Not to Impress, But to Bless
In order to implement the rule of hospitality that I am going to suggest today, then you must truly believe my little slogan, that hospitality is "not to impress, but to bless." And, oh boy, does this one challenge me!
Well, why not?, you say. What if my chicken is overdone? Or my house isn't up to snuff? What if the carpet is worn? Or the kids left some toys under the table? What if the cake is dry and crumbly? What if I'm not sure if everything is "good enough" for my guests?
Apologies make your guests feel on edge. They are nervous for you. They either feel the need to reassure you, or they begin to believe what you're telling them.
Apologies make your guests feel unwelcome, as if they are a bother.
Apologies prevent everyone from relaxing and feeling at home.
Apologies may cause your guests to feel intimidated. After all, your guest may be thinking, if my hostess thinks that this meal is no good, then I certainly don't want to serve her my own cooking! Or...If this house is a mess, I hope she never comes to mine!
Apologies put the focus on you, not on your guests. And if your aim is to bless (and not to impress), then it's not about you.
I confess that the "no apologies" policy challenges me. Because I want my guests to think that I have it all together. If there is something that isn't "right," then I want to explain why and make my excuses.
But the truth is, we are all imperfect people. We all make mistakes. None of us has it all together. It is better to be real and not worry about my impression, but to focus on blessing my guests and making them feel relaxed.
Let me tell you a true (embarrassing) story.
A couple of years ago, I just had read one of The Nester's posts in her "31 Days to a Less Messy Nest" series...the one called "Quit Apologizing." She told of her visit to a gal's gorgeous home, only to be greeted with profuse apologies. She also told how it made her feel.
I silently reminded myself that apologies make people feel uncomfortable.
A day or two later, a friend called during school time and left a message on my answering machine. She would stop by after her son's soccer practice to drop off some things for my daughter Kristin. We finished our read aloud (which
sometimes almost always makes me sleepy if when I have gotten into bed late the night before), and I told the girls that I was going to lie down for about 20 minutes before I cleaned up our school stuff. I went into the living room and was quickly asleep, but my slumber was interrupted by someone urging me, "Mom, get up! Dana just pulled into the driveway!"
I don't know whether Dana had changed her plan, or I had misunderstood the message, but I was suddenly wide awake! As I made a hasty glance around the room, I realized that there was no way that I was going to restore the house to tidiness in the seconds that it would take for Dana to be knocking at my back door. And somehow during that few seconds, I remembered my resolve to offer no apologies. Oh my...could I refrain?
I greeted smiling Dana who asked if I had gotten her message. (Maybe she looked around the room and assumed that I hadn't.) I assured her that I had and invited her in. We sat at the kitchen table, school books, my planning notebook, tea mugs spread all over it. I offered her a drink, Kati made tea, and we sat and chatted about homeschool and family and friends and the time flew and I forgot (and I hope she did too) that I was a mess and my house was a mess.
And I succeeded! I made no apologies!
After our sweet time of visiting, Dana left and I was glad that I had not marred our visit by making her uncomfortable about coming.
How about another true story?
My dear blog friend Vee wrote a lovely and candid essay about hospitality, and linked to last Thursday's linky party. She told of a time that her sister warmly welcomed unexpected guests into her home.
...there was the time my sister and I and her two daughters and my daughter and son had just arrived back at her home after church. We were going to do something that afternoon, probably of a crafting nature. My sister worked a full-time job as a maternity nurse plus a half-time job as a home-health nurse. Her home often reflected the fact that she was a very busy and exhausted woman. That day, there was clean laundry being sorted and folded on the living room furniture and piled all over the coffee table. A few laundry baskets were perched hither and yon.
We'd not been there for more than a few minutes when there was a knock on the door. Church friends had stopped by; they were a young couple with two little ones under four. My sister was delighted; I was appalled.
Sis set immediately to preparing lunch and what a scrumptious impromptu lunch it was, too. (I busied myself with setting folded clothes in baskets so the guests would have a place to sit down.) I still remember that Sis came into the living room carrying a tray of cheese and crackers, tea, fruit juice, cookies, a dish of salted almonds and set it right down on the coffee table along with folded facecloths and undies. If I hadn't been so mortified, I'd have broken down either crying or laughing hysterically. Probably the latter.
I ran into that couple last Christmas while out shopping and they mentioned that day as a favorite memory of theirs. Really? Hmmm... I should have asked why exactly, though I think I know. It was the fact that my sister was genuinely thrilled to have them in her home.
Vee's sister knew the secret...that hospitality is not about ME!
So if you are tempted (as I am) to offer up apologies for every imperfection, let it go.
Apologies put the focus on ME, and not on blessing my guests.
And if your aim is to bless (and not to impress), then it's not about you.
Are you ever tempted to apologize for perceived imperfections?