Do you struggle with things having to be just right”? One of my callings in life is to reach others through the gift of hospitality, and I can’t tell you how many women I’ve encountered who feel the pressure for everything to be “perfect” before they consider having guests over. Maybe you’ve been that way in the past, and it’s burned out your desire to practice any form of hospitality.

Well I’m offering good news for the women who struggle with perfectionism:  You can change your approach and attitude!

Let me start with this comment I received on my blog:

Sandy, thank you so very much for blessing us "try so hard for perfection women" with your blog. In growing up where everything had to be perfect prior to and during entertaining and taking that into my adult life as the norm, I have over the years just stopped entertaining because I didn't want that stress in my life anymore. My heart has changed in large part due to your blog and I am excited to entertain again with a whole new approach and attitude.

This reader was disillusioned by a home life where things had to be perfect. She probably grew weary of it and couldn’t stand the measure up attitude anymore. Although I did not have a mother who taught me this outlook, I did struggle with this slightly, right after I got married. I think it had to do more with desiring to project a perfect image.

I believe many younger women start their marriages off with this “trying so hard for perfection” syndrome. But then we start having kids, and we tend to mellow as life starts to knock perfection out of us! At least that is what happened to me.

Regardless of your station in life, I came up with three easy steps to keep in mind, to hang on your refrigerator, when you feel the “P” word sneaking up on you:

1. Be aware of the role FEAR plays in your life. What keeps you from reaching out? Do people really see you in this role of having to have things perfect? Does God expect us to have a perfect household before we open our doors to others?

2. Cross-examine FEAR to find the lie. Figure out what it is (or who it is) that makes you feel this way. If it’s a person, don’t have that person into your home! Get down to the nitty-gritty, deal with your source of fear, and move on.

3. Show yourself some grace. Think about it -- would you really be graceless to another person in their home if they weren’t perfect? Treat yourself the way you would treat others.

Ask yourself what hurdles you've overcome in the past in order to reach out to people, to give to others, and apply this to your current fear.

Hopefully you can relax when the pie comes out of the oven a little too dark (burnt!), or when you realize your kids are grungy and haven’t had a bath, or that you forgot to sweep the kitchen floor, or that you didn’t time your courses just right.

I was tested in this realm just the other day. My daughter asked if she could make a banana cream pie for dessert when our out-of-town guests were here. I was thrilled because she wanted no help from me, and it eased my mind to know that the dessert would be taken care of.

When the pie was finished, I realized that the bananas were put on top of the pie (not on the bottom where they belonged and also not soaked in lemon juice). Knowing she messed up, Abby told me right away. I found myself saying, “Don’t worry, Abby, the pie is beautiful! It’s going to taste great!” And it did!


Sandy Coughlin is a wife and mother of 3. She loves her family and loves blessing other people's lives by entertaining in her home. Sandy’s husband, Paul, (who used to be the reluctant entertainer) has come on board, and they often offer hospitality together. Sandy and Paul co-authored a book called Married but Not Engaged(Bethany House, Aug. 2006). It's written to women who are married to "checked out" or emotionally absent men and who want to create a more satisfying, intimate relationship. This article was adapted from Sandy’s regularly updated blog “4 Reluctant Entertainers,” which you can visit at www.reluctantentertainer.com. Get more information on Married but Not Engaged by clicking here. Visit Paul's website at: http://www.paulcoughlin.net/