“Don’t come home beat up.”
These are words that were spoken to me as a teenager by my dad. I guess you’d need to know a little about him to really grasp the meaning.
My dad is this, mysterious, strong, quiet human being. Born in TX – a good o’l boy. Incredible mechanic. Mostly processing thoughts in his head and very rarely aloud.
I’m his girl. More of a tom-boy that was always looking to make him smile or get his approval.
A sister between two brothers. One 18ish months older and one 5 years younger. I spent time with my dad learning about tools and working on cars. Not my favorite past time – but I did enjoy the time with this mystery man.
One day I came home from school with a pink slip. The pink slip was a notification to my parents that I had gotten into a physical altercation at school that day. It was my first fist fight.
The good girl.
Apparently I was now a bad ass. I had gotten into a fight at the lockers earlier that fall day. My friend and I had a disagreement at lunch about a boy she was dating (who was totally taking advantage of her). Her defensiveness and my need to control and protect blew up into a loud argument … oh, but it didn’t stop there.
She followed me to my locker where she continued to yell in my face. I screamed back at her and she pushed me.
She freakin’ pushed me.
I immediately socked her in the face and the girl fight was on! I don’t remember much. I do know we had a handful of each other’s hair. We were screaming profanities and ultimately wound up on the floor scratching it out and throwing punches.
I just saw red. I remember a substitute teacher screaming at us to break it up. I remember being separated by another teacher and being escorted to the office.
I sat in the office with my heart throbbing, adrenaline pumping and felt a ton of emotions.
I was called in to see the principle. She was so disappointed in me. This was not my reputation.
The other girl, yes.
The principle went ‘easy’ on me. Instead of my parents having to come pick me up from school, I was allowed to ride the bus home. The other girl had to be picked up from school by her mom.
I was sent home with a pink slip explaining what had gone down that day. I would go to In School Suspension for a couple of days and the pink slip needed a parent’s signature.
So, here I am – eating dinner with my parents with a knot in my stomach because I had not revealed any info about my eventful day. I was scared.
Finally the fear was too much. I took out the pink slip and told my parents about the fight.
My mom was stunned. Shocked. My dad on the other hand … my dad was quiet for a minute just taking it all in. I shared my story for a few minutes and then the room grew silent.
My dad grabbed the pink slip and a pen and signed his name. He handed it back to me.
“Hell, April.” He said. “Don’t ever argue with ignorance. You can’t change ignorance. Don’t waste your time arguing. Just punch ’em in the face.”
I was shocked and excited all at the same time.
“Yup.” He said. “Just don’t come home beat up.”
I took my dad’s advice. From that moment forward I had permission to fight. To let loose. I had full permission to be angry and the only request was – don’t come home beat up.
I know my dad meant well. He’s just a country kid from Texas …. but this advice has altered my whole identity for the past 20 years.
Lately I’ve been struggling hard with shame.
According to Psychology Today, shame is not about someone doing something wrong. Shame is feelings and thoughts that we are somehow wrong, defective, inadequate, not good enough, or not strong enough.
I was struggling emotionally at work one day and my team that I manage tried to love on me. They hugged me, offered words of encouragement, one person brought me a heating pad and some chocolate.
You would think one would be grateful for such a wonderful team but I actually got really pissed off. I was annoyed with them. I wanted to get away. The more they tried to love on me the angrier I got.
They didn’t know it. I just sat there and received from them – uncomfortably.
I went home that night and thought about all they had done for me.
“Why?!” I said to myself. “I’m being such a bitch to everyone! Why are they still coming to me?!”
My daggers weren’t working. The shards that I throw wasn’t stopping them from loving me.
I was so angry but the more I thought about it – gratitude broke through and I felt something I had not felt in a very long time … or as long as I can remember.
I felt and received love from another human being besides my safe husband and children.
This left me too exposed. It was just too dangerous.
The next morning on my way to work I heard a song. The lyrics say,
“The war is over
lay your weapons on the ground.
The smoke is fading
before the light
the dead are coming back to life.
