Being Not Responsible vs. Being Irresponsible

This is another guest post by Mary Carol Moran. Enjoy!

One of the limiting beliefs that I’ve been told (by my intuition, guides, Higher Self) that I have to let go of is that I am a responsible person. This is huge!

My first reaction was disbelief. What? I thought taking responsibility was a good thing. Turns out not. Here’s why.

When I’m responsible, I take on the emotional baggage of getting whatever it is done. For example, if I’m responsible for dinner, then if I don’t arrange dinner (cook, order in, eat out, whatever), nobody eats. I feel guilty, and everybody else feels blame. Wrong!

Let’s look at this in reverse. Guilt isn’t fun, so I’m not going to feel guilty. How am I going to avoid feeling guilty? I’m not going to take on the responsibility in the first place. This doesn’t mean I won’t cook, order in, whatever. It just means that if something comes up, or I change my mind, or anything changes, it wasn’t my responsibility in the first place, so there’s no guilt and no blame. And the reality is, one way or another, we’re going to eat.

When I say I’m not going to be a responsible person, what changes? First, I’m not going to say at breakfast, “I’ll make dinner tonight,” disempowering everybody else, robbing them of choice, and putting pressure on me all day. Instead, I might say, “What shall we do about dinner tonight?” Whew! That lets everybody off the hook, or puts everybody on. Either way, everybody’s equal. No guilt, no blame, no matter what.

That stretches the making dinner example to its limits, but it’s a metaphor for bigger things. From an LOA perspective, my taking responsibility lowers everyone’s vibration, including mine.

I’m a volunteer at animal control, and I used to be a very responsible volunteer. I mothered all of the dogs. Would they be adopted? Would they go to great homes? Trouble is that the dogs (and/or the Universe) picked up my responsibility=anxiety. Animals are intuitive that way, and we can learn a lot about our subliminal effects on people by watching our observable effects on animals. My sense of responsibility was robbing these lovely animals of their innate power and self-worth.

As a not-responsible person, I give them the dignity of their individual lives. I can love them as much as I want, but I don’t put emotional energy into controlling their fate. The giant responsibility sandbag has dropped off my airship. I’ve stopped worrying about the dogs in the shelter. I no longer visit every day; my presence is welcome but not “needed.”

And the most amazing thing has happened. The day I stopped obsessing, people started pouring into the shelter, adopting like crazy. My favorite sweetie that I had been most worried about was adopted by a family on the day I didn’t go. It was like I needed to get out of her way (the Universe’s way!). Yesterday in the hour and a half I walked dogs, five were adopted. Holy shmoly! Five!

I realize now that being responsible is living outside the moment. When I let go of responsibility, I can be present, right here, in the moment, each moment. The dogs sense that. We may only have a five minute walk together, but it’s five unclouded minutes of pure joy and widdles and poop.

I can hear the “But….” How is not being a responsible person different from being irresponsible? Our whole society is geared around responsibility. I told the boss I’d get this report done before I leave. My kids need me to take them to ballet class. And on and on…

To me, being irresponsible is putting someone else in danger, whether it’s your company losing a contract or your kids being abandoned at school. Not good! So being not-responsible, rather than irresponsible, takes some planning. It’s letting everybody know in advance that whatever they want to happen is ultimately up to them. It’s making sure you can comfortably deliver. It’s not over-scheduling. It’s having alternatives available. It’s embracing wholeheartedly: I’ll do the best I can, but the outcome is not my responsibility.

Just like at animal control, when you let go of the reins of responsibility, the vibration of everyone around you will rise. Your co-workers, even those slackers you avoid having on your team, will feel empowered because you aren’t taking their initiative. Your children will know that you see them as the powerful short beings that they are. They might even make dinner! Who knows what amazing and wonderful things will happen when you just let go?

Essentially, taking responsibility is saying, “I’m more powerful than you.” Refusing to take responsibility is saying, “We’re equal.” We’re human, or canine, or feline. We’re here in the moment, each doing the best we can. It’s saying to the Universe, “Let’s go!”

How are you going to be Not Responsible? Is this a limiting belief you are ready to release? Do you have a “But…?” As always, your comments are what make the blog work. Please share your insights, questions, stories, and otherwise awesome thoughts!


Mary Carol

Mary Carol Moran lives in Mexico, where she spreads love and awareness and poetry. Her latest project is an animal shelter for puppies and kitties. Check it out and support the site by liking it here: Amigos de Perros y Gatos Colima


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  • Avatar Akasha says:

    Beautiful Mary Carol! I love the line –taking responsibility is saying I am more powerful than you. It is so true. Arrogance, really. Being in the moment takes such humility to not push and pull away from What Is.

