There are times when “fake it ’til you make it” is fine. This was not one of those times:
An amateur painter decided to “restore” this 19th-century Spanish fresco and instead created far more damage.
This is what happens when people underestimate the skill needed to produce a job well done. If the original artist, Elias Garcia Martinez, were still alive, can you imagine his frustration, outrage, grief?
I know some of you can in fact imagine it, because you experience it regularly in your profession. I’m thinking of:
- The accountant who tries to make sense of a client’s years of do-it-yourself tax preparation.
- The hair stylist who has to endure the client’s hysterical ranting because the instructions on the box weren’t clear.
- The mechanic who has to tell the customer his engine is blown because he thought oil changes were optional.
- The surgeon who must amputate a child’s foot because the parent “knew” how to tend to a puncture wound.
- The investment adviser who tries to salvage what’s left of a retirement fund after the client learned that flipping houses is actually not such a sure thing.
- The police officer barraged with community hostility after a neighborhood-watch volunteer took justice into his own hands.
And then there’s the counselor who patches clients’ psyches back together after some high-and-mighty know-it-all did a “hoarding cleanout,” or the corporate psychologist who works to undo the damage from a boss who insists AD/HD is just laziness. (Welcome to my world.)
I despair that this message will only resonate with people who are already careful, who already know that their skills have a limit and they should stay within it. The ones I see doing damage appear to be fully encapsulated within their arrogance: They don’t listen to cautions like this, and they don’t look back at the carnage in their wake.
Then again, maybe there is hope for that person who hasn’t yet crossed the line. If that’s you–if you’re thinking you’ve been doing this work long enough to take a chance, or if you’re feeling like only suckers pay someone to do that, or if you’re figuring it looks easy enough on television or Pinterest–please think again. What’s the worst that could happen if you get it wrong?
Seriously. What is it?
Wing it all you want with a recipe, a craft project, a paint color … anything that will only cost you what you can afford to lose. But if your foray outside your boundaries of competence could hurt someone else–even if you don’t see how, even if you know it won’t, even if you’re insulted that I would doubt you–still: You owe it to the world to humble yourself and avoid that risk.
The ruined fresco is a deep loss for its home church, but as unfortunate as it is, human harm is far more tragic. Acknowledge your scope and stay within it. If you’ve overstepped, make amends if possible and do it right next time. Don’t make messes of other people’s frescoes, or finances, or homes, or hearts or minds.
I don’t want to hear your name falling with my clients’ tears. Whether or not you realize it yet, you don’t want that either.