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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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    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 2 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you, jgshorebird :)

    • jgshorebird profile image

      Jack Shorebird 2 years ago from Southeastern U.S.

      Good Hub. I like Churchill's quote the best.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Dream On - They really did not know any better. How could they? Today we are living in lucidity... We know what goes on everywhere, we have better role models... Why not write a hub about this? I may respond on yours. I can sense we have the same views on this. Yes, let's smile and grow better and wiser daily :)

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 6 years ago

      You have brought back many more sayings that I remember also.Use your head for more than a hat rack.God gave you brains use them.Kids don't learn nothing today.All they do is take up space.I know my parents and family probably meant well or didn't know any better.It took along time to understand that parents that we love and trust can be wrong too.They are only people like you and me.They have flaws and someday I will understand.I have chosen a giving hand that can offer help and understanding and encouragement to do just a little better.Thanks so much for responding and clearing up a few more things.Back to smiling and making this day better than yesterday with the help of real friends.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      DREAM ON – thank you so much for sharing your life-experience with us, and how you have managed to get yourself out of the deep dumps critics so ignorantly forces us to live in. There was a time when it was the norm for parents to only criticize and never give compliments to their children. I wonder if my parents ever received constructive criticism from their parents and teachers.

      Personally I was raised according to the arouse-guilt-method – “You are such a clever girl and now look what you have done.... breaking my heart.” I hated myself for ages because I have “broken my father’s heart” almost every day, and I have given him all his gray hair. I am still not sure if his heart became ‘whole’ again before he died, because he never told me. My mother used to say to me: “You are nasty!” whenever I was, in fact, nasty. And guess what, I still believe I am nasty when I am not completely unselfish to the point where I am nothing while everybody around me is everything. So I am nasty when I demand love and respect?

      But so true, there is indeed something good in the worst of all situations.

      Thank you for enhancing my hub with your profound and insightful comment.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      molometer – In the beginning the rude behavior of those judges bothered me tremendously, until I have realized that those shows are not everyday living and loving, but professional judging. Those participators reckon they are ready for show-business, and the judges represent us, the public. You know we will only support the best entertainers – the rest we will ignore and they will die of hunger. That’s life. Surely the judges cannot be nice and encourage ‘talents’ to go on wasting their time doing what they are doing with the hope they are going to reach the almost unreachable goal set by us for professional entertainers. I’ve noticed that although they expose shortcomings rudely, they do encourage those with talent to keep on trying. The rest are chuck like rotten tomatoes. Shame. My heart bleeds for them. But only because they were not told by their parents and tutors and friends that they are not yet on the level the judges expect them to be.

      I will not regard this hub as a guideline for professional criticism and judging.

      At the same time I agree with you - some of those judges are disgustingly rude – egoists, using the power in their hands to inflate their own ego’s instead of establishing and maintaining a high level for cultural activities.

      Thanks so much for your profound and thought-provoking comment, molometer.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 6 years ago

      What a wonderful hub that I will continue to learn from when my reading is done.I grew up in a family where destructive critism was a way of life.You took your lumps so to speak.You were to young to voice your opinion and it was looked as talking back to your elders.Years of negative remarks can do lots of harm.Not understanding it and not knowing how to deal with it.I accepted all of it.Years passed.I found a way to sit on the remarks and comments and listen and say yes.I swollowed each one by one.Taking it on the chin so to speak.I learned to channel it in.To write out each situation and later return to that problem and write out my own solution(even though it never got heard)I knew and found a better solution.I would tell myself my own answer over and over again to wash away the negative.I learned to listen more.I always said in the end show me how if your so great.You know how then teach me.They were so full of resentment and anger they never had the time.They would find another person to vent and share their unhealthy ways.I have learned there is something good in the worst of all situations.We just have to hang in there long enough to find it.I wish I knew your hub years ago it would of prevented much emotional pain and sadness.What wise words to listen and don't say anything.It is a sure way to smother the fire that needs oxygen to breath.Thanks so much for helping others and giving great advice.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      It is interesting to see the way criticism has been hi-jacked by these wannabe talent shows.

      It is invariable negative in the extreme, leaving many 'talents' in tears.

      Positive encouragement is never critical by definition!