    Thanks for such a lovely reminder this morning!

    • Hi Akasha,

      It was a big aha moment for me realizing that taking responsibility for animals is arrogance too. Each being is following his or her own arc. There’s such a difference between giving loving care and feeling responsible. Letting go of the reins opens up endless possibilities for every encounter.

      Happy Sunday morning hugs,

      Mary Carol

  • I am not responsible for what I’m about to write…


  • The Law of Responsibility. This law or principle states that each person is totally responsible for the all of the events that occur in their life. Most people do not want to hear this. It is easier to blame our social environment, our upbringing (or lack thereof), where we live, our teachers, our parents, some demonized enemy, the government, the police, the kids down the street, a mythical evil spirit, or even God Itself for all of our ills. It may be easier, but it is not true. We truly reap what we sow, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.

    There may be things in your life that you don’t want to take control of, but even that is a choice for which you are responsible. Yes, if you are a control freak you may dis-empower others IF THEY LET you. But then again, that is their choice for which they must take responsibility.

    • Hi Philip,

      Thanks for stating the idea in different terms. Letting go of responsibility is exactly what you are saying, NOT blaming anybody or anything, including yourself. It’s acknowledging the moment and staying in it. However I got here, here I am. For me, analyzing the ‘however’ doesn’t help much – staying in ‘here I am’ does.

      Interacting with adults, letting go of responsibility isn’t that difficult. Recognizing that children and animals, however helpless they may appear in this physical realm, are just as powerful spiritually and energetically, just as much taking care of themselves and choosing their own path – now that was a challenge! It took long hours working with supposedly helpless (sometimes abused) animals for me to feel energetically how liberating it is for THEM when I just relax and stay permanently in the moment.

      Thank you for adding a slightly different perspective to the discussion. Hug!

      Mary Carol

      • Avatar Marleau says:

        How many kids do you have?

        • Avatar mary carol moran says:

          Hi Marleau,

          I have two daughters who are now 32 and 35 years old. The transition from parent-of-children to parent-of-adults was challenging. The key for me was letting go of wanting to “help,” accepting that Mom doesn’t know best. Happily, they’ve each found a path that uniquely suits them.

          Thanks for the question. Hugs,

          Mary Carol

  • Avatar Brian says:

    Hi Mary Carol, i’ve been waiting for this post — thank you and i very much appreciate you’re working with animals. Did the same in the past at a shelter, mainly with cats, and i agree with your statement. At any point we need to draw a line and let go.

    However, i think there’s a certain difference between the shelter animals and those we live with. My first cat was epileptic and i loved him dearly, so i did my very best to help him, beginning with the fact that i actually learned sewing pillows and had the whole house filled with them in case he would fall from a scratch tree, to the fact that i definitely had to reduce the stress i brought home, especially when i was angry/grumpy from work since he would feel threatened, which could evoke an attack. Finally a natural healer for animals even taught me how to meditate together with my cat, and he loved this daily ritual!

    The same effort, though in another way, was necessary for a cat who had been extremely mistreated before she came to me.

    I felt and still feel that i’m fully responsible for the well–being of the animals i live with. On the other hand, there’s no certainty about their fate. Even with the best care and being surrounded by our love and devotion, they can get sick and die, sometimes at a young age. You’re absolutely right, we can’t control everything, and there are reasonable limits, or we might become animal hoarders. ;=(

    • Hi Brian,

      That’s an interesting point. The post is trying to distinguish between taking care and taking responsibility. Sounds like you take amazing care of your beloved pets!

      Everyone at the animal shelter takes great care of the cats and dogs that come in. It’s a public city-run facility with the right to euthanize (the charter, actually), and in all the time I’ve volunteered there, they have managed to adopt out every single animal that wasn’t gravely ill. Zero healthy animals euthanized. Plus the vets clean the cages when needed, one clips the hair of the dogs that come in scruffy, and on and on. The love and happiness is over-whelming.

      But… and it’s a big BUT, the happiness comes from care-taking with love, and from NOT getting emotionally tangled up in the outcome. The same is true for my beloved companion at home. Gemma, my big mutt dog, has been with me for eleven years, rescued from underneath a county highway. We’ve lived together in five states and two countries. She receives and returns all my love, care, and affection. But I know she will die, probably sooner rather than later. The arrangements are set for her comfort and eventual burial, and I’m relaxed and happy every moment I spend with her.

      I think you and I are saying exactly the same thing. For me, “Responsibility” is a word that carries some negative weight, so it’s the word I’ve used here for the baggage I’ve let go. Another person might use “over-investment” or “entanglement.”

