Are you a criticizer or a contributor?

Is there a difference between criticizing and critiquing? Absolutely.

Criticizers express disapproval and point out their perceptions of our flaws and mistakes. Someone who offers critique is contributing their careful opinions with the intent of helping.


Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash


Two years ago, I blogged about coming under fire from an online group of widows: “There were a few [in a closed group] who appeared to be angry and jealous in not understanding your positive attitude,” wrote the blog site administrator, trying to be a peacemaker.

The online conversation included this, among other unkind words: “I am annoyed by someone telling their story — which is fine — and then asking questions of the reader as if they are counseling them with their questions to think about. I don’t come here to be preached at.”

If grief is a natural and healthy response, then certainly those grieving need to take all the time they need to do it well.

But at some point, should widows in an online group—instead of complaining in private about other contributors to the site—perhaps set aside their collective negativism and make choices to live forward? Does writing private criticisms contribute to the well-being of everyone in the group, or does it encourage further negativism?

If I write about the things that helped me deal with sorrow—like, counting what remains rather than focusing on the losses, or doing things to make me braver—then don’t criticize me for wanting to share what’s worked. Because I’m an encourager by nature.

But critique … now that’s a different animal. Critique is a gift.

At my request, a friend recently critiqued a book I’m working on. She took a few days to read (and re-read) it and then offered valuable input from her perspective.

After tweaking my work, I asked a retired teacher who had taught writing to middle school students to take a stab at it. And although I warned him there would be run-on sentences and incomplete sentences and too many adjectives, he bravely agreed and made some suggested corrections with an analytical eye toward sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.

Talk about priceless gifts — these two friends. Contributors.

There was little worth in the criticism from the online widow group. But I value all the writing critique I’ve ever received—value it—because everyone who offered critique did so with the intent of improving my writing and helping me eventually get published.

This thought from Brené Brown:

At the end of my life I want to be able to say I contributed more than I criticized.

My sentiments exactly.

Which begs the question (although the online group of widows would find fault with my asking): Has there been a time in which you received some excellent critique, and it made you more successful in life? I’d love to hear about it.


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Treasuring the past; living now


Stories to tell, not stuff to show


  1. Thank you for your question! I guess the widows and widowers won’t want to read my upcoming book about conscious dying and grieving. LoL. I’m in the process of finishing a book and workbook about cancer recovery—mine. I too had others look at the rough draft. I too found their critiques beyond valuable. I want to put out the best books possible because I value my readers, so of course I am going to ask for others’ input. This ability to accept critique is about being strong in who we are – even tho there is cancer and death in our lives. Again – thanks for the great article, bless the criticizers cuz we wouldn’t have had the pleasure of your writing.

  2. Peter

    Amen to positivity, I would only wish to suggest that you continue doing the things that you do best and by doing so, you contributing to the lives of so many. Sharing is a gift and we who do so, learn to be sensitive to moments when the ‘Holy spirit’ is in/with us with a purpose in helping others. As a retired Police Officer I’m sure you can appreciate the experiences gained through my life in ‘service’ and dare I say since retirement, in listening before speaking and understanding compassionately when your experience may be valid or appropriate. I confess, long long ago, I promised my Father God that, ‘ I hoped I Would NOT return to Him unopened’, without Him by my side I am only a human being, I need Him in all I may be and we are all brothers and sisters on earth to help each other. God Bless,

    • This is what I always want to be guilty of, Peter: “listening before speaking and understanding compassionately.” Well said. Thank you!

  3. I’m very familiar with the online grieving group you reference, and indeed, remember well the incident(s) that happened at that time. I was in the grieving/healing process myself after the loss of my late wife, and I, too, used blogging to an extent as a means of verbalizing my emotions. In that time period I became acquainted with a widow who had lost her husband in the exact same period as my loss, and through the grieving site we became friends, companions, fell in love and recently married. We were both encouraged by your writing on that site and we both continue to subscribe to, and read, your postings in this format.

    With the understanding that I have been blessed beyond compare, I too wonder why the excessive negativism is so prevalent in the widowed community; you would think they would welcome learning of a positive experience. Even prior to meeting my (now) new wife, I tried to keep the most positive outlook possible and remained alert to my own moodiness, even though friends and family felt I was certainly entitled to feeling blue.

    I would never begrudge anyone their right to mourn in their own way, at their own pace … it affects all of us differently. In general, I was commended on maintaining a positive outlook, but there were certainly those individuals who were less than happy to see me “move on” with a new life. I’ve always figured it was best to keep a positive outlook, keep you eyes open, recognize new opportunities when they arise. If I had chosen despondency instead of positivity I never would have met this amazing woman and been given this 2nd chance for love.

    • Wow, Ed, I share your puzzlement but I love your story. You summed it up so well with that last line: “If I had chosen despondency instead of positivity I never would have met this amazing woman and been given this 2nd chance for love.” Well said, and thank you!

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