Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Invitation Politics

This is one of those blogposts where I'm going to be asking for advice. So if you have anything to say about this topic please do as I'm really unsure what to do in this situation.

I'm going to start off with a scenario that will be somewhat familiar to most people out there. Imagine you're organising a wedding, engagement party, birthday party or some other kind of gathering. You're all excited and are looking forward to catching up with everyone. Then comes the hard part - you have to work out who is going to be invited to your fabulous event....and who isn't. You want to keep it to a reasonable size and have all of your loved ones there. But when the time of the gathering comes around, you've got a guest list that contains the names of people who in your heart of hearts, you really don't want there. Sound familiar?

I've seen people doing it so many times and I admit that I've done it myself. They know exactly who they want to invite but instead they invite people who they are secretly hoping will decline the invitation. So why invite them in the first place? Here are a number of reasons:
  • Pressure from others - "Oh no, you have to invite Sally. Even though she's a pain in the butt and will ruin your special day."
  • Guilt - you've invited everyone else and don't want to appear spiteful by not inviting someone.

If you're reading this and have ever come to a social event I've organised and are thinking "I wonder if Sarah actually wanted me there?" - don't worry. Chances are I did - very much. It's usually only a very small minority that I um and ah about.

Why do we do it? Why not bite the bullet and not invite people we don't really want? If they going to ruin the occasion by being difficult or demanding or they've been treating you like crap in the lead up to the event, why risk having a terrible time ourselves for people who don't give a toss about us?

The 'difficult' people who we feel so pressured to invite often fall into one of the following categories:

  • Family - they get an invite simply because you share blood but they can cause a LOT of strife. Maybe they complain about the food and venue and try to make it all about them. Or maybe they never bother to see you any other time but expect to get invited simply because they're family.
  • Estranged friends - the friend who has been treating you like crap or the absent friend who never puts any effort into the friendship. Then they waltz up and just expect to be automatically invited.
  • Partners of friends/family - they get invited simply because they're someone else's partner but otherwise you wouldn't have dreamed of inviting them because they are rude or obnoxious.
  • People who are part of the 'clique' you belong to (e.g. at church) so you feel you have to invite them because you've invited nearly everyone else.

There are two types of people I dread inviting to my parties - 'negative toxic people' and 'drama queens'. Negative toxic people are the type of people who turn up to events in the most dreadful mood and generally ruin your fun and the whole atmosphere with their sulky manner and sullen glares. Drama queens show up to events and try to steal the attention away from the host by making it all about THEM. An example would be single people who turn up to weddings and wail so that the attention is on them instead of on the bride and groom. This really makes my blood boil. For heavens sake, I know it's difficult to be single but for ONE DAY you'd think they could concentrate on being happy for someone else for once!

I want to be the courageous one who only invites who I WANT for once. But I know I won't because someone always says "why haven't you invited so and so?" and then I feel bad.

Why am I discussing this? Well, as regular readers of the Sedshed will be aware - my birthday was last week and I want to have a bit of a celebration in late June (I'm a bit busy at the moment).

I want to only have people I love at my party. As you can read in the Changes and Challenges post, it's been a tough year in some ways and I've had to put up with a lot of 'difficult people'. Here's the question I'm posing to you all - should I invite the 'difficult' people to my party? And by 'difficult' I mean people who have hurt me consistently with their words and actions - not just one errant word.

You might think I'm crazy for even considering it especially after what I've said earlier in this post. But I've been reading a lot in the Bible about loving enemies (sadly even Christian enemies) and doing good to those who hurt us. It's so easy to love people who love me - anyone can do that. My reasons for inviting them would be so that by showing undeserved kindness to them, it might lead them to repentance.

Here are the pros and cons for inviting my enemies to my party:

They might repent and the relationship be restored

The enemies will wreck my party and I'll have a crap time

I don't particularly WANT my enemies at my party. But I want to do what's right - loving them even though it's hard. I'm not sure inviting them IS the right thing to do so that's why I need your advice. I wouldn't not invite them out of spite but rather to protect myself. The mere presence of some people can make me very stressed and I don't want to feel like that at my birthday party (I'm feeling tense now just thinking about it).

What would you do? Have you been in this situation yourself? Please leave some advice in the comments section - even if you want to be anonymous.


Anonymous said...

Wow, tough question!

