r written only based on it !
    if Paulo’s parents can do it, I can only dread the way few parents behave towards their kids with mediocre skills 🙁
    Wish every one has the courage Paulo has!

    1. Exactly Afshan! If Coelho parents can do it, why not other parents. Can you imagine how many voice have been silenced in this country of ours?

      Makes me very sad…

  3. You have put a spin on the negative connotation that the word normally has. I don’t mind being stubborn but would prefer others to be more docile :D.

    1. I didn’t know about it before today morning either Vasudha. I had to write about it as soon as I read it. Thank you.

    1. Yes, I too was very surprised. You may know someone’s name but not their story. This proves it, doesn’t it?

  4. Pingback: Painted Storks | Shail's Nest

  5. Coelho been one of ma favo author and I am amazed how he turned out negative aspects of life into positive traits that made him the man he is today. One should keep fighting and no matter how tough it gets, we will conquer the forces of evil and triumph. Thanks, Dagny for this inspirational post.

  6. ‘Obdurate’ is meant mostly in a negative sense. In the case of, Coelho, I would call it perseverance, tenacity, endurance, dedication, persistence.

    But not obduracy. Websters says ‘obdurate has the following meanings:-

    “Unmoved by persuasion, pity, or tender feelings; stubborn; unyielding,
    stubbornly resistant to moral influence; persistently impenitent (ex: an obdurate sinner)”.

    You wouldn’t call Coelho any of these would you? But there’s hope. ‘P’ is yet to come. You can still change it to ‘P for perseverance’. Meanwhile, for ‘O’, you could go for ‘oral’, in the context of the kama sutra. Just sayin’.


  7. I am loving your ‘letter a day’ posts. After you are done with ‘z’, why not think of starting with punctuations? I would recommend starting with the exclamation mark. 😀 😀

    1. It is good oftener than it is bad Ruchira. At least, such has been my experience… after spending a life time of NOT being stubborn. Now I wish I had been, all these years. Thanks! 🙂

  8. I really am on the fence when it comes to this attribute. In the example you shared, thank God Coelho’s North Star guided him to a stellar future. Sadly, in countless cases, young kids only have a misplaced belief of their greatness in a certain vocation. What a handful they must be to their parents!
    Nevertheless, your argument is very compelling…and your beautiful writing – even more so!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Connect with me!

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,954 other subscribers.


Latest Posts