      What I do know is that since I’ve let go of wanting to somehow manage their future, to find homes for everyone, for example, the world has brightened, and the animals are attracting their own great homes. Yesterday, ten adult dogs were adopted! OMG!

      Thank you for your as always thought-filled comment. Happy hugs!

      Mary Carol

  • Avatar Glori says:

    I wish I found out about this in college.
    Another thing about being “responsible” aside from taking away the choices of others is that it also makes them dependent on you.
    I was a student leader and I was too responsible. Everyone thought I can do everything, which sucks and ended up with me having not much of a social life.
    It also turned me into a dictator. LOL. I don’t think they minded though because the work got done.
    And no one voluntarily helps you if you’re too responsible!!!!

    Arghh! My college life sucked in that department.

    Thank you for showing me I should be not-responsible to be happier.

    • Hi Glori,

      Doing everybody’s work is just plain tiring! And it doesn’t help the other person either. My kids grew up in the era of “group work” in school and faced this dilemma all the time. As a teacher for 30 years, I see the value in sharing, but also the value in owning the efforts of your own labor. It’s especially tricky in a work situation where someone else’s work reflects on your results.

      But… I do think it’s possible to make conscious rather than unconscious choices. Always picking up the slack becomes an unconscious habit that is disabling to everyone. And resentment never feels good.

      Once you respect everyone and everything’s energy, it’s easier to back off and give them all room to breathe, and room to ‘fail’ if that’s their path. My Dad used to tell a poignant story about grading a student’s paper. He was a university professor, and the kid, a pampered athlete, had earned an F. The boy came back and said he had been so inspired by my father’s class that he had, for the first time in his life, written his own paper. He thanked my Dad, and they stayed in touch throughout his university years. My Dad talked about this story as one of the formative moments in his life.

      Thank you for sharing your story, Glori! Happy shiny hugs,

      Mary Carol

  • I really like the essence of the article, Mary Carol. However, I think the word responsibility is defined in a different way here than the way I see it. As a life coach, one of the big things I work with people on is taking responsibility for their lives. Real responsibility is empowering and it is not the producer of blame or guilt. It’s about owning the moment, taking care of yourself and making choices. It may mean saying, “I need a break, so I’m being responsible to myself by NOT cooking dinner tonight” OR “I choose to help as much as I can while still meeting my own needs” OR even “Instead of crying about what I just messed up, I’m taking responsibility for what happens next.”

    From your examples I can tell that what you’re talking about is sharing responsibility and letting yourself off the hook when needed. This is so very important…and so very responsible of you. Obsessing over getting everything done is being irresponsible, so it’s amazing to reach a point where you know how/when to let go. Kudos to you!

    • Hi Nea,

      It seems “responsibility” is more of a hot button word than I had thought! As Brian and I discussed in comments above, the meaning I’m using could be “over-investment” or “entanglement” to another person.

      In your examples, you could substitute “take care of” for “responsible for.” For example, “I need a break, so I’m TAKING CARE OF myself by NOT cooking dinner tonight.” We can care for ourselves and others without taking on the emotional weight of blame and guilt.

      Another example is the difference between helping and giving. To me, “responsible” is like helping, where “caring” is giving. Caring/giving doesn’t involve a power imbalance or strings.

      Thank you for your comments, Nea. It sounds to me like you are empowering people to find their way out of irresponsibility, which is an essential first step to ending blame and guilt and living happily. Once we are no longer irresponsible, we can start thinking of letting go of all the strings, and living with joy in the moment.

      Warm hugs,

      Mary Carol

  • Hi Mary Carol,
    This is very interesting as today I blogged about responsibility where it pertains to other people’s problems, but maybe the real problem with that starts here, with what you say – assuming too much responsibility! You’ve given me a lot to think about! Thanks!

    • Hi Lori,

      It’s a strange concept to reject responsibility but in the healthiest way. It comes down to respect. When we truly, soul deep, respect another being, we don’t even think of assuming responsibility for them, because we know that would infringe on their self-hood.

      My Dad used to refuse to give me advice, which annoyed me at times. He would always say, “I know you will make a good decision.” He knew that the way to encourage someone to flourish is to demonstrate your confidence in their strength.

      Thank you for your comment, Lori! Hugs,

      Mary Carol

  • Avatar anny says:

    Hello Mary Carol,

    It is a great post you have written and I had to think about it for some time before I could react. Because I noticed that everybody defines responsibility (and lots of other words, if not all) in another way, so in the beginning you might be very surprised about what someone is saying or writing but then you discover that you are really talking, or writing, about different things.

