I first heard these wise words from an academic supervisor as we discussed a student’s lack of effort. We had done what we could to encourage the student to complete the work assigned, and to explain the consequences if that work was not completed. But in the end, my supervisor reminded me, the student needed to take responsibility for her actions. If she didn’t care about the outcome, I didn’t need to care more than she did, or stress about the problem on her behalf.
This is helpful counsel for a variety of situations. There are times when we have done all that we can, and the other party just doesn’t respond. In those cases, it’s OK to wash our hands of responsibility to make things — the job, the grades, the relationship — happen. We should be willing to re-engage if there is a change of heart, but we need to remember that we can’t take responsibility for someone else. If they don’t seem to care as much as you do, you may need to let it go. Caring more than they do will only result in frustration and disappointment for you.
(The exception is when you are the person who is ultimately accountable for the outcome. Then, if they don’t care enough, you may need to find someone else who does.)