Monday, May 23, 2011

How Hospitality Helps or Hinders Relationships

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


  1. Beautifully said. I can relate in a lot of ways. I often keep people at the door and am afraid to let them see my kitchen sink piled full of dishes or the couch full of laundry waiting to be folded. I really like how you put this.

  2. AnonymousMay 23, 2011

    I wish I were better at this too, Cheryl. Just yesterday we had neighbors (friends) stop by, and if we hadn't been sweating in the heat of the sun out front, we would have likely stayed right there. When we did come inside, I saw that the kids had spread white packaging material *all over* the kitchen floor, lol! After thought: we're all parents...and they didn't care one bit about our chaotic mess.

    I'm going to try and use my hospitality muscle a bit more and care a bit less about silly details ;) Thanks for your inspirational words!

  3. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. I have gotten out of practice with hospitality. You do have to flex that muscle!

  4. If I don't care about someone else's dirty house, they probably don't care about mine either. Good reminder.

  5. So true--when I see a friend's "dirty" house, I know she's been busy and life is hectic, no more than that. We have gotten into the habit of having Friday Night Pizza Night (homemade) at our house, and while we might spend a few minutes picking up, the house is WAY less than perfect... friends and family don't care, we have a wonderful time.

  6. AnonymousMay 24, 2011

    I can really relate to this post! I am trying to change the cycle, creating a different experience for my kids. My parents worked ALL the time trying to make ends meet. I don't blame anyone; it was what it was.

    I, too, have a friend that is great at hospitality and I've tried to use her as my example (told her so, even). She has been a tremendous encouragement. One way I've taken baby steps into having people over more often is to host product parties (Thirty-One, Tastefully Simple, etc.). I'm working my way up to a big BBQ and in December, a Christmas party.

    For too long, I've wanted the house to be perfect before having people over. Now, I just want people over. Yes, I'm still working on purging and organizing, but the parties I've had have all been lessons in the same thing: people matter most.

  7. This is an idea I can't hear too often! I grew up in a town where "everyone" thought a house should be as clean and neat and new as a hotel room, and because my mother did not keep this standard other women said nasty things behind her back but sometimes when I could hear, or their kids would repeat them to me. I am still fighting the idea that if my house is messy, I'm a bad woman or at least people will think I am. But it just isn't true! Every time I go to someone's house and it isn't perfect and she doesn't act ashamed, I feel a little better. :-)