During my teen years, after my parents' divorce, we never had anyone over. We met friends, and later, dates, at the door or outside. Because the house had reached such an out-of-control point, we would have been mortified if anyone came in.
When you grow up like this, it takes a long time to break out of a panic-at-having-people-over mindset.
Awhile back, I met a new friend, with whom I thought we could become quite close. Of course, developing a relationship takes time and fellowship. Although I invited her over a few times, many times I would think about it--only to chicken out because I felt like the house wasn't quite "show ready."
I've read that the difference between hospitality and entertaining is that hospitality (which we are commanded Biblically to practice) seeks to let people even if the house isn't perfect and make guests feel welcome and comfortable, whereas entertaining is all about creating the best impression possible. Pride can more easily factor in when we're in an entertaining mindset, and we can more easily refuse to have people over because "it's not quite good enough yet," or we can have people over with the wrong motivation: impressing them, rather than simply enjoying their company.
Now that this friend has moved away, I wonder how our friendship might have grown more if I simply would have invited her over more often. That brings me to the point:
I think hospitality is like a muscle: the less you use it, the weaker it becomes. The thought of having someone over seems like a major undertaking. The more you practice hospitality, the easier (and more comfortable) it is.
Another one of my friends has really served as a great example to me in this regard. She is very relaxed about inviting people over, even though her house may not be perfectly picked up at any given moment. It is the spirit of hospitality, and not the appearance of the house, that matters most. Certainly, to feel at ease with people dropping by on short notice, basic housekeeping routines must not be totally neglected. But, they don't have to be performed perfectly and spotlessly either. Again, it's the spirit and not the appearance that leaves a lasting impression. By practicing hospitality regularly, we build relationships. Failing to practice hospitality hinders the growth of relationships.
Related posts: Having People Over
Loosen Up and Let People In