      I have seen many statues to great people including dear old Winston. I have never seen a statue to a critic?

      Well written hub Martie.

      We need to redress the balance, get the right advice and jump over the destructive trolls.

      Voted up and SHARING

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Kathleen, to not react, was one of the hardest 'acts' for me to master. I am terribly impulsive; before I know what is happening, I have already hit the ball back to the one who had thrown it to me. But at last, now in my 50's, I can often give myself a pat on the shoulder for successful controlling my impulsive nature. Thanks for your comment.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Good to know your opinion, Capedium!

    • profile image

      Kathleen Kerswig 6 years ago

      The suggestion to not react is always a good one. Reacting to a negative situation too quickly can cause more harm in difficult conditions. Thanks for the hub!

    • Capedium profile image

      Ov Overo 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      This is very Insightful and very enlightening.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      martie, this is a great hub, and terrific use of white space. I'm going to link to it on my hub "I want to read your hub" brilliant content and layout!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Judi Bee, thanks for giving me your opinion and for pimping me in HH. Much appreciated!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 6 years ago from UK

      What a wonderful hub! Insightful and encouraging, thanks for sharing it.

      Voted up and awesome!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Sunnie Day – Integrity is certainly a trait all writers should develop; we surely lose it when we defend ourselves. This is unfortunately one of my shortcomings – it takes a lot of willpower to swallow destructive critique. Before I know where I am, I have already defended myself as well as all who are with me in the same boat. I can but only laugh at myself and hope my friends will not throw me overboard :))) But I will not defend a story or article of mine. If it is born with a deformity, I will face it with dignity.

      Thanks for your lovely comment and compliment, Sunnie!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      JayeWisdom – So good to see you again! You know how much I agree with you. Especially in the world of writers we have to learn how to deal with constructive as well as destructive critique. We have to separate the critique from the critic, who may be an arrogant antagonis. Critique, all sorts, inspires the typical writer to become more determent in his quest for success. Thanks so much for your profound comment.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      moncrieff – So good to see you in my corner. We can base hundreds of stories on that quote, for sure. Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated!

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 6 years ago

      Wonderful hub Martie,

      Tackful advice is always welcome One cant live on the only shows the lack of integrity on our part. Being defensive is just a snare and can be just as bad as the person giving a destructive word. A person that trys to give helpful advice, knows that they are only wanting the best for the other person, to uplift them. You touched on all the aspects with your natural charm and grace..Thank you,


    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Millionaire Tips – You’ve got a point – This hub is about negative, destructive critique. Of course we need constructive critique in order to grow, and we should accept it with dignity. I will emphasize this in the hub. Thanks for drawing my attention to this.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Like most people, I don't like "antagonistic" criticism....It tends to make me defensive. However, I do appreciate constructive criticism that is given in the form of a helpful critique, especially of my writing. Anyone with a very thin skin who can't take constructive criticism should not be a writer. Not everyone is going to like my writing--the topics I select, my writing style or how I formulate the whole of an article or story. If I can learn from a better writer (or even a good reader), I'm open to suggestions.

      That said, I don't consider "attack mode" to be constructive criticism. It's the manner and spirit in which a critique is given that affects the way I receive it. Your suggestion--that constructive criticism should uplift and encourage--is right on the mark!

      Heaven knows, I've received my share of all types of criticism in my lifetime thus far, and it hasn't flattened me yet!


    • moncrieff profile image

      moncrieff 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Great hub and I loved this quote: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Thanks for sharing.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      Great hub Martie - criticism can be very hurtful, but it can also be helpful if done correctly. I agree that the person who gives criticism must be careful that it is done with a good heart. I think that you can take constructive criticism to heart even if you don't have the failings you listed on this hub. Improving yourself doesn't mean that you have low self esteem.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      formosangirl – to criticize is actually a bad habit. We acquire it very easily - without applying any willpower – and then it takes a lot of willpower to quit. Destructive critique coming from a Christian is totally in contrast with Christian principles and actually a disgrace to Christianity. Thank you for your comment.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      leni sands – That is so true: Envy and jealousy provoke in (some) people the urge to criticize in order to FEEL more worthy than the one they are criticizing. And yes, critic from our loved-ones hurt and destruct tremendously. After all we especially want them to love us just the way we are. So why do they criticize us? You’ve said it: Because they selfishly want us to be only a puppet on their string. But maybe, just maybe, they have to do it for our own goodwill. Advice I have given the other day to a couple: Make it a house rule – If you can’t give two sincere compliments before you criticize, rather bite your tongue and DO something that will force the other one to do something that cannot be criticized.

