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Updated on May 22, 2017

What is criticism?

  • Disapproval expressed by pointing out errors and shortcomings.
  • A serious examination and judgment of something or someone.

“Flatter me and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you.” (William Arthur Ward)

This hub is about negative, destructive critique and not about constructive critique we all need in order to grow.

What is the purpose of destructive criticism?

  • To change or reconstruct existence and subsistence. This could be constructive and if so, should be accepted with dignity.
  • To intimidate, confuse and humiliate others;
  • To prove superiority and strengthen own self-esteem.

Winston Churchill said: “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary, for it fulfils the same function as pain in the human body – it calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Who offers destructive criticism?

  • Dale Carnegie identified them as: “Any FOOL can criticize, condemn, and complain; it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”
  • Napoleon Hill said: “Who is he who said it cannot be done? What great victories has he to his credit to judge others accurately?”
  • Jesus Christ said: “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........ You, hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eyes.” (Bible: Matthew 7.) [Unfortunately, all of us have PLANKS in our eyes; but some of us are not able to know/see our bulging own. We’ve got to keep in mind that if the blind leads the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
  • Mohammed said: “Say, ‘O Allah! Originator of the heavens and the earth; Knower of the unseen and the seen; Thou alone wilt judge between Thy servants concerning that in which they differed.” (Quran: Al-zumar 39:47).

Who takes destructive criticism to heart?

  • A person with a low self-esteem, who believes she/he should be a better person as the one he/she already is. This person is most of the time a good person, aware of his shortcomings and trying his utmost best to overcome them.
  • A person with complexes, either inferior or superior of nature, may be too self-centered or too-sensitive, and therefore perceives, interprets and understands ALL the doings of others as attacks on his own person/Self.
  • A person with a narcissistic personality disorder. He has an intense need for admiration and excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, and prestige.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” - Henry David Thoreau.


Nobody is perfect.

People with integrity and moral soundness are too busy trying to be the best person they can be; they don’t have time to criticize others.

But of course we may offer constructive criticism –

  • With empathy and a compassionate attitude towards others;
  • With the intention to UPLIFT and encourage.


Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who STRIVES valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

For us who realize that we will always be in the creeping barrage of critics, let’s remember Elbert Hubbard’s famous advice: “To avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.”

Tips for coping with destructive criticism

  • Don’t react! “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” (Proverbs 12:16) “In your anger do not sin; when you are in your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” – (Psalms 4:4)
  • When you are silent and calm, you will be able to interpret criticism positively, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant, rational and irrational, and you will identify the shortcomings in your self-esteem and develop a plan of action to overcome it. Not to please the critic, but to improve yourself.


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