He has made a way for us
born for glory out of dust
children held within the arms of peace.
He has made a way for all
mercy waits where sinners fall
He is our victory.”
This song stuck with me for days. Days!
It played over and over in my head. The more I listened to it, the deeper it imbedded itself into my heart.
“The war is over, turn around. Lay your weapons on the ground.”
It’s hard to type it without getting emotional.
The next day I went back to work and there was my team – greeting me with smiles and hugs and good mornings. I just didn’t understand. They wrecked my heart with love.
Later that week I was sharing with a manager friend at work how I reacted to them caring for me. She looked at me perplexed and said, “Why?! Why are you so resistant to them loving on you?”
“I don’t know.” I said.
She said so simply, “Wounded dogs bite.”
Immediately in my spirit I heard the lyrics “lay your weapons on the ground.”
I processed through for a few days and carried on.
A couple of weeks ago I felt like I needed to write about “Don’t come home beat up.” That’s all I heard in my creative mind… that’s it. So, of course, I delayed.
Tonight as I’m trying to do a million other things with my free time, I couldn’t shake that I needed to write about “don’t come home beat up.”
So here I am. Writing. And it makes perfect sense.
As soon as I started writing this blog and reliving that fight from 20 years ago, I got emotional. It’s like I’m sitting in the pain of that fight for the first time in 20 years. It wasn’t cool. I was never big and bad. I loved that girl that I got into a fight with. She was my really close friend. I cared for her. I was misunderstood and so was she. We were kids and a little ghetto and clearly didn’t know how to work through a disagreement in a healthy way.
We cussed each other out and had a physical fight.
Then when I got home and confessed the fight – instead of being taught how to properly work through the rough patches of friendships, I was told “Just punch ’em in the face” and “don’t come home beat up.”
This is why I can’t love or receive love. This freakin’ lie!
Because what if you hurt me? Which you will. You’re not going to live up to my expectations and I won’t live up to yours.
We’re going to disagree.
We’re going to annoy each other.
You’re going to see the calloused pieces of me. I’ll see the calloused pieces of you.
I don’t want to punch you in the face and I don’t want to come home beat up. So I just stay away from it all.
Then Jesus so sweetly whispers, “Lay your weapons down.” I know it’s Him. So with deep fear, I’ll go. I’ll lay the weapons down. I’ll expose my face and stop protecting. Because even if I get beat up, it’s gotta be better than this.
After all – there is no safety. Safety is an illusion. It’s a lie that keeps us isolated.
This whole ‘don’t come home beat up’ leads right back to a root of fear.
But you know what? Fear is being exposed but it’s only by laying the weapons down, exposing my own heart – that fear is being extinguished.
I have no clue what I’m doing, y’all. I’m pretty sure the ride is going to be bumpy. I’m pretty sure there are going to be moments (lots of moments) where I pick all those weapons back up. I’m going to expose my own faults in order to allow accountability and then I’m going to get extremely irritated when I’m actually held accountable.
I’m going to get beat up from time to time. I’m going to be tempted to ‘punch ’em in the face’ at some points during the journey.
But I’m going to be okay.
It’s going to be okay.
I want to live a life that is fully lived instead of playing it safe on the side lines.
I want to encourage you, if this resonates with you at all. You are not alone. You have no clue what you’re doing? Well honey, neither does anyone else!
I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from my friend, Dori.
She’s a great listener. We shared an office at work for quite some time last year. One day as I was ‘extroverted processing’ with her (AKA flooding her ears/mind with all the jumbled up chaos in my head). I said, “Dori. I’m just a hot mess.” And in her professional, poised demeanor, she whips around in her chair, looks at me and says, “April. We’re all a hot mess. Some of us just hide it better than others.”
It was seriously one of the most comforting things that anyone has ever said to me – but it had to come from her. Dori had to deliver that message to me for it to have impact the way it did.
Her words and vulnerability let me know I was not alone in my hot messiness.
And neither are you.
So, here’s to laying our weapons down and pressing into love.
Because Love. Never. Fails.