Today I decided to bake a coffee cake. I was trying a new recipe I’d discovered online and was unsure how it would turn out. Baking at 4200 feet above sea level can have unexpected results. But, ever optimistic, I preheated the oven, mixed the ingredients, and awaited the fate of the coffee crumb cake.
After 27 minutes, the coffee cake was out. I immediately began critiquing the cake.
“I wish it was more golden.”
“I wish I had chilled the crumb more so it didn’t sink into the cake as much.”
“Why didn’t it rise as much as I wanted it to?”
After letting it cool, I cut a slice. Almost with apprehension, I took a nibble. It wasn’t horrible. I took another nibble. Still not horrible. But I wasn’t happy.
So, with a slight air of disappointment, I took a slice over to Gil to try.
“It’s only OK,” I said as I almost begrudgingly handed over the piece of cake. “It’s missing something.”
After taking a small bite, Gil gave a few suggestions. Maybe some more butter? A little more moisture? I nodded in agreement and accepted that this wasn’t a successful bake.
Then, a few minutes later, Gil went back and got a second piece of coffee cake. After eating his slice in silence for a few moments, he suddenly said, “You know, this is actually really good. This is just like what you’d get at a bakery. I wouldn’t consider this a fail at all.”
I was shocked and honestly, somewhat relieved. Relieved that the coffee cake wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.
But now, I sit here and wonder. If I had never mentioned my comments about the cake beforehand, would Gil have declared it perfection? Or did I force him to find things to improve because he saw I wasn’t happy with the final results? Would he have still found things to change if I’d just kept my mouth shut and said, “Here, try this”?
How many times have we set ourselves up for disappointment? How many times have we assumed others would feel the same disappointment we would feel in ourselves? How many times have you beaten yourself up thinking you could have done something better, only to find out you did it great all along? How many times have we assumed others would see the same flaws that we see in ourselves or the things we do?
Often times Matthew 7:1-2 is quoted with regards to judging others. However, the scripture applies to the judgment of self as well.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2 New International Version (NIV)
If you judge yourself, others will also judge you. If we run around telling the world everything wrong we see with ourselves, we run the risk of the wrongness being the only thing they see in us. If you have a scratch on your car, you don’t run around showing off the scratch on your car or paint a big white box around the scratch so everyone can see it better.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to improve or be self-reflective. Nor am I saying that we should hide or ignore habits or traits that we know we can improve upon. We should always look for ways we can do things better and be better people. But what I am saying is … don’t beat yourself up too bad. While you might want to make a few adjustments here or there, that coffee cake might not be as bad as you think.