Notes on Criticism

There are two opposite kinds of criticism. The first is destructive being rooted either in envy or jealousy; the second kind of criticism is constructive. It is rooted in dedication and commitment. Constructive criticism is always reasonable. It is sometimes wrongly mistaken for fault finding. This is rooted in a negative mentality, and is better described as complaining.

1.       Criticism that is rooted in envy and jealousy.

Envy (Greek: phthonos)  ‘envy, is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others’ (Vines).

Jealousy (Greek: zelos) means an intense desire to have what another person possesses. It is an intense feeling of desire ‘to burn with jealousy’.

Criticism that is rooted in envy has the objective -  to take away from someone that which he or she has.

Criticism that is rooted in jealousy has the objective -  to gain what another person has.

Envy and jealousy usually are found working together.


Observations from experience concerning criticism rooted in envy and jealousy.

The critical person

a)      ...appeared to be describing a mirror image of his or her own character when trying to find fault with someone else. For instance: making accusations of  hypocrisy; lustful tendencies; untrustworthiness; mishandling finances; cheating; etc.

b)      ... had an immense amount of zeal; energy; determination in seeking to gain supporters.

c)       ... distorted the truth; mixed truth with opinion; and spread completely false rumours.

d)      ...gave many accusations and made it impossible to give a reasonable explanation. As soon as one accusation was dropped another was picked up.

e)      ...became very angry and hostile towards those who disagreed.


In another case the critical person influenced someone else who then spoke on their behalf.

He was neither envious nor jealous but he was naive, gullible, and inexperienced. He was hurt by the outcome.


Rule 1: Never criticise others on the basis of what someone else has said about them. Leave this criticism alone.


2.       Constructive criticism.

This kind of criticism can be expected among those who are enthusiastic and associated with a particular cause.

a) has no association with malice or hatred whatsoever.

b) seeks to improve and help, but never to destroy.

c) works for the good of the team or organisation and does not make personal attacks.

d) is based upon fact and not on an opinion or hearsay.


Consequences that can result from a lack of constructive criticism.

1)     The safeguard against wrong teaching can be lost. Leadership can become so focused on success that the overall purpose or central message is changed. Constructive criticism is a safeguard against this.

2)     The leadership in the church may oppose constructive criticism when it does not follow plans for building a big church or a successful ministry. Constructive criticism is a safeguard that can prevent the leadership from making wrong decisions that could have disastrous consequences for the church such as bankruptcy or financial burdens to carry.

3)     When constructive criticism is regarded as an attack on the leadership then the views of a dominant leader will need always to be accepted. Those who disagree will be forced to be silent or to leave the church.


Personal testimony: Many years ago when there was a difference of opinion in the church a leader said to us that he was not willing to take criticism from anyone who was under him in the church. He saw church leadership as hierarchical and that the position he held in the church raised him above the level of an ordinary church goer. Eventually this church split because reconciliation was impossible and constructive criticism was overpowered by the plans of the leadership.

It must also be acknowledged that some of the criticism was destructive and merely stood in opposition to something new happening in the church. It is easy for someone in the congregation to make critical judgments based upon personal opinion, but leadership can sometimes be so interrelated and determined that constructive criticism needs to come from outside of the leadership team.

Constructive criticism is a safeguard that can come through anyone. The church is not a hierarchy, it is a body.


Some points regarding constructive criticism

1)     Critical assessment is normal in those who are dedicated, committed, and devoted to a particular cause.

2)     Constructive criticism allows for team development.

3)     Free expression of views and ideas is constructive and should be encouraged.

4)     It is a safeguard against making wrong decisions.

5)     Those who work for the good of the team are enriched by it.

6)     It always seeks the good of the cause.

7)     It is hated by dictators because it is regarded as a threat to their authority.


Rule 2: Always seek to build and not destroy; seek to lift others up and not pull others down.



Some observations concerning criticism that is not meant to be destructive but is not right.

a)     A person who lacks experience or maturity may make wrong critical assessments and care must always be taken in this regard. However a person should not be slandered for expressing critical concerns.

b)     There are those who cannot differentiate between fact and opinion. Their criticism is probably not meant to be destructive but it will not be productive either. They should be encouraged to do practical things and appreciation should be shown towards them for the things they do. .


An example of criticism that is not destructive.

Football supporters who are the most committed to a particular team will be the most critical of their poor performances. This criticism is born out of disappointment and frustration. It does not deter their enthusiasm and their loyalty remains firm. The supporter has very little influence within the club, but their support is a valuable asset for the club and as a supporter they have the need and the right to make critical assessments of the team performance. This is not destructive criticism; it is constructive. Supporters need to express their views and emotions. This is evident after a football match is seen on television experts are asked to express views.