Yesterday I found myself painting a friend’s walls. Granted I was simply doing touch-up work but the task consumed most of the day. The inside of my friend’s home has different colors; four to be exact. So every so often I had to repeat the process of shaking/stirring a paint container, prying it open, ensuring the paint brush had no residual color on it, and finally, executing the task of searching for scratches, dings, dents, etc.

As I moved through each room, paint brush and container in hand, I thought about how the marks I was covering reminded me of our imperfections we seek to cover. Those dings and dents that come with the business of living. As I went about my task I felt the question, “Was I willing to clean another person’s mess?” pop into my mind. As I contemplated the thought it struck me that there are times in life when we can choose to quietly lend a helping hand to others rather than expose their messes. Now I’m not advocating that we help someone hide something that needs to be exposed and dealt with in a more public manner. No, rather I am suggesting that there are times when a friend or loved one may simply need a subtle helping hand rather than a callous slap on the wrist.

As I have gained workplace experience over the years I have come to understand that folks generally know when they have made a mistake or a poor life choice. Usually, they are far more aware of their dings and dents then we are. In those instances when someone needs clean-up assistance we each have the choice as to how we will act towards those issues. Granted at the heart of the matter is whether the individual wants our assistance to begin with…

Is there someone in one of your workplaces who has made an error – either through an act of omission or commission? Are you in a position where you can help them make it right? Do their dings or dents need to be pointed out to others or can you quietly come along side them with a can of paint? In a nut shell, can you show them grace and/or mercy or do they need to be allowed to go through the storm to learn the lesson on the other side?

Well…I’m going to have to offer the typical consultant response of “it depends” but here are a few questions to consider should you find yourself looking at someone’s wall:

  1. Was the error made due to a lack of knowledge or education?
  2. Did the person error in an attempt to be deceitful or ignore a valid responsibility?
  3. Is the person willing to learn from their mistake and make the necessary changes to keep it from occurring again?
  4. Has the person asked for your help?

Bottom line – whether you have an opportunity to paint a few walls for a friend or have to stand back and let them live out the consequences of “hitting the wall”, you can always show compassion. After all, you never know when it will be time to address your own dings and dents…