Poirier defines criticism broadly, referring to
any judgment made about you by another, which declares that you fall short of a particular standard.
The standard may be God’s or man’s.
The judgment may be true or false.
It may be given gently with a view to correction, or harshly and in a condemnatory fashion.
It may be given by a friend or by an enemy.
But whatever the case, it is a judgment or criticism about you, that you have fallen short of a standard.
Here’s the key point of his analysis:
A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion.
In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.
Here are four points that he makes:
1. Learn to critique yourself.
Here are some questions to ask:
- How do I typically react to correction?
- Do I pout when criticized or corrected?
- What is my first response when someone says I’m wrong?
- Do I tend to attack the person?
- Do I tend to reject the content of criticism?
- Do I tend to react to the manner?
- How well do I take advice?
- How well do I seek it?
- Are people able to approach me to correct me?
- Am I teachable?
- Do I harbor anger against the person who criticizes me?
- Do I immediately seek to defend myself, hauling out my righteous acts and personal opinions in order to defend myself and display my rightness?
- Can my spouse, parents, children, brothers, sisters, or friends correct me?
2. Ask the Lord to give you a desire to be wise instead of a fool.
Use Proverbs to commend to yourself the goodness of being willing and able to receive criticism, advice, rebuke, counsel, or correction.
3. Focus on your crucifixion with Christ.
While I can say I have faith in Christ, and even say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ,” yet I still find myself not living in light of the cross. So I challenge myself with two questions.
- If I continually squirm under the criticism of others, how can I say I know and agree with the criticism of the cross?
- If I typically justify myself, how can I say I know, love, and cling to God’s justification of me through Christ’s cross?
This drives me back to contemplating God’s judgment and justification of the sinner in Christ on the cross. As I meditate on what God has done in Christ for me, I find a resolve to agree with and affirm all that God says about me in Christ, with whom I’ve been crucified.
4. Learn to speak nourishing words to others.
I want to receive criticism as a sinner living within Jesus’s mercy, so how can I give criticism in a way that communicates mercy to another?
- Accurate, balanced criticism, given mercifully, is the easiest to hear—and even against that my pride rebels.
- Unfair criticism or harsh criticism (whether fair or unfair) is needlessly hard to hear.
How can I best give accurate, fair criticism, well tempered with mercy and affirmation?
The following attitudes are essential to giving criticism in a godly way:
- I see my brother/sister as one for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11; Heb. 13:1).
- I come as an equal, who also is a sinner (Rom. 3:9, 23).
- I prepare my heart lest I speak out of wrong motives (Prov. 16:2; 15:28; 16:23).
- I examine my own life and confess my sin first (Matt. 7:3-5).
- I am always patient, in it for the long haul (Eph. 4:2; 1 Cor. 13:4).
- My goal is not to condemn by debating points, but to build up through constructive criticism (Eph. 4:29).
- I correct and rebuke my brother gently, in the hope that God will grant him the grace of repentance even as I myself repent only through His grace (2 Tim. 2:24-25).