      To love is hard work!

      Thanks for your visit, leni :)))

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Fiddleman – To cope with critics, one has to be wise. Thanks for your comment.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Interesting hub, MartieCoetser. I noticed that it is so common to see a Christian state about another person," That person is not Christian," and also this happens on the television. I noticed that there is so much criticisms on the news and reality shows that I try to stay away from a lot of television now.

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 6 years ago from UK

      Great hub, MartieCoetser. In my life I try to rise above my critics unless they are being constructive only then do I try to take note and improve. Sometimes I feel that petty jealousy has a lot to do with cutting remarks and non-constructive criticism. The hardest criticism for me to take is that that comes from those closest to me, those that are supposed to love me for who I am not who they want me to be. I can deal with the world and his wife putting me down but not my loved ones. I have voted this hub up, useful and interesting and book marked it for another good read next time I feel wronged! Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      Fiddleman 6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this great write. It has insights and thoughts that are filled with wisdom.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      gmwilliams – I agree wholeheartedly with you. Many critics are so stuffed with their own ideas of right and wrong that they are not at all able to enjoy life in all its glory. I feel sorry for them. I, too, was once upon a time an energetic critic, trying to change everybody to replicas of myself, but today I know exactly how little I knew and understood of life and humans. Thanks for your relevant comment.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To MartieCoester: Great hub! I have discovered that people who are critical, especially those who are overcritical, are lacking themselves and have miserable lives. For example, the overcritical parent. That parent have a subconscious inferiority complex probably due to little education, a lousy job, or other personality defects which he/she displaces on his/her child. People who are secure are not critical, only insecure people are.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      epigramman – In our country the Xhosa people appoint praise singers to VIP’s such as presidents and traditional kings and queens. Now if I was a queen, sir, I would have appointed you as my personal praise singer. You have an extraordinary and most admirable talent to charm and inflate egos. I want you to know that I really appreciate your lovely comments – I feel honored to be one of the lucky ones who have the privilege to enjoy your goodwill. My heart goes out to you, and I wish you all the love and peace you obviously deserve :)

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      ....well that is what's so vital about someone like you - you always tell it the way it is - no bull just the facts ma'am ...... but with such wit and charm and aplomb because let's face it there is no one quite like you here at Hubland - and you inspire me with your writing and personal thoughts and your comments just make me want to become a better writer too!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Sasha'sOnHubShell – Critic always hurt. Tremendously, unless we are too full of ourselves with skins like rhinos and hair on our teeth. All of us take critic momentarily to MIND, and we react impulsively on the pain it provoke in us. But then - and this is but only my personal remedy - I practice the tips above to prevent the pain to sink to my heart/soul/self-esteem... where it will change me into a permanent insecure and pathetic being. Believe me I practice the tips EVERY time someone criticize me – it is like painkillers – to be taken immediately to still pain. One pil for pain today will not kill tomorrow’s pain. So don’t feel bad about you inability – just know you are sensitive and keep the tips always ready and practice it properly. Thanks for reading and commenting. Another tip – stay far away from those who practice criticizing as a hobby.

    • Sasha'sOnHubShell profile image

      Sasha'sOnHubShell 7 years ago from Florida

      MartieC! :) Another great hub, my dear! I was particularly drawn to this one, as i seem to have the perfect cocktail of personality components to make for the absolute inability to not take criticism, in any form, to heart. A disproportinate emotional reaction coincides with every time I've even been given a tip that was in no way critical of prior performance. :/

      Eek.. I'm pretty sure it comes from being intensely sensitive and hyper perceptive... I don't know that I'll ever overcome it completely, but rational reminders such as this certainly help! Thanks Again, All My Best. -Alex

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Micky Dee - Welcome on my page. On this one my favorite is certainly Matt. 7: “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........” Take care!

