The subject of yesterday’s post was advice. I was aghast that some people would actually consider not listening to me, in my well-considered analyses of their problems. Today I want to discuss the idea of responsibility.

If my advice was actually correct, my advisee did not follow it and dire consequences occurred, how should I act? An “I told you so,” is not a productive response, although those words would probably be bouncing around in my head begging to come out. If the person who refused my advise is just an friend or acquaintance, a simple shrug of the shoulders might be appropriate response on my part, with a sincere, “So sorry things didn’t work out,” thrown in for good measure.

But what if the advisee is a loved one, whose welfare cannot be shrugged off? What if the consequences of not listening to good advise results in more responsibility thrust upon the spurned advice giver? The saying, “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” might work for the purchasing department, but it does not quite translate to family, in my opinion.

What is one supposed to do?

I can imagine the complex feelings associated with this situation: insult, at not having one’s advice accepted; anger at the negative consequences to the loved one; anger at the consequences of added responsibilities.

What happens if one refuses to accept the added responsibilities? Perhaps it is not possible to provide the resources to assist the loved one after their mistaken course of action. Perhaps it has to be ‘Shady Pines’, the nursing home with which Maude, from The Golden Girls continually threatens her aged mother, should she not listen.

Common issue

This is probably an issue that families and loved ones deal with on a routine basis. I can think of several possible responses to the situation I outlined above: 1) “I could help you but I won’t.” In other words, you must live with the consequences of your actions or inactions; 2) “It’s ok, I’ll take care of you,” Don’t worry, I’ll assume responsibility for your actions; 3) “I’ll help you get someone else to take care of you and your problem.” Transfer of responsibility; 4) “As much as it hurts me, I am not able to help you.”


No matter what course of action one takes, and there are probably more than I outlined above, there is the pain of seeing a loved one in trouble. Of course there are ways to distract one’s self such as compartmentalizing, burying one’s feelings, but I understand these are not a good options. There are no really good options.

The idea of free will is the topic of much philosophical discussion and an underlying theme of this post. I hope to address it in a forthcoming post.

4 thoughts on “Consequences

  1. This is pretty much the crux of the matter in our family where my daughter’s mental illness leads her to do risky things that could lead to a lifetime of physical illness and dependency. Obviously we advise her not to do this! But though she understands the advice she cannot or will not stop, and the only way of making her stop would be to take away her freedom entirely and lock her up again. Giving her her freedom to make choices that might be bad ones does mean writing her a blank cheque for future care! When she was younger, our position had to be 2 in your list. As she gets older, you do start looking at alternative 1, 3 and 4. Your analysis is very good.

    • Thank you for your comment. I’ve never been in your position, with direct responsibility for a son or daughter. The closest I’ve come is with my brothers. I can only imagine how heart rending it must be, especially if the only remaining option is to walk away. One must consider the worth of one’s own life as someone other than a care giver or care taker.

      Thanks again,


      • I think with siblings it’s important to allow yourself the freedom to walk away. There are (lots of) examples of siblings sacrificing for one another, but it has to be a free choice – it shouldn’t be driven by guilt, for example. For children it is different really – you are hard wired to sacrifice yourself for them. You can try to moderate the impact on your life but it’s pretty nigh impossible to duck responsibility for them.

        • It is difficult to allow one’s self to walk away as a sibling. Guilt is certainly one factor. It is very complicated, at least for me. However I think I have it figured out now. It’s about time, as I am in my 60s as is my brother.

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