I’ve heard it dozens of times: “I’d love to lead a small group but I’m embarrassed to have people over.” Does having a house that’s too small or too messy (or not owning a house) keep you from inviting people into your life? 

I know the feeling. In my first years as a young professional, I worked in a very wealthy community—one I couldn’t afford to live in. Instead, my husband and I rented a 550-square-foot basement apartment a few towns over. I never once entertained a parishioner in my apartment. Was I right to let it stop me? I don’t know.

I think back to the people who I did invite into that apartment: my friends, brother, and parents. The people closest to me. Even with them, however, I needed to bite my tongue to keep apologizing for my space. I remember squeezing four girlfriends into my eat-in kitchen to make Christmas ornaments one year. I had to pull the table away from the wall to seat everyone, which meant our chair backs were up against cabinets, and I could barely open the oven to retrieve dinner!

I remember my feelings of embarrassment and fear that they would judge me for my crummy little apartment. But do they? No! They remember a fun night of fellowship as we navigated the tiny space with our glue guns and craft supplies and the laughter as we passed around the wine and plates assembly-line style to set the table for dinner.

Now I live in a home I love with plenty of room for entertaining, but I still deal with many of the same internal fears and inhibitions. Can I invite a neighbor or a coworker over when the dog fur has piled up into little tumbleweeds in need of vacuuming? What if the dining room table is covered in the household litter of mail and Amazon packages and things in transit to their final destination elsewhere? I don’t have kids, but I know these daily messes are multiplied in scope and frequency with children in the home (to put it mildly!). 

There’s a balance, of course. It’s an act of respect to prepare our homes for others to come over. But I try to remind myself of the goals of my hospitality: I want to create a space where people feel comfortable and free to be themselves. For me, that means doing my best to keep up with my cleaning and repairs in my home so that the space is physically comfortable and usable for my guests. But—I do my best to remind myself—this doesn’t mean it needs to look perfect. In truth, it shouldn’t!

If people who visit my home spend more time internally comparing their homes to my “perfect” one, have I achieved my goal of making them feel comfortable to be themselves? No. A friend once shared her perspective on the dying plant in the corner of her living room: “It lets people relax. My house isn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. You don’t have to be perfect to be here either.”  

I enjoy caring for my home, and I love to see it shine after a weekend of spring cleaning and sprucing up. But I genuinely try, even when it doesn’t look its best, not to let the state of it stop me from inviting in a friend or neighbor. I do what I can to pick up and prepare for guests, but I hope I also leave out the proverbial “dying plant,” too. 

Maybe that’s true hospitality. I don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be perfect. Just come on over.


Andrea Jackson is a Content Creator and Ministry Consultant at the Evangelical Catholic. The Evangelical Catholic’s mission is to equip Catholics to live out the Great Commission. Learn more.


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