It was ritual in my household growing up. Every Sunday started with a trip to Mass—dreaded by the children, strictly enforced by the parents. Literally, we never missed it. Even vacation was no excuse. Immediately following Mass, and completely at odds with anything we should have learned during it, was the post-Mass recap. This was our time for lively, often snippy, discussion of everything we observed during the previous hour; whose kids weren’t behaving, who didn’t show up this week, who didn’t look appropriately dressed for church, etc. 

My dad rarely participated. He just listened and refereed if things got too mean-spirited, reminding us where we’d literally just come from. It was during one of these post-Mass rituals that he shared with me an opinion that I continue to benefit from to this day. Today I’ll share it with you. I will warn you in advance, you will likely struggle to put it in practice at first. But if you really think about it you might find, like I’ve found, it can be ultimately freeing.

First, the set-up. On this particular Sunday, the topic was an event hosted the day prior by one of the congregants. We hadn’t been invited. Even though I didn’t know my family to be particularly close to these people I remember my mom being somewhat hurt by this. It was a point she made, emphatically, the whole ride to the grocery store (that was the other part of the Sunday ritual, if we’d been good in church we could often talk my mom into picking up some donuts). As usual, my dad remained silent.

When my mom and sisters were safely inside the store, my dad said “Son, I don’t get upset about not being invited to parties I don’t want to go to.” And that was it. Not much more to say about it. Not even advice, really. Just a well-considered point of view. When my mom returned to the car she was on to other things; what she’d gotten on sale, who she saw in the checkout line, and why did they put the eggs with the milk? The invitation snub was forgotten. 

But I remembered those words. Over the years, I came to realize that they were about a lot more than any party. They became an earnest reminder of how silly it is to fret over things we really don’t care about, yet how often we do it. It was a powerful lesson. Which is not to say I became instantly immune to perceived insult. Like I said, it can be a struggle. But it did help me in those times I might have felt slighted by someone to take pause and ask myself, “did I actually just get exactly what I wanted?” If yes, I’d smile and move on. Whatever their problem was was their problem.

So today, 25 years later, I’ll pass the message along to you…know when you’ve won. Consider how much energy you waste feeling hurt by people you don’t really like.

And now realize that you don’t have to.

There you have it.

You’re free!

P.S. Since I’m more cynical than my dad, I can’t help but offer an additional, more literal take on his words. Let’s stop throwing so many parties that no one wants to go to.  It seems more and more that everybody feels that they have to include everyone in every single celebration of even the most personal or minute of happenings no matter what the cost or burden to others. Elaborate, and crazed, birthday parties for one-year olds we’ve never met. Multiple engagement parties for the happy couple that include gift registries. Destination weddings. Parties to announce that it’s a boy. Or maybe it’s a girl. We won’t know until we cut the cake!!

With the requisite gift giving and/or weekend sacrificing all these things entail, it all gets to feel pretty selfish after a while. You may recall, that’s a subject I’m all too comfortable ranting about.

I’m not saying that your parties aren’t worth hosting. Or that your events aren’t worth celebrating, especially among close friends and family. I’m sure they are. I’m simply giving you permission to exclude me from most of them. I’ve learned to not get upset about that kind of thing.