I’m the lucky one this Thanksgiving. I’m not hosting—I’m the hostee.

My girls and I are visiting a friend in Atlanta this week. I’m ecstatic because that means I don’t have to clean my house for anyone. It makes me wonder if my Georgian hostess is scrubbing her bathroom grout as I write this.

It also makes me think about how many hoops I jump through cleaning my house whenever I’m having company over—especially family. And why, oh, why I kill myself playing Martha Stewart (sans the prison garb) to try to deck my halls like it’s the White House. Why spend money (because I actually had some in the pre-recession days of ’06) on bows and baskets, tablecloths and hand towels, and centerpieces and ceramics, for a three-hour visit with people that—how do I say this politely?—I don’t always enjoy being around anyway?

“Because I want this to be an amazing Thanksgiving,” I tell myself.

But now that I’ve come out of my self-confined closet of co-dependency, I can answer it truthfully—because I’m a stinking people-pleaser. Worse, I’m deliberately placing my expectations of a happy holiday in the hands of others.

I’m doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

If you’re hosting friends or family this holiday, I want to encourage you to stop right now before you start your three-day marathon of cleaning and cooking, and ask yourself one simple question—why are you doing it?

If it’s to avoid Mom griping about how she would have cooked the sweet potatoes differently, forget about it. She’ll fuss about the green bean casserole. If it’s to avoid Aunt Millie finding lint or stray hairs while she’s doing her business in your bathroom, forget about it. She’ll find toothpaste in the sink. If it’s to avoid Gramps growling that your hair looks like your 3-year-old cut it, forget about it. He’ll reproach you about your weight (or lack thereof).

But if with every basting of the turkey, you remind yourself “because I love them,” if with every teaspoon laid lovingly in its place setting, you think “because I love them”, if for every stray lock that finds its way into your eyes, every splash of gravy on your apron, every drop of sweat that beads your brow as your bake, boil, and roast, you think “because I love them”, well, now, you’re on the right track.

See ultimately, you aren’t doing it to get something from them (validation, approval, or affirmation). Then it would be called Thanks-taking.

If your motives are pure and you truly are expecting nothing in return (and I mean nothing), you’ll have an amazing holiday because you’ll be doing what the day was originally designed for—giving.

How are you planning on giving to your family and friends this holiday?

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