    Some people think that when they are responsible for a family, they are responsible for doing all the work, for thinking of everything, and for the outcome of everything because if it turns out differently from what they planned they must have done something wrong.

    I figured out for myself, from experience and doing it the ‘wrong’ way just as much as from doing things the ‘right’ way, that my responsibility as a mother of four lay in empowering my kids as young as possible and giving them a share in the responsibilities. First they should learn to be responsible for small things like putting their toys away or dressing themselves. And later also for bigger things. It was my responsibility to teach them their responsibility and also to learn that the outcome could be different from what we expected but never mind. Now it is also my responsibility to let them live their own lives, even if they choose to go and live at the other side of the world. Not that I’d have a foot to stand (that is a Dutch expression) on if I didn’t because I went to live abroad myself when I was young, but that is beside the point.

    Responsibility should always be empowering, whether it is for yourself or for someone else, and never, ever controling or limiting.



    • “Responsibility should always be empowering, whether it is for yourself or for someone else, and never, ever controling or limiting.” Well said, Anny!

      I think when I use the word responsible in a negative sense, I’m talking about feeling guilt or blame when something doesn’t turn out the way you thought you wanted. When we can learn to live without guilt or blame, life all of a sudden gets a lot brighter!

      Your words about children really made me think, and I hope that, if I had it to do over, I could raise my girls with a lot less guilt and blame. Our adult relationships are thriving and pretty much guilt/blame free. It’s an interesting and challenging thought to imagine child-rearing in those terms. Maybe that’s why is seems easier sometimes to be a grandparent (and grandchild!), because we are less invested in the responsibility game.

      Thanks for a thought-provoking comment, Anny! Warm hugs,

      Mary Carol

      • Avatar anny says:

        Hi Mary Carol,

        Thank you for your reply. I recognize a lot from what you write. Not for nothing did I say that I learned from doing things the wrong way. But in the end my kids did turn out all right and that is what matters. No need to feel guilty. It is all experience after all. And I agree with what you write about grandchildren. I love mine to bits but I am very glad that I am not responsible for them.



  • Avatar Me says:

    This Topic does not seem to be about “Being not responsible vs. Irresponsible”
    but about “IDENTIFYING What is Your Responsibility and What Isn’t.” and Learning To Say No.
    If we feel responsible for others’ happiness, and blame ourselves for things we cannot control, “the Boundaries Have Blurred ” and the result is unhappiness and inner struggle.

    De-Centering Yourself
    I’m going to be a little bold in writing this section, because I know that I suffer from this problem myself. When we try to take on responsibility for everyone else’s happiness and success, there is a strong element of EGOTISM here.
    I know it may feel like it should be the Opposite – after all, we’re concerned with other people, not with ourselves – but the truth is, trying to take too much responsibility is a way of putting ourselves at the center of everything.
    If you feel that it’s your job to make sure that your friends are happy, you’re trying to frame yourself as the most important factor in their lives.
    If you blame yourself ,Your mental model of the world has you as the “responsible adult” and them as the “irresponsible child”.
    To end the guilt-tripping, you need to start De-Centering yourself. Of course you’re important, loved and special – but you are not the source of all your partner, friend or kids’ happiness.

    Developing your creative self requires personal time. You’ve heard it before: Learn to say no.
    Knowing which problems are yours to solve, and which are the responsibility of others, is the key to learning to say “no,” to coworkers, patients, children, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, moms, whomever.

    Write this down and tape it to your bathroom mirror:
    “I am responsible for my own stuff, and that is enough.”
    The caveat to this affirmation is:
    “If you step in it, you’re going to have to clean your shoes.”
    Avoid drama. Evaluate commitments carefully. Protect your personal time.

    Our ability to say no is strongly connected to the important relationships in our lives. We have learned that to say “no” to make time for ourselves is selfish.
    Until you Accept Responsibility for the Role You Play in Creating or Maintaining your stress levels, they will remain outside your control.

    (note) “Sometimes people do want to be sick. In our society, we’ve made illness a legitimate way to avoid Responsibility or Unpleasant Situations. If we can’t learn to say “no,” then we may have to invent a dis-ease to say “no” for us.”


    • Hi Me,

      Thank you for your extensive and insightful comment!

      You write about taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness, which clearly creates problems all around. What I’m writing about is a little more extreme – that we can let go of taking responsibility for anyone’s problems, ever. Fundamentally, nothing is our responsibility, in the sense that we should feel guilt or blame if it doesn’t work out perfectly.