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      I'm with you Martie! All the way my Dear!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      vocalcoach – You have touched my heart deeply with your fan mail and this heartfelt comment. I think all of us, or at least the most of us, have a burning desire to mean something for others. We want to acknowledge, support and encourage others the way we want to be acknowledged, supported and encouraged, and we can only give what we have with the hope that we’ll receive what we need. And yes, we do receive what we need, that is why we are still here. It is really nice to know you appreciate my hubs and comments, for you have such a beautiful heart and spirit, clearly visible in all your writings. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I’m sending you a big hug on the wings of the northwest wind.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Martie - You have out done yourself with this thought-provoking and excellent hub. I will bookmark this article and refer to it often. This subject is very dear to my heart and I have written a bunch of articles about criticism - but not even one of mine can touch the "feet" of this hub. You have a gift and a talent that is rare in the writing world and I am so very blessed and grateful to have connected with you through hubpages. Your heartfelt comments which you so kindly offer to my humble hubs mean everything to me. Thank you again for your wisdom and contribution.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Nathan - I just LOVE your definition! Thanks for posting it here.

    • profile image

      Nathan 7 years ago

      Criticism is unsolicited advice.

      Advice is solicited criticism.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      dawnM – Thanks for your support! I agree, without criticism we will have no reason to improve ourselves.

      prasetio30 – You’ve said it all, but I still believe the one who wants to criticize, must examine his true motive and aim before he opens his mouth.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I support all the criticism for positive reason. And it make us better than before. Sometimes we saw this from negative side, but we never thought if the criticism for good development. Very inspiring hub. Vote this Up.


    • dawnM profile image

      Dawn Michael 7 years ago from THOUSAND OAKS

      very true article and I like how you pointed out the difference of criticism and constructive criticism, one can be very negative and the other if taken as a way to improve upon ourselves in a positive direction then it serves a valid purpose.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      sarmack – I believe that one needs some special talents, the ability to understand the human soul and a lot of wisdom to offer positive criticism. (Fyi: I don’t have this, therefore I embrace the good and jump over the bad.)

      katiem2 – Just imagine how wonderful life would have been if humans did not have the tendency to criticize, however, criticism, which cause emotional pain, force people to develop. (Emphasised by Winston Churchill.)

      Just A Voice – I am on your page, ma’am, doing exactly the same. Why? Well, I have OCPD (obsessive compulsive personality disorder); I tend to be a perfectionist.... trying my utmost best to be NORMAL ):-(

      De Greek - I am speechless over here. Never thought I could ever impress descendants of Sokrates, Plato, Archimedes.... Honestly, sir, your compliment inflated my humble ego, I need some criticism now to blow it down to shape again. 0:-) Thank you so much for encouraging me so charmingly and typically Greek.

      Tony – I agree with De Greek – you are one of the best hubbers, if not the best. Therefore I regard you as my mentor. Thank you so much for all your positive comments. In your shadow I am proudly South-African.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent Hub, Martie! Thanks for this which clarifies some concepts.

      Nice to know we Sefricans can make a contribution, isn't it?

      Love and peace


    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      While trying to pull the plank out of my eye, I have voted this truly wonderful hub up and pressed every available button except funny.

      What’s with you South Africans putting the rest of us to shame? First the brilliant Tonymac and now you! :-)

      Well done :-)

    • profile image

      Just A Voice 7 years ago

      I know at times I can be too critical. Critical of myself and others. I'm desperate with impatience to have things become right and okay. And in my impatience I become too quick and too hard.

      I love the quote from Thoreau: Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

      It makes me want to change into something better, anything to make my life and those around me better. Even if it just produces a tiny humming sound and not the full song that is inside of me.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      Wonderful and inspiring read how true and what a hold negative energy can have on us, breaking free, letting go and letting God is a great conclusion and then hopefully we can cast all the bad ties in our minds that bind us to negative comments go and cast them out forever. Peace :)

    • sarmack profile image

      Sarah 7 years ago from Washington State

      Criticism has always had a negative connotation for me. Advice is for your improvement and well-being. Criticism is to hurt you.

      This is a wonderful piece of writing. It will help people evaluate whether they are giving friendly advice or criticizing. Thank you, Martie!