We’ve all felt it. That deep-rooted sense of inadequacy that we keep hidden, buried beneath barriers meant to keep people from knowing the real us. We go to great lengths to hide where we feel we fall short, and for the most part, we’re pretty good at it.
Putting on our best face at work regardless of how the morning started. Posting the most beautifully staged moments of our lives on social media. Speaking with the soft eloquence of an NPR radio personality while reprimanding our children in a public space.
All this fronting can leave us exhausted and in need of a restful hiding place, and where’s the one place where we can just let it all hang out? That’s right. Within the walls of our own private sanctuary.
Be it ever so humble, our home is where we’re most free to just be ourselves.
This is why the thought of hosting, of letting people into this special place, makes many of us recoil in horror, including myself.
Listen, there are things you’re going to learn about me if you come over for dinner. Things I wouldn’t advertise on the “about” section of my Facebook profile. Things I’d rather you didn’t know.
You’re going to learn that I often use ugly blue metal folding chairs as dining chairs, and that if you’re not fortunate enough to snag one of those beauties, you’ll probably end up sitting in one of the chairs that my delightful children have clawed the backs out of.
After watching the way I go through paper towels, you’re going to determine that I’m single-handedly responsible for global warming, and you’re probably right. I’m using the paper towels to dry my hands, which I wash one billion times a day using one trillion gallons of water, because I'm a germaphobe who just can't entrust the health of my newly washed hands to a previously used piece of moist cloth.
You’ll learn that I have two copies of the movie “Taken” on DVD. If you ask me why, I’m not going to be able to tell you, because I genuinely don’t remember. If you ask what I like so much about the movie, I’m going to tell you that I’ve never seen it, because I haven’t.
And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. In my home you’ll get a birds eye view into how my children really behave, how I actually interact with them, how my wife and I get along, how much my dog sheds, how I leave up Christmas lights in the backyard all year round, etc…etc…
If you’re like me, inviting people into your home is going to expose the real you to people in a way that you’re not likely to experience elsewhere and believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to build stronger bonds with your fellow humans, and set an example for them at the same time.
Inviting someone into your home is like inviting them to read your private journal. They’re going to learn things about you, and you’re going to find that it’s probably not going to scare them away. Should you and your guest move forward in friendship, that friendship is going to be based on the reality of things rather than the representation.
It’s also going to help empower other people to do what you’ve done, and allow them to let others into their messiness. If your neighbor is able to see that you, too, are fallible, imperfect and a little quirky, they’ll be more likely to let others experience the same glimpse of themselves.
Many things that are worth doing are hard, hosting company among the hardest for some, and the reason it’s worth doing is something you have to experience for yourself. Hospitality is a muscle you must strengthen through repetitive exercise. Sometimes it’s going to leave you sore, but will also leave you stronger.