On the way home from a party not so long ago, my wife had to listen to yet another long diatribe. I was complaining – ranting actually. As usual, my wife had to work hard not to roll her eyes; this was not the first time she had heard the speech. I have given it often.
Don’t get me wrong, I like socializing. I am a high “Extravert” on the Myers-Briggs assessment and a high “Influencer” on the DISC profile. I enjoy people and am energized by social settings. The problem with parties is that nothing meaningful ever seems to happen at them.
Can you think of the last party that was actually fun and worth attending?
Here’s the problem with most parties: even the ones celebrating something specific (birthdays, graduations, promotions, etc.) – they have no real agenda. It could be that I simply have bad karma and have ended up on the lame-party-invite-list. But I have confirmed my suspicions with enough of my cooler friends that I think I can say with confidence that most parties really are lame.
Inevitably, party-goers end up spending several hours rehearsing bad jokes, drinking more than they should, and critiquing the fashion tastes of their style-challenged friends. On the way home, they wonder (as I often do) why in the world they wasted another perfectly good Friday night with people they don’t really like, talking about things that don’t really matter, spending money they didn’t really have.
So I have started a little revolution of sorts, my own personalized brand of party crashing. No, I don’t show up at parties I haven’t been invited to, but I am working hard to show up as a different kind of guest.
Maybe you want to join my little revolution.
First, I am trying to make a practice of writing a letter to acknowledge the guest of honor in some personal way. If it is birthday party, I write a couple thoughts about why planet earth is blessed to have them. If it is a graduation event, I tell them why I think they will make a difference for good in the world. If it is a recognition of some accomplishment, I share a few thoughts about how I am personally inspired by what they have done.
Second, as I get into the car to leave for the party, I try to think strategically about who is going to be in the room and what I might want to learn from them. As corny as this might sound, I have found myself drawn to older folks and l enjoy asking them questions like, “What are some life lessons you are sharing with your kids and grandkids these days?” “What is changing in the world that worries you?” “What do you wish you did more of in your life?” Admittedly, not every conversation works equally well – and that’s okay, because for every conversation that falls flat I have two others that are totally worth it.
Finally, I limit myself to two (okay, sometimes three) glasses of wine. This isn’t a moral decision as much as a social awareness choice. Can I state the obvious? People do and say stupid things when they drink too much. I may not prevent the stupidity that other people contribute to an event, but I can certainly limit my own contribution to the foolishness. Besides, if something meaningful is actually said or done, limiting my alcohol consumption increases the likelihood that I’ll remember it!
Now, I realize there are far greater concerns in the world than whether or not we are attending meaningful parties. But let’s also acknowledge that good social events have value in terms of their replenishing capacities, while the bad ones (as many of them are) actually deplete us. Do we really need more of that?
What if our participation in celebrations like this actually made us better and stronger when we went back into “action”? It seems to me that might be a bit revolutionary.
Care to join the revolution?
Pieter K Van Waarde is the Senior Pastor at Woodcrest Chapel
He is Executive Director for Team Building Resources LLC and author of “Unsettled”