As yet I haven't 'really' had to deal with that sort of problem, never really run a big enough party/get together for me to run into that problem. I even managed to have an 'open invite' for my 21st party and have ONLY people I wanted there show up! Was great.

I would say it depends on what category the person falls into. One that stands out to me as someone you prob 'should' invite is the partner of a friend. If you didn't, not only would you risk making things between you and the partner sour but also between you and the friend. If that friend is someone you DEFINATELY want there, invite both, otherwise I'd say invite neither.

With the family situation I suppose it depends on the family you are in. In my family...members 'frequently' don't invite people just because of blood so it seems to have become ok to do it. I certainly don't feel bad when I am not invited. I'd personally not feel bad not inviting them but thats because of my individual situation.

Estranged friends, don't invite them if you don't want them...if your willing to face the possibility of problems down the track (which i would be). Simple as that IMO.

Friends in your clique...THATS a hard one. I think I'd invite them mostly because if they got upset at it, I would not hear the end of it. 1 night of annoyance compared to weeks following it...but then again.

There is def merit to the inviting people you don't want to in the hope it helps change the situation...but I don't think you should say 'i'll do it because of that', i personally think that should be an added bonus...as to be honest it is not likely.

Having said all that, I reckon feel free to invite EXACTLY who you want, and them alone:)

Rodney Olsen said...

From what you've said, some of the people you're wondering about already have issues with you. Is it really a problem to add another? :)

Seriously though, you shouldn't be letting someone else's bad behaviour dictate what you do. They treat you badly and you're going to reward them with an invite to your party?

Loving your enemies is essential but that doesn't give everyone equal standing. I choose to love my enemies but I wasn't going to marry one of them just to try to repair a relationship. I chose to marry someone I absolutely adore. I know that exaggerates the point to make the point but I hope you see the point. Loving our enemies doesn't give them the same standing as someone you're really close to.

Jesus had 12 disciples but there was a smaller group of disciples he took with him on certain occasions. It wasn't the full 12 in the Garden of Gethsemane. When it was appropriate, Jesus sometimes chose some people over others.

I must admit that I'm with James on the partner thing. If I was invited somewhere without Pauline I'd be offended.

There are sometimes reasons to invite people you don't care to spend a lot of time with but remember, as long as you have plenty of those who really care for you around, you won't need to spend much of the evening with those who don't.

Over the past couple of weeks my regular Tuesday guest on the radio, psychologist Genevieve Milnes, has been talking about people who do things simply to please others. It's not a healthy way to be. (The programmes are available on-line.)

So .... what date do I need to keep clear in my diary. :)

Iris Flavia said...

Not that I ever trew a party that big... But.

There is the saying, you´ll always meet twice at least.

So if there is any chance a person can hurt your (job-)future, don´t risk it, I´d say, stand the person for that evening.

But this is your birthday-party - a party just for you, a private thing.

As long as you don´t shout it out in the whole world as a great event, people should accept it as being a private party, just for you, just for your fun.

Rodney sure is right by saying one might feel offended when the partner is excluded. Um... maybe you just need to sell it right if you really can´t stand that partner.
Sadly I can´t give an example here, but I have a friend who could express it so very well, no one would feel offended.

Diplomacy might be the clue.

Sarah said...

Thanks Middo, Rodney and Iris for your advice. I don't have heaps of enemies by the way, just a couple of people who have been making life difficult and are unrepentant. They fall into the estranged friends/church clique category and have not just been making life difficult for me but often others I care about too. I don't have any probs with family members or friends' partners so it's all good there.

I've just been pestered by several people saying why aren't you inviting so and so even though they know that person has been 'difficult'. It's like they just expect me to invite them cos they're part of the clique.

You're right - it is people pleasing. I guess I wanted it to be God pleasing too and I'm kinda hoping you can love enemies without actually inviting them to a birthday party. I don't feel like I can handle the stress that some people cause just by their presence and bad moods etc. I was seriosuly considering not even having a party at all because of these people. Then another side of me went "no, why let them stop you."

I'll announce the date and venue for the party of the century soon :) It's not even a milestone birthday but I like making the most of birthdays as a chance to catch up with people.

bek ingram said...

Ive never had an issue with inviting people.

Call me selfish, but I only ever invite people who I want there, whether it hurts other peoples feelings or not. People generally know where they stand with me, so it doesnt really come as a surprise if your not invited to anything of mine.

