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This post is part of the series Hospitality
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Welcome to the next post in our Hospitality series, tips for the tired, the busy, the fearful. We began this series by sharing the meaning of hospitality and that the secret to great hospitality is actually our attitude. Then we delved a little deeper into how to adjust our attitude in order to nurture the right spirit of hospitality.
Today we are jumping right into the practice of hospitality in our everyday real lives. In my experience, the reason many are nervous or anxious about the idea of hospitality usually originates from one of the following: the memory of a negative past experience, perfectionist ideas and unrealistic expectations, and not knowing when or how to set boundaries.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
Healing from past experiences
When we go through a negative experience, it can have a strong influence on how we view something moving forward. Many professionals agree that negativity is a vicious cycle that can trap us: the more we dwell on it, the more we only see the bad and not any of the good.
We need to make a firm decision to stop letting the negative experience and any corresponding emotions control us. Only then can we begin to heal and move on.
Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us to go to the Lord with our troubles: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And 1 Peter 5:7 comforts us with these words: “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
So any time your brain begins to recall your negative feelings about hospitality or a particularly bad experience, stop that train of thought in its tracks and reach out to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to give you the peace you need to move on and also to show you what you can learn.
Letting go of perfectionism
Another common barrier to embracing genuine hospitality is perfectionism and unrealistic expectations that we place upon ourselves. Let’s be honest: no one is perfect. Not even the seemingly perfect photos on your Instagram or Pinterest.
We need to embrace our weaknesses, our imperfections, because this makes us who we are right now and provides us with the opportunity to grow and mature as human beings.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, the apostle Paul shares this powerful insight: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself will only lead to stress, anxiety, guilt, and a sense of failure. Instead, embrace your weaknesses and use any mistakes as a learning experience.
Does your house have to be spotlessly clean and impeccably organized before you invite visitors over? Absolutely not! You and your family live in your house every day and most of your guests will understand this.
Does the meal have to be a fancy, three-course culinary masterpiece? No! Sometimes grilled cheese and canned soup is all that you can offer or chips and dip or maybe nothing more than cold water or a cup of hot tea. It is not about the food and treats, per se, it is about the intention and desire to make your guests feel welcomed and comfortable.
Does the conversation have to be carefully crafted and the well-behaved children sitting quietly? Life often does not work that way. If possible, let children play in a designated area or room or even outdoors while the adults talk. Depending upon the reason for the visit, you may guide the conversation in a particular direction or allow the guest(s) to do so. Be kind. Be attentive. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
The object of genuine hospitality is not about us — the “hosts” — but about our guests. Galatians 6:10 reminds us: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”The object of genuine hospitality is not about us — the “hosts” — but about our guests. Click To Tweet
Sometimes things will go very smoothly and other times there may be some awkwardness. Don’t take it personally! Instead, learn from it and let it go.
Setting proper boundaries
Some of us have a hard time saying “no” to others. I know I do! We can feel pressured into doing things or committing to something that we are not comfortable with. This is where establishing your personal and familial boundaries are very important and everyone in the household needs to understand the boundaries.
For example, if having sudden drop-in guests elevates your anxiety and causes you great stress, make sure that your entire family knows not to bring someone over without proper notice. It could be a twenty-minute warning via phone or text so you can quickly toss the kids’ toys in their hiding places or sweep the food crumbles off the kitchen floor. Or perhaps you need a full 24-hour notice.
What do you do if someone from the neighborhood, church, work, or school does show up on your doorstep unexpected? You need to know ahead of time what you are comfortable with and what time is available.
You can let the visitors know of your boundaries by saying something polite but firm: “Thank you so much for the visit! It is always great to see you. Unfortunately, I cannot talk long/now because [insert reason]. Could we catch up another time? Perhaps [pick a day/time]?”
When planning to invite guests over, determine the day, time, and extent of the visit before extending the invitation. Do you want to have guests from church over for a lunch after service? Decide if you are able to clean the house and prepare a meal without stressing out. Enlist help if you need to by asking a friend to bring a dish or two.
Inviting family over for a birthday or holiday party? Assign responsibilities to each family member: who makes or brings what dish or dessert, who buys the decorations, who helps set up before and clean up afterwards, etc.
You don’t have to do everything yourself and you don’t have to over-extend yourself. If you are introverted and social gatherings wear you out, limit the number of events you attend elsewhere and the number you host yourself to what you can handle. If your home is small and cannot accomodate a large number of people, then invite only a few at a time and scatter the visits to give you time to rest between them.
Even though hospitality is about showing kindness and warmth to those around us (family, friends, strangers) in whatever capacity we are able, we also need to take care of our health — including our mental health — and keep in mind the wellbeing of our families (especially if we have children in the home).
Setting proper boundaries is crucial to protect ourselves and our loved ones. I love what the apostle John wrote in 3 John 1:2. “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”
May the Lord bless you with a home filled with joy, love, and laughter.
- Memorize 1 Peter 5:7 and the next time you feel anxious or recall a negative experience from your past, recite this verse and pray for the peace of God to fill you.
- In a journal or on a sheet of paper, write down the boundaries that are important to you and your family.
- If need be, hold a family meeting and discuss the boundaries with everyone so everyone is on the same page.
Join the discussion
I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. In the comments below, share your hospitality triumphs and failures, your excitement and anxiety.
Join us next time as I share some fun tips and tricks for making hospitality easier on you and more inviting to others.
Continue reading this series:
4 ways to be ready for unexpected guests