Friday, July 9, 2010

Dirty Dishes in the Dishwasher

She, with a confident smile, held open the door and invited me to enter her new home. After a decade-long friendship with her, I knew what I would find on the other side of the door; though I had not visited this house before.

I would see the fashionable furniture tastefully arranged in the new rooms.
I would see the familiar decorations artfully hung on the new walls.
I would see the new counter tops clean and the new floors spotless.

And then I would have that familiar feeling of guilt and inferiority that in my own home I had left dirty dishes piled in my sink, dirt caked on the kitchen floor and more than a couple of faint footprints on the walls beside my children's beds.

But, for once, I saw something in her home I didn't expect to see. I saw dirty dishes in her dishwasher.

That's when I had an epiphany - even an amazing hostess doesn't always get her dishes washed before guests arrive. She just hides them in the dishwasher. And ITS OK! With that one revelation I felt the guilt and inferiority roll off my shoulders and land on her spotless floor.

As I've thought about that moment in the months since visiting my friend, I've wondered, "why did I ever feel guilty and inferior in her home?" At no time has my friend EVER expressed judgment or disgust with my less-than-spotless housekeeping. In fact, she's always seemed comfortable and pleased to be in my home.

So what is it that causes these negative feelings?

I think the root cause lies in a dangerous game I learned to play at an early age called "Compare Myself to Others." This game only has two outcomes: feeling pride over my (false) superiority or feeling guilt over my (false) inferiority. Either way I miss an opportunity to deepen my relationship with my friend.

So, I am determined NOT to compare my housekeeping skills to those of my friend, but instead to rejoice that God created us both unique and equipped us differently for the tasks of caring for our individual families and homes. Then I will feel thankful for my friend's homemaking skills and our relationship will become even more valuable to me.

And the next time I visit her home, I'll smile to myself as I wonder... does she dirty dishes in her dishwasher?

Have you played "Compare Myself to Others" when receiving hospitality? What kind of impact has it had on the hospitality you give? Will you join me in resisting comparisons and choosing thankfulness for our individuality?


  1. What a good post Stephanie! I do struggle with this as well. My house is never as clean or beautifully decorated as some of my friends' homes. But it's ok! :-)

  2. Great post, Stephanie! Thanks for your honesty :) I hear you 100%! I often struggle with comparing myself with others. I'll be addressing these issues further in the July book review, coming soon!

  3. Thanks Crista and Crystal! It's a process but I'm slowly learning not to compare myself to others.

  4. I have compared myself countless times to others. "OH, she's so much more RELAXED" than I. (But I never see "her" before I walk inside her door. Maybe she scrambles like I do, to do all of those last minute things?) "Oh, she's so much more open minded than I am!" and never seems to mind when unexpected guests show up. (I typically mind that, actually. I like a bit of notice. Even a 15 minute phone call is helpful!)

    SO I do think that some of my friends excel in areas of hospitality where I do not and it's hard to think about those areas sometimes. But we can only be ourselves and do our best!

  5. Been there done that! I used to be so concerned about people coming over and having the house so neat and clean. That all changed when we had Emily. We have therapists in our house a few times a week. I have a lot less time to clean these days so it is not a pretty sight some days. I no longer worry about it. Now I just focus on making people feel welcome (and most of the time they are so focused on Emily, they don't notice the layer of dust on the coffee table). I do still struggle with the comparison game when it come to decorating though. It is a work in progress!

  6. Thanks for a well written post on this subject. This is an area we all struggle with, especially me. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. Well written. It brings some comfort to know I'm not the only one who compares myself and then feels a false inferiotiry or a false superiority. Our broken state bothers me often, but then I remember to look to THE ONE who created me and can mold me. The open, and honest look and revelation about myself is the first step to allowing God to heal me.