Criticism vs. Feedback

    If you have no heart to change it, you have no right to criticize it.

I’m skeptical whenever someone wants to provide “constructive criticism.”

I think criticism is a passive-aggressive form of boasting, an easy way to attract attention while trying to appear concerned. Critics often claim that they’re trying to help, but the real intent is to find fault, to highlight some flaw or failure.

In a sadly transparent admission of impotence, the critic tries to cast himself as the expert and raise his perceived status by tearing down someone else. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn, and most fools do.”

Criticism is often simply a cheap way to create artificial controversy. Talk radio and cable “news and commentary” fill endless hours with disrespectful shouting. An argument draws a crowd, especially a loud argument, and criticism is mostly about drawing the crowd.


Criticism often invokes the mob mentality. The critic wants attention and needs others to agree. One guy is screaming and everyone else is parroting and shouting, “Yeah, right. What he said!”

If you’re wondering about a critic’s motives, watch what happens when the spotlight fades. The argument immediately moves to the next topic, because the intent’s always about attracting attention. It was never about actually working for positive change, because that’s usually done in the background.


Feedback differs fundamentally from criticism, because feedback occurs within a relationship. Feedback conveys a desire to help, a willingness to step into a valued process at the risk of personal sacrifice. Feedback comes from someone who’s involved, while criticism originates from those outside the fray.

  • Feedback seeks to build, create, and improve. Criticism aims to destroy and tear down.
  • Leaders provide feedback. Bosses criticize.
  • Feedback is hard work. Criticism is easy.
  • Feedback comes from a position of humility and service. Criticism involves authority and centers attention on the critic.
  • Feedback values people and requires relationship and trust. Criticism focuses selectively on results to devalue individuals and their efforts.
  • Feedback requires an emotional investment from the giver, and has the potential to build the emotional reserves of the receiver. Criticism reverses the process.
  • Feedback needs to be carefully evaluated by the receiver. Criticism needs to be discounted and discarded, though doing so is not easy.
  • Feedback is communication. Criticism is gossip.
  • Feedback can be painful, but it offers the possibility of growth and improvement. Criticism is hurtful by nature.

I want authentic feedback, even when it’s difficult or even painful to hear. I want a circle of folks who care enough to take the risk of helping me to improve, and I hope I’m open to considering and acting on that sort of input.

I also want to identify and ignore criticism and critics. Without being disrespectful, I want to dismiss criticism as an inevitable result of trying to accomplish something meaningful. In fact, perhaps the presence of a cynical critic is a sign that I’m on the correct path.

I want my feedback from people I trust and respect. As someone once said, “No statue has ever been created to honor a critic.”

Let’s be willing to invest in others by offering feedback. And let’s avoid being critics.

    When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.

How do you see criticism and feedback?