As the holiday season approaches, invitations to a wide variety of activities are often extended to us. Frequently, in our haste, we don’t take the time to consider how to biblically respond to these invitations so that we will be known as a gracious guest. While it is important for both men and women to be gracious this post focuses on women since, according to Solomon, “A gracious woman attains honor . . .” (Proverbs 11:16).
Gracious is a word that we don’t hear very often anymore; even in Christian circles it is often linked with the Victorian lifestyle rather than a behavior that a twenty-first century woman practices. Etiquette is a formal word for simple kindness that helps us put graciousness into action.
A woman’s graciousness is a mirror in which she reveals her character. The Apostle Paul shows his willingness to be considerate of others when he states in 1 Cor. 9:19-22, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all that I might win the more. I have become all things to all men that I may by all means save some.” Regrettably, Christians are frequently the greatest offenders in failing to demonstrate common courtesy.
A gracious woman, though not inflexible in her behavior, displays courtesy by adopting simple etiquette guidelines:
- Receiving an invitation is a special privilege; failing to respond to it within the stated time period is an ungracious action that demonstrates a lack of discretion. Proverbs 11:22 provides a poignant description of such a woman: “as a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.”
- Often the letters RSVP, meaning, “the favor of a reply is requested,” appear on the invitation. Use the response card, if one is included, to fulfill the RSVP request. A note declining the invitation is appropriate for a formal occasion if a response card is not enclosed. Purchase quality stationery for such notes and use a blue or black pen. A phone call is an adequate RSVP for an informal occasion. It is inappropriate to ask the hostess if you may bring additional guests. Whenever possible, avoid electronic responses unless an electronic invitation with a reply option is extended.
- Arrive for the function fashionably on time. The standard rule is no more than fifteen minutes before or after the stated time for the function begins. Punctuality shows consideration of the host and hostess, attention to detail, and your interest in the social event. Hosts and hostesses appreciate being able to start entertaining guests on time.
- Warmly handle introductions. A gracious woman is aware that she never has a second chance to make a good first impression. Thus, she remembers that younger people are introduced to older people and people of all ages are introduced to people in authority. She may shake hands when she is introduced to a man or a woman and has a choice to sit or stand when introduced. She should not use first names unless invited to do so.
- Select a suitable hostess gift. A gracious woman knows that a small gift when she is invited to a person’s home for a meal or when staying overnight is an appropriate action. The gift reflects her appreciation for her hostess’ kindness. It is not a substitute for a thank you note.
- Acknowledge her status as a guest. When invited to someone’s home, a guest is in a position of honor. Whether for a meal or for an overnight stay, she must be considerate of the family and fit into their schedule. Important reminders are
o Be punctual, but not early.
o Cancel ONLY if there is an emergency.
o Don’t “double book” yourself—commit yourself to the entire occasion.
o Offer to help the hostess.
o Make it a point to speak with the other guests.
o Do not attend if ill!
o Wear appropriate, modest attire—if you are unsure of the dress for the event, ask the hostess.
o Don’t be the first or last to leave.
o ALWAYS verbally express your enjoyment of the occasion to your hostess before departing.
o Call your hostess the following day to tell her you enjoyed the evening and write a thank-you note IMMEDIATELY! Some thank you note guidelines are offered at the conclusion of this post.
o Fit in with the family’s standard of orderliness or exceed it.
o Maintain your living area in an orderly manner.
o Make your bed, unless it is departure day or you are instructed not to.
o Remove personal items from the bathroom after each use unless it is reserved for your private use.
o Keep the bathroom clean.
o Refrain from using any appliance without permission.
o Treat the house and all things in it with great respect.
o Make your schedule fit into your host’s and hostess’ schedule.
o Blend in with the family.
o Be sensitive about not using all the hot water, listening to the television or music too loudly, or asking for too many items that you forgot.
o Display a willingness to help.
Following these simple guidelines demonstrates gratitude and respect to those who are extending hospitality to you and will keep your guest reputation out of the “Grinch” category. As well, it allows you to acquire the reputation of a gracious woman, which is honoring to your heavenly Father, who first modeled graciousness to you (Psalm 145:8).
Thank You Note Guidelines
Sending a handwritten card or note of thanks is one of the most heartfelt and meaningful ways to express gratitude. Maybe you can’t repay your recipient for the nice thing he or she has done, but you can reflect the thoughtfulness with the time and care you put into writing and sending a warm, gracious thank-you. A handwritten thank you not carries several positive characteristics:
- The note clearly and permanently demonstrates your gratitude for the gift or gesture of kindness.
- The note extends the window of opportunity of communication with those extending generosity or hospitality.
- The note allows you to affirm the character of the giver rather than simply the action or gift. This may open the door to further ministry.
Consider including these ideas for your notes:
- Draft your note on scrap paper or at the keyboard.
- Pick stationary that reflects your character and is not potentially offensive to others.
- Begin with the word “Dear” and then add the individual’s name. A good rule is to imagine walking into the room and seeing the person or people without having seen them for a year. How would you address them? If it is an old friend probably by their first name. Otherwise it is best to be more formal and allow the individual(s) to invite you into a more personal relationship.
- Say “thank you for” the specific event or gift you received. If you experience both hospitality and a gift state both.
- Consider building towards a future connect with a statement like, “I (we) anticipate having you to our home soon,” or “may I treat you to coffee sometime soon? Perhaps you could suggest several dates for me.”
- Remember that a warm closing is like the bow on top of your thank-you message. Choose one of mine or create your own. My list includes: Warmly, Warmly in Him, Because of His Love, With love, Much love to you, Love and thanks, Beyond grateful, Gratefully, With gratitude, Blessings, God bless you now and always.
- Sign it with a name appropriate to the individual to whom you wrote.
Keeping these simple guidelines in mind will assist you in retaining the character reputation of a gracious woman and removing any Grinch attributes from your guesting!
THE EVERYDAY HOMEMAKER’S MONTHLY MEDITATION THOUGHT
God has said, “This people have I formed for myself; that they might declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:21). Therefore, I may boldly say, “I am given an assignment.”