I've never been one to fuss much about a Christmas card. Often I hope for a family picture and do the Costco thing. As the cards come in, I can tell there are some who put a great deal of thought, time and money into what they send.
A classic that gave us a good laugh was a card our friends Neal and Sue Ann Harris sent of their triplets screaming and crying as the met Santa.
I am grateful for the cards and the connections with friends they maintain. But with some of them, were I a younger person, there's a chance I may also feel envy and wish my life were as happy and wonderful as some of the cards and letters profess.
It got me thinking about an article I read about a study of Facebook use conducted by the University of Houston. Researcher Mai-Ly Steers said, "It doesn't mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand."
Comparing ourselves to others. Can this relate to receiving a pile of Christmas cards when we are also running around quite frantic trying to create the best Christmas ever?
It's easy to get depressed this time of year for many reasons. We may want more than we have, realize things we could have done better and compare ourselves to others.
In some cards, people show all the exotic places they have been during the year or their big new home, or like us, their huge family. What if this year was one when we were strapped for cash, overwhelmed by medical bills, trying to have a child or worried about our kids not getting married? It makes it harder to keep the proper spirit.
"This research and previous research indicates the act of socially comparing oneself to others is related to long-term destructive emotions," Steers said in the article. "Any benefit gained from making social comparisons is temporary and engaging in frequent social comparison of any kind may be linked to lower well-being."
She feels it is neither good nor bad to use technology but emphasizes we should realize we get a twisted picture of reality, and if one can't handle those emotions, we should step away.
"One danger is that Facebook often gives us information about our friends that we are not normally privy to, which gives us even more opportunities to socially compare," Steers said.
Because we never know what our friends are going to post, or in the case of this article, what is coming in the mail, it may be hard to control our reaction to what we see. In these situations, our friends only show the good parts of their lives, like highlight reels. Because we perceive our friends lives as being better than they really are, it can make us feel worse.
This is a time of year when we sometimes expect too much of ourselves. We are also nearing the year's end, and we tend to evaluate what our life this year was like.
With this information, hopefully we can keep in the proper spirit of the season, which is remembering the life of the Savior who wants us to love one another. It will help us beware of our Christmas card Grinch.
As we open the envelope and pull out the card, try to remember that the person who sent us the card worked at putting their best self forward. They sent it for us to think well of them and to treasure them as a friend.
Feel the love of the season, and share it with the world.