One of the biggest obstacles that many of us face when working to implement hospitality in our lives and homes is our inability to embrace humility. We want to invite people over, but…our house is too small. Our kids are too rowdy. We don’t have time to deep clean. We aren’t professional chefs.

However, when I think back on times that I felt truly welcome as a guest, I usually can’t even remember those details. It’s not the fancy menu, the spotless house, or an evening free of chaos that makes the best memories. It’s the people. The warm welcome and belly laughs. A genuine interest in the lives of guests. The wiping of tears when the conversation gets really good. Any of us can do that.

I was blessed to grow up with parents who didn’t really hold to the idea of hosting to impress. They taught me the importance of inviting people over even if the furniture was a bit dusty and the food was simple. I believe it to be true and I’ve seen it proven over and over again. Yet I still have to struggle with that impulse to impress. There are times that I have cringed at the state of my home or wrung my hands at where everybody would sit, but it’s amazing how it always seems to work itself out.

Instead of focusing on building connection with my guests, I am focusing on how the event reflects on me as a person. I’m worrying about impressing.

These are things that I know in my head, but I still find myself getting snappy and anxious when we prepare to host guests at our house. I see every stain, every crumb, every crack in the paint, and I worry that people will look down on my housekeeping. I worry that the food won’t be enough, that people will judge me for a less-than-stellar dinner. As I read back over these fears, a pattern emerges. Instead of focusing on building connection with my guests, I am focusing on how the event reflects on me as a person. I’m worrying about impressing.

My husband and I have developed a little reminder for each other when these anxieties start creeping in. When we worry some flaw in our house or yard will reflect poorly on us, we have begun saying, “Hey, it will make our guests feel better about themselves!” Is the lawn a little overgrown? Maybe they will feel a little better when someone arrives unexpectedly at their house and the yard is a mess. Is there visible dust? Maybe our friend will remember our dust and feel a little less stress when preparing for our next visit. If we could all stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect presentation when guests come over, so much anxiety would melt away.

The perks of last minute plans

This concept hit home for me a couple of weeks ago. We had a quiet weekend with no plans, and I had stumbled across a Bingo game online made to play while watching corny Christmas movies. Now, my husband and I get a lot of joy out of laughing at the stereotypical story lines that abound in Christmas movies. I knew we had to play this game! Friday night I posed the idea to my husband to invite a few people over to play with us Saturday. Being the patient man that he is, he agreed.

With such short notice, I didn’t have time to plan a big meal or even get much cleaning done. We threw together a random assortment of food and our guests brought some of their own contributions. I barely swept the floor and wiped down the bathroom with a Clorox wipe before everyone arrived. And you know what? If anyone noticed, they certainly didn’t complain. That was probably the most fun we’ve had at any gathering this year. The one we threw together at the last minute with no planning or pressure. We just enjoyed each other, laughed, and had a great night.

So the next time I invite guests to my house, I am going to remember that night. Nobody cared that my house was messy. Nobody cared that our meal was a mismatched buffet with no theme. Every single person left our house with a smile and an agreement to come do this again sometime. We don’t have to have a 3 course meal served on a decorated table with seasonally themed desserts. We can keep it simple and enjoy the people we love. By removing the focus from impressing them to simply enjoying them, we all benefited.