“Bhikkhus, these eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions. What eight? Gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain.
– from AN 8:6, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Of all the worldly dhammas or conditions, praise and blame may cut closest to the bone. When someone tells us we’re wonderful or tells us we’re not OK, it’s very hard to ignore.
A relevant, enjoyable and wise (and short) article by Sharon Salzberg is here:
From the Dhammapada (v. 227-228), translated by Gil Fronsdal:
Ancient is this [saying], O Atula,
It is not just of today:
They find fault in one sitting silently,
They find fault in one speaking much,
They find fault in one speaking moderately.
No one in this world is not found at fault.
No person can be found
Who has been, is, or will be
Or only praised.
My own breakthrough in understanding this principle came about a decade ago. I had just given a dhamma talk, sitting in for the regular teacher, on the five ethical precepts. At the end of it, a few people approached me to have a word. One fellow told me, with barely controlled anger, that I was completely off and badly wrong about a particular point (abstinence from intoxicants). Immediