Candy-Coating vs. TMI

It was the best of years; it was the worst of years, but in the annual Christmas Round Robin you will get either only the best or waaaay too much information.  Know what I mean?  This is where truth either gets hidden away or dissected into enough detail to make one nauseous.  We used to receive a round robin from someone who regularly psychoanalyzed each of his children. My husband and I felt such immense embarrassment on his kids’ behalf.  We eventually stopped getting those letters, and I often wonder if mutiny wasn’t the reason.  And then there are the letters that detail the medical procedures and illnesses of the past year.  Honestly, I don’t mind hearing THAT someone was ill, but I don’t need to see more details than even the doctor’s report would contain.  (One is bound to think here of the blog entitled ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’, which received a lot of criticism for telling too much too widely.  I want to address that in a different post because it is a special case.)

I will readily admit to being guilty of the candy coating newsletter, and to secretly rejoicing when someone does mention that things haven’t gone well (albeit not in great detail).  We have been taught “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all”, and it IS Christmas.  So, yes, I have left out the bad news.  Sometimes – as catharsis – I write two letters:  One about all the bad things that happened to us; and one about the good.  The ‘bad’ letter sometimes sounds like it came right out of horror movie – honestly.  Be grateful you were spared receiving it.  When a Round Robin is honest enough to say, ‘Well, we had a car accident’ or ‘Our great plans were thwarted by illness’, etc., outwardly, I’m saying, ‘Oh I am sorry.’  Inwardly, there is a little fist-pumping ‘Oh yeah!’ taking place.  Why?  Because it makes me feel normal.  Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful and their two little wonders have problems also!  I am certain some recipients of my letters have felt that we are the “Wonderful” family.  My apologies.

So where is the mercy in this truth-telling tug-of-war?  How should we send ‘Glad Tidings’ and update those who care about us without either making them feel ‘lower on the evolutionary ladder’ or embarassed at our ‘airing the dirty laundry’ in a wide-cast net?

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About Lois Loban Stuckenbruck

Trained as a Ballerina, then completed a BA in Business Adm and English Literature at Milligan College. More recently trained to be a lay pastor (Reader) in the Church of England. Wife of a Biblical Scholar, Mother of three. I'm an American who has also lived many years in England and Germany (currently Munich). I have worked as an Editorial Assistant, Systems Manager (Xerox Stars on Ethernet Network), and several positions in higher education fundraising (Alumni and Development).
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4 Responses to Candy-Coating vs. TMI

  1. Krista says:

    I think what you are saying about Round Robin letters could just as easily be said about social media. I tend to focus on the positive, and there are a lot of positives in my life, thank God! But I know at least one or two people who have assumed that because of this, I lead a charmed life, that success just falls into my lap and I have no earthly idea how lucky I am. And they have felt the need to “remind” me, sometimes in surprisingly painful ways.

    What these folks have forgotten is that we are all like icebergs floating past each other. We see the tips of one another. But there are vast, deep parts of us that go unseen. I don’t talk about the times when my husband ticks me off (as happens in any normal relationship) or my son, as any kid would do, misbehaves or talks back. Nor do I often mention the deeper pain, grief, loss, disappointment and disillusionment that are part of life, for me and everyone else. Partly because it wouldn’t be kind, and also because, really, who wants to read or dwell on that? Just because you don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    I’m not answering your question. I think that if sharing something would endanger or hurt someone you love, or would make you feel too exposed, don’t do it. There are different levels of intimacy, and it’s okay to acknowledge that. But more importantly, I would hope that we can take to heart wise words spoken by somebody long ago (Plato?): “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Whether you know it or not.

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