How Being a Knucklehead Changed Me - Kris Vallotton

August 29, 2018

Have you ever made a mistake so bad that it felt like the end of the world? It’s in those moments that we can hope to be met by mercy, but often times we’re confronted with anger, shame and even blame.

How do you treat mistakes when you’re not the one who made them, but rather the one who felt the pain and impact of them? There’s so much power in the way you respond to someone in their mess. My grandfather taught me this back when I was a teenager, but it wasn’t until recent years that I truly understood how big his love was for me. My grandfather created a legacy of mercy, a monument of grace and a culture of excellence through the way he dealt with my mistakes.

Patience for Knuckleheads

My grandfather loved me in spite of my continual stupid mistakes. He always called me “Knucklehead.” I think it was his way of showing me affection, and also a way to remind himself not to go ballistic on me.

In 8 years, I managed to tear the door completely off of his flatbed truck, bend the forks straight down on the farm tractor, and rip the siding off of the garage wall. Of course, these are just a few of the highlights…every week was a venture in destruction and a lesson in patience.

Every time I destroyed something else, he would just shake his head and say, “How the hell did you do that, knucklehead!?” “I don’t know…” I’d respond. Sometimes I would try to explain to him how I managed this level of stupidity. But he would just shake his head and mumble something under his breath in Spanish.

Looking back, I have no idea why he believed in me so much. He never scolded me or made me feel stupid. His patience caused me to desperately want to please him. I actually think my desire to live up to his expectation resulted in me embracing his crazy work ethic.

Back To The Future

Last year, my 13-year-old grandson was messing around in my shop, when he decided to close the automatic garage door on the lawn tractor. I looked up just in time to see it all happen. I started running for the door yelling, “Micah, push the button again! Micah! Push the dang button!” He just stood there staring at me like a freaking zombie.

Five seconds before I could get there, the door slammed down on the tractor bending the door and dislodging the thing from the rails. It just hung there by one roller; mangled! I stood there staring at Micah for what seemed like an eternity…struggling to find words that would convey my true feelings.

Suddenly I heard Kathy’s voice whisper, “Remember your grandfather.” I turned to see her standing behind me with a silly smirk on her face. I walked away mumbling some cuss words to myself, while Micah just stood there like he was in a coma.

That was the first time I understood how special my grandfather was. I grabbed a few tools from the toolbox and made my way back to the destruction site. Micah was still standing there staring off into space like teenagers often do. “What are you doing knucklehead? Grab a wrench and let’s fix the dang door!”

He was instantly awakened from his coma and began to try to help. “What were you thinking knucklehead?” “I don’t know,” he said with an awkward smile. I raised my eyebrows and rolled my eyes; remembering those same stupid feelings in me.

“Come on knucklehead, move the stinking tractor!” I stared at him, reliving a memory, while Micah and the tractor disappeared from sight.

What Legacy Will You Leave?

This is the plight of grandfathers; this is the inheritance of the aged. Build monuments in children’s memories that will remind them someday when they have knuckleheads, to extend patience to them because they have no idea what the heck they were thinking! May God bless our knuckleheads.

I learned that you need to create a place where people can fail successfully. I know this is not easy to practice but there’s something about loving people more than we love our stuff.

What would happen if we took ahold of people and we made room for them to do stupid things? The truth is that life is messy and none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes, and we will all be around people who make mistakes that affect us. But what would happen in the world if we made room for people to make mistakes, let them learn how to fail, and helped them get back up?

So the next time someone comes to you with their failure, I want to encourage you to remember your own imperfection and meet them where they’re at with love and mercy. Today I want to challenge you with this question: the last time someone in your life messed up in a way that hurt you, did you treat them with the same grace that you hoped to be treated with when you make a mistake? Is this something that’s easy for you to do? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Topics: All TopicsIdentityInspirationLeadership


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