Why Hospitality is Better than Entertainment

Have you entertained friends lately?

That’s an interesting term – “entertained.”  Usually, entertainment is something we seek to keep from getting bored.  We watch TV, go to movies or attend a sporting event.  When we’re being entertained, we’re not doing anything. We’re watching, not doing.

We use the term innocently enough when we have people over for dinner.  But entertainment implies that we’re putting on a show for them.  We invite them over, and make careful preparations before they come.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  When we prepare for their arrival, we do things to make it special for them.  It’s a sign of caring.  We want them to have a good time and enjoy their visit.

But I think a better term is “hospitality.”

There’s a big difference between the two.

Welcome matIf we’re entertaining, the event is a failure if the food is burned.  With hospitality, we feel closer because we laugh over the burnt food together.

With entertainment, the host has to be perfect, and the home has to be perfect.  With hospitality, the host and the home need to be real.

Hospitality means the people are more important than the event.  If they show up before we’re ready, we can ask them to help.  It means we get to work together. 

When we entertain, people remember what they saw.  When we show hospitality, they remember how they felt.

Entertaining performs.  Hospitality connects.

Entertainment impresses people.  Hospitality empowers people.

Entertainment is host centered.  Hospitality is guest centered.

We don’t clean the house because we want them to think well of us.  We clean it because we think well of them.

Hospitality makes people feel safe in an unsafe world.  It makes people feel warm inside when it’s cold outside.

Hospitality doesn’t have to happen in a house.  I’ve seen homeless people show hospitality by simply bringing joy to someone’s life.

The holidays are coming.  It’s easy to get caught up in entertaining, where we scramble to make everything perfect (and then we’re upset when our guests don’t express their appreciation).  Maybe it’s time to check our approach. 

It’s OK to vacuum.  But it’s a means, not an end.

If we want to provide entertainment, we can buy a television.

If we want to practice hospitality, we can be intentional about having human moments.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)

  • diane

    Hospitality is having people over and trying new recipes that are not tried and true!

  • Cory Shaull

    Mike, we don’t have the tv on when I have people over but I have had them not come to a party because they are too tired and have stayed home to lay in front of their tvs. I am energized by getting together. I guess some people are not!

    • Got it. Everybody’s different, it seems . . .

  • Cory Shaull

    Love this! I love to have people over or stay with us. I love the togetherness and warm feelings it brings by spending time together. Unfortunately, people are often too tired and prefer to sit in front of their tvs and I think we need more togetherness!

    • Good thoughts, Cory! Maybe you could tell them that nobody gets to eat anything unless the TV is turned off . . .

  • Lonnie Shields

    Mike, you just keep coming up with good stuff! Hadn’t really thought about the difference between entertaining and hospitality. All too often they’re viewed as synonymous – with the resultant angst when something “goes wrong” in the preparation or presentation, which in turn creates a reluctance to open one’s home, in spite of the Scriptural admonition to hospitality. Thanks for your insight!

    • Lonnie – I always find it refreshing to see you name in my inbox or in comments. Today was no exception – thanks. Pr. 15:23 applies . . .

      Having said that – if we ever get together for dinner at your house, I expect you to vacuum . . .