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A song often played this time of year in the U.S. commemorates a reindeer named Rudolph, whose red nose encouraged the other reindeer at Santa Claus’s North Pole home to bully him. They called him names and excluded him from whatever games they played when they weren’t pulling a sleigh.
I condemn the bullying of anyone perceived as different. However, I would notice that red nose. I might even silently judge it. That’s not as cruel, but it’s far from kind.
I pay for my judgments, though. I judge myself for judging others. I feel guilty.
The Lonely Reindeer
I’ve tried to suppress all judgmental impulses, but that’s like saying, “I will not judge this reindeer with the red nose. I will pretend that his nose is like that of every other reindeer.”
Instead, I do my best to accept that I judge. I further try to identify what triggers my judgments.
Before I published fiction, I joined online authors’ groups to learn how to do it. Some authors had a confidence that to me bordered on egotism. I decided that these people were show-offs. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was. If that was how you had to act in order to sell books, I would pass.
Some of my resistance was sparked by authors who did this: “BUY MY BOOK! PLEASE!” They spammed author discussion lists and broke other rules of good marketing and networking.
However, I used my judgments of those few to keep me safe. By hiding behind my harsh opinions, I could avoid some inconvenient truths.
I disregarded the reality that most authors didn’t use in-your-face marketing strategies. They believed in their writing enough to promote it and to ask for assistance in the form of reviews, interviews, and other networking opportunities.
And I didn’t.
I thought my writing was good, but what did I know? People told me it was good, but what did they know? I envisioned rejection at every turn, one-star reviews, and failure.
So I blamed the confident authors, not because they were doing anything wrong but because they were demonstrating what was possible and exposing my fears.
The Moment of Truth
Discovering the truth is sometimes painful, but I never heard that it was easy for a tiny chick to peck its way out of an egg’s safety. The moment came when I, too, cracked my shell and entered the big world. I took risks. They worked out better than I’d anticipated.
I developed a readership. I got good reviews. I also got letters from readers. Some of them joined my launch team.
After surviving the initial risk-taking, I realized that all judgment is really self-judgment. I judged people for their confidence and willingness to take action, but I really was judging myself for lack of courage.
Once I decided that I had something to share, allowed myself to express my own uniqueness, it became much easier to not only accept but to appreciate the uniqueness of others. Now hearing about the successes of other authors, instead of threatening me, helps me along my journey.
Gratitude felt much better than judgment, resentment, and guilt.
Though his story is sparse in detail, I’ve found no evidence that he went off to weep on the frozen tundra or compensated for his humiliating experiences by deciding that he was in fact superior to those other stupid reindeer. I find no testimony that he made fun of their special traits so that they could experience what it was like to be tormented.
I have a sense that this reindeer was a highly evolved being. I believe that he waited patiently, knowing that one day his shiny nose would not only be appreciated but needed.
I do know that his patience was rewarded. One stormy Christmas when visibility was poor, Santa Claus asked him if he would guide the sleigh. After that, Rudolph’s former tormenters wanted his hoofprint and became his most devoted admirers.