Commandment #4: Perfectionism & Dr. James Dobson

Perfectionism is a robber. Lower your expectations. Your guests do not expect perfection and neither should you.

Paul and I were honored to have met Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, this past fall. It was a highlight for us, for sure. I started to shake his hand, and then I realized I just needed to hug him! After all, many of the books that he has written have helped Paul and me in our journey through life and in raising our family.

Dr. Dobson was in Ireland a number of years ago and made a helpful observation that goes hand in hand with what my mission is all about. He experienced the legendary Irish hospitality. The fellowship was warm and genuine, and he also noticed that the homes he entered were not perfectly clean and orderly. They looked, well, lived in. The way most of our homes look most of the time. Dr. Dobson concluded that one of the reasons why the Irish are so hospitable and, with it, experience so much connection and beneficial fellowship, is because they don't feel that their homes have to be perfect, or their meals always stunning.

My husband, Paul, can attest to this fact. His parents immigrated to the United States from Ireland. He remembers how hospitable his mother could be, and one reason why she could bless others with a good meal and genuine conversation was because she didn't believe her home had to be perfect when company arrived.

I recently over-cooked my prime rib for one of our meals over the holidays. I had envisioned this perfectly cooked, rare, piece of meat. At first my heart sank when my husband cut into it and I did not see the blood oozing out. It took me a few minutes to get over it and realize that our meal with our friends was not about how the meat was cooked. It was about being together and breaking bread together. It was about the richness of our conversation. And my husband has always told me, “Never apologize for your cooking in front of guests.” That has been a hard thing for me to practice because I tend to be prideful about my cooking.

Even though I personally did not think my meal came off as a “spectacular” dinner, our guests were gracious and complimentary anyway. And we all had a great time!

I’m still learning to put away pride before I open my front door. Whoever is standing there can accept my house, or me, as we are! I’m beginning to think that when I’m nervous, it is nothing more than pride. Pride with a Capital “I” in the middle. What does it matter if a guests walks in to an unclean room? Maybe I should put “Enter at your own risk!” on the doors that I feel don’t meet my standard. Or what if all the napkins don’t match on the table or the rolls get too brown on the bottom? When these worries start popping up in my head I try to ask myself, Who am I trying to impress?” Is it my human efforts that will make or break the evening? Or can I rely on a deeper, supernatural experience to happen on its own. Without me! Pride forces me to think about me. It’s not all about me.

I’m learning to lower my expectations. How about you?

(Photo above: Paul and I were guests with Dr. James Dobson at Focus on the Family, in Colorado Springs, in Oct. 2006)


godgirl said...

Wow! Sandy, I am speechless! You put a lot of work into this blog. I love how easy you make entertaining sound. The only problem is, I don't think I have any style! HA! =)

Sandy said...

Godgirl, if you think you don't have style, create some style! Creativity makes the extraordinary ordinary and the ordinary extraordinary! Hit the Dollar Store, if money is tight! :)

Barb said...

Godgirl, you have style--trust me! Wouldn't it be fun to have Dr D and the Mrs over for an evening?! I bet he's got a fun side to him that we don't hear so much about.

linda t said...

Great stuff Sandy! You are amazing!

The only room I make sure I clean well when we are having company, is the bathroom... otherwise I get such a kick out of not fretting over how my home looks. And trust me, it has taken years for me to get to this point in my life... where my identity is not wrapped up in how my home looks, but rather how my home makes our guests feel.
I am thrilled and not offended when someone says they love that my home is warm and comfortable and 'lived in' (messy)! Ha!
You are so beautiful inside & out Sandy! Great pic!

Sandy said...

Oh, Linda, I'm actually not amazing, I just have a lot of energy :) I love what you wrote, too! I hope lots of women read your comment. Maybe someday I'll get to come to your home ...

Melissa R. Garrett said...

You know Sandy - I actually aplogize to my in-laws when they come over!! I have really had to struggle to let go of the idea that everything has to be perfect. My friends and family love me for who I am, not the way my house looks.

I really appreciate this post!

Susan P. said...

Sandy, thanks so much for visiting my blog. I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on entertaining. You have given some wonderful words of wisdom!

Susan P. said...

Sandy, thanks so much for visiting my blog. I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on entertaining. You have given some wonderful words of wisdom!

Bettsi said...

Sandy, this one really spoke to my heart. PrIde is one of my biggest problems. Thank you for your words of wisdom!

P.S. I haven't forgotten Abby- just ran into some difficulties!

godgirl said...

Now, I have an extreme weakness for the Dollar Store (don't tell Tom, Barb!). My daughter and I LOVE to go in and explore. Also, the local Goodwill or Salvation Army is often my hangout on weekends. It is how I disarm from a stressful week. I don't usually buy a lot, but I have found some neat things. I got a pair of curtains for my bedroom most recently. They were from Bed, Bath and Beyond, new, with tags, for $2.99 =) I love sales! I also found 2 brand new down throw blankets for $1.99 each. Beautiful!