At our wedding, the hardest thing was saying no to our parents who just wanted to keep inviting people!! Thats the only tough time Ive had.

Duncan said...

invite or not to invite... Its a hard thing to get my head around when I haven't had many enemies to invite. But I when I had enemies, I haven't had anything to invite people to. But, Sarah I am trying to understand, I sure you'll make the right decision:)

Darth Terios, your friendly local representative of the Sith controlled Galactic Empire. said...

I'm not sure of all the reasoning but as a general thing I'd say invite those you like.
Various thoughts:
1. If you're trying to repair relationships, a busy birthday party with stacks of people might not be the best place to do it anyway. Hopefully you can 'normalise' things with them at other, more relaxed group events.
2. Have you thought that maybe they feel uncomfortable too, and if you invited them they might feel they had to come just to show acceptance of you, even though they'd be uncomfortable?
3. You mentioned some people who were, umm (bad in some way), but also that people were part of a social set and might be (shocked at not being invited) - this sort of implies that they don't realise they're (being bad), and in that case they're unlikely to change things. (brackets coz I can't rember your exact terms and I'm paraphrasing).
But you can ignore my comments, I'm a hypocrite, part of the reason I don't have large birthdays is a situation like this!

Sarah said...

Hey Terios
Good to hear from you. Hope you're having fun on your trip!

The person/people I'm referring to generally know when they're treating me badly and they're doing it deliberately. That is, they're being so rude/unkind that they can't possibly think that they're not. If they thought their behaviour is acceptable then they've obviously got rocks in their heads and they know how I feel about it.

The hardest part is that if these people happen to be part of a social clique you hang around with, then they just expect you to forget how they've been treating you and just invite them anyway cos you're inviting everyone else. They don't think you would dare to exclude them.

You're right and so is everyone else - I can see now that a big birthday is not a place to restore relationships and I don't intend to invite 'difficult' people, only people I want. If they don't like it - tough!

bek ingram said...

uh huh, you go girl!!

**said clicking fingers in air**


Anonymous said...

Mm I do know what you're all saying, but i can't help go past the words of 'undeserved grace' and 'forgiveness'. Perhaps some of the comments remind me of how we treat God - intentionally and consistently acting in ways that bring him pain and hurt, yet he continues to forgive us and show us grace. Are we not meant to imitate that? When relationships become estranged, there's never going to be any chance of reconciliation if neither of you are willing to show forgiveness or grace. Actions do speak loudly.

Sarah said...

Anonymous, that's exactly what I'm struggling with. What does forgiveness look like?

Forgiveness is hard enough in itself and it is costly (look what Jesus had to go through) - God doesn't take sin lightly. Yet once you've forgiven the perpetrator, does that mean you have to let them back into your life again and everything goes back to how it was before? What if the person does not give two hoots about whether you've forgiven them or not and continues to behave in a hurtful manner? Is there not a place for distancing yourself in order to protect yourself from further harm?

I know God continues to forgive us even though we continue to sin against him. Yet, as a sinful human myself, I often struggle to reconcile relationships with other sinful humans. This is coming from someone who used to push people in arguments to reconcile with each other immediately. There's nothing wrong with this but I've since discovered that it's not this easy textbook formula that I made it out to be.

Forgiveness and trust are different. I might, by God's grace, be able to forgive someone but whether I trust them again is a completely different matter.

Anonymous said...

We will all read your invite list with great interest!

Sarah said...

That implies that I know you, anonymous person, because you think you're gonna be invited ;) I would do an undisclosed recipients list so that no-one else can see who's been invited and who hasn't.

I've made a different decision - I'm not having a party at all now. I know some of you may think it's a cowardly decision and in a way I feel ripped off and backed into a corner. It's like I was damned if I did invite difficult people (cos they might come) and damned if I didn't cos I'd feel like I was being sinful. It's too confusing and hard. I was just talking to Duncan and I was getting so worked up and stressed that we agreed it was the best choice for now.

All I really want to do is go out and have a dance so I might get a group of friends who like that sort of thing together a bit later and do that - but it wouldn't be for my birthday. It's just not the right time right now.

Thanks for your comments everyone. I know you might not agree with my decision but I just want to be stress free and a birthday party should NOT be causing stress.