      Even our own actions can be free of blame and guilt (aka responsibility). When I do my best in the moment, I can let go of the outcome, for better or worse. Staying in the moment, each moment, I never step into the world of “should have” and “could have.”

      To me, it all boils down to this: Do the best you can in this moment, and then let it go. Then, as Melody says, rinse and repeat. An example is this comment – I write what’s in my heart, trying to respond authentically to your words. I will press the Submit button in a minute, and let it go. I won’t wonder if my words were the best. I won’t worry that I’ve somehow offended you or someone else. I’ll move into the next moment with a light and joyful heart.

      You give some excellent practical advice in your comment – thank you! I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and I’m sure the rest of Melody’s readers do too.

      Warm hugs,

      Mary Carol

  • Hey Mary Carol!

    Thanks so much for another awesome post!

    For me, this comes down to control – we can’t control the outcome, especially when other people are involved. We can’t control the fate of our pets or our kids (no matter how much we try). So taking responsibility for things we can’t control is just madness.

    Back in my corporate days, when I worked 18 hours a day, I did so largely because I made everything my business. I was everyone’s safety net and no one was mine. At some point, I just had to stop doing that and as I backed off (by necessity), I was amazed to find that
    1.) Other people jumped in to fill the void. As you said, by taking responsibility for everything, we don’t even give them a chance to do their part
    2.) Some things just took care of themselves. So it had been unnecessary for me or anyone else to do them.
    3.) Some things didn’t get done, but no one cared. Go figure.
    4.) some things broke, and by letting them break I was finally able to get the resources to get them fixed (big rule in corporations: If it ain’t broke, no one cares. If it’s about to break, no one cares. They only cares once it’s broken, so sometimes, you really just have to take a step back and actually watch it all go to hell, so that it can be fixed once and for all.)

    This was really hard for me, but ultimately, I couldn’t be responsible for everything and I didn’t need to be. When I focused on what I could – my own well being, how I felt, on doing what I needed to, to stay sane, I was actually MORE successful than I’d ever been. That makes perfect sense to me now, but at the time, I was stunned.

    Thanks again for being my DeliberateBlog’s grannie. Deliberate Grannie. Ha.

    Super hugs!

    • Thanks for the great examples, Melody! Letting go of the reins does bring greater success, in whatever way the inner you defines success.

      I’m getting tons of practice letting go this week as we’re doing a free sterilization campaign at Animal Control. When the vets operate on the lovely cats and dogs, sometimes things go smoothly and other times less so. When an animal’s life is at stake, it becomes clear very rapidly that anxiety makes everything worse. Staying in the moment is the only option. Even in the middle of a crisis, the sense of inner peace, group spirit, and appreciative animals is… beyond words.

      Big Granny Hug!

      Mary Carol

  • Avatar Lee says:

    I get this, I get this! I recently experienced this “breakthrough”. I am experiencing a situation that I realized was not mine to handle. It finally occurred to me that by thinking and acting “responsible” in my duties to those around me I had accepted responsibilities that were not mine to carry through AND I was robbing those others of having their own experience. It was so uplifting and clarifying. I wasn’t dropping the ball, I was instead being truly responsible by giving others back this part of their life to learn and grow from. This article would have been great back then, but I’m glad I saw it for myself.

    • Hi Lee,

      Congratulations on your AHA moment! Maybe the Universe is sending this signal out particularly strongly this month, and those who are ready to receive it, get it.

      Thank you for sharing your story! Warm hugs,

      Mary Carol

  • Avatar Me says:

    Escapism Is Temporary – Not Permanent

    When you become aware of your actions and reactions to certain situations, you can control how these situations affect your life. The key I believe is to focus on your reactions to all negative experiences.

  • Avatar Me says:

    Finding a safe place to relax your mind so that you can get away for just a while, can do wonders for your emotional and mental improvement. Finding a place is relatively easy. It can be an actual place or an imaginary location. When you find this place… totally lose yourself in it.
    The purpose: Ignoring negative experiences so that you can discover what it takes to either turn them into positive experiences or learn how to control your reaction to them.

    Your safe place exists only as a helping hand, NOT as a solution to ignoring negative experiences forever. It serves only as an OCCASIONAL escape route. A place to go where you can LEARN how to react to negative emotions.

    You should return from your safe zone with an increased energy level. You should feel better about yourself and gain more confidence. You should see that any problem you have can be resolved.

    This is how a small escape from a harsh reality can increase your emotional and mental health, and give you a chance to focus on something positive. Try to do this occasionally and you are on your way to better self improvement in dealing with the negative situations in your life. But please, don’t turn this into a crutch for ignoring negative experiences forever.

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