Put Your Stinger Up

by Andy Wood on September 2, 2011

in Life Currency, Turning Points, Words

Here comes Ed.

Here comes bad news.

Have you ever had anybody like that in your life?  They love you.  They’re for you.  But no news is good news.  And if you ever see them coming, something’s wrong.  Somebody’s complaining.  Somebody’s offended.  Somebody’s angry.  And they’re coming by to help.

Ed was that kind of guy.  I once told him, “Ed, just once when you come by, let me know I’m doing something right.”

Never happened.

That said, Ed taught me a couple of very valuable lessons, one of which I repeat regularly to this day.  It’s the lesson about the stinger.

Whenever Ed would come by to let me hear the latest stanza of “You Suck,” at times my brain would send signals to my face that weren’t too pretty.  And as my face would get redder and my eyes would light up with something other than godly, Ed would say in his courtly, Southern-gentlemanly way, “Awright now… put cha stinger up.”

I began to realize that like a threatened bumblebee, when Ed walked in, my “stinger” came out.  I began to look for a reason to get defensive.  To feel offended before I ever even knew who the offender was.  To so arm for battle that any old enemy would do.

I also learned from Ed’s I-hate-it-when-he’s-right coaching that I had just as much capacity to put my stinger up as I did to go into attack mode.

Can you relate?

Have you seen enough bombardment from the critics that your stinger has a hair trigger?  Or maybe you’re living in a continual state of stinger outness?  (That’s my scientific term for it.)

Have you ever had your stinger out and started inflicting punishment on people who were completely innocent (probably the people who love you most)?  Have you ever decided to be offended, or defensive, or hostile before you even knew why?

Or maybe you’re in a position similar to Ed.  You really care about somebody who’s their own worst enemy.

A few years ago, I realized again that I had been living with a lot of frustration, control issues (“nobody’s gonna tell me what to do!”) and overall hostility.  Somewhere in the middle of all that, I began hearing Ed in the head again (hadn’t seen him in years).

Awright now… put cha stinger up.

I realized that so much of the frustration and tension I had been living with was the result of living constantly with my stinger out.  The problem with that is that when we live that way, we begin to attack the people who are the closest to us, the ones we love the most.

Stingers beget stingers.  If you’re living defensively, waiting for the next offense, others will sense your defensiveness or experience your stings, and will retaliate.   What I realized during that season a few years ago was that that nearly everybody in my immediate work and family circle was walking around with their stinger out.  It seemed as though everybody was spending half their time tiptoeing around avoiding someone else’s stinger, and the other half ready to pounce or pout because of the next perceived offense.

Having my stinger out continually also makes me bitter toward someone before they ever do anything to “earn” my bitterness.  I’m left to walk around mad and isolated, which exposes me to real danger.

Stingers also beget incredible forms of imagination and deceit.  When my stinger is out, my walls are up.  And because they are, I can’t see and hear what’s going on in the heart of the person who may be as close as my side or face.  So I’m left to imagine what they’re thinking, feeling, saying, or doing.  And the more I imagine, the more I miss it.  Without honest, face-to-face dialogue – without the things that build trust in a relationship, including vulnerability, I’m left to my own imagination.  Not a good thing when the stinger’s already out.

Other things make for sharpened stingers.

  • Fatigue.  When you’re exhausted, you lose your sense of discernment and understanding because that takes time and energy.  Why not just sting people and they’ll leave you alone?
  • Stress.  Bees have stingers; they also have wings to fly away.  They also have the sense to recognize when to use one or the other – or when to return to the nest or go to work.  Continual stress robs us of that sense.
  • Disappointments.  As kids, most of us dealt with disappointment with training wheels on. Adult disappointment is a completely different thing.   And when you’ve felt it a few times, it’s easy to start bracing for it – and out comes the stinger.
  • Physical pain or sickness.  Your body is already in defense mode.  It’s really easy for your emotions to follow.
  • Rejection.  The most vulnerable of the painful experiences, passing through that a time or two will leave you ready to pounce if you’re not careful.

All of those tiring or painful experiences can leave us wanting to hurt somebody or simply not aware of, or in control of, our reactions.

I’m sitting outside on a peaceful morning, watching some bees have the time of their lives.  We have these amazing crepe myrtle blooms, and the bees are hard at it – pollinating or doing whatever it is they do with boundless energy.  Somewhere not far away, I’m sure, they have a nest to which they retreat.  They also have a phenomenal set of wings that can take them other places in the event of danger or more opportunities.

Oh, and they have a stinger.  And did you know… most bees never, ever use theirs?

If you’re living from offense to offense, conflict to conflict, or in a state of perpetual drama, there are other solutions.  Healthy solutions.  Happy solutions.  Loving, peaceful solutions.  Learn from the bees, for crying out loud…

Go back for some rest in the nest.

Fly away for a little while.  Leave the room.  Or the state.

Rediscover the beauty in hard work, or maybe work hard at leaving the world a more beautiful place.

But for your sake, and the sake of those around you, if you can’t hear what I’m saying, listen to Ed…

Put your stinger up.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Serenah March 31, 2015 at 3:51 am

Hi I work in a school as something similar to a supply teacher, I am beginning to realise my defensiveness is causing me problems with student behaviour. I have just read your put your stingers up piece and it was helpful. But how do you put your stingers up permanently when you are in a situation you can’t remove yourself from? I know God is trying to teach me to let go of defensiveness but I don’t know how?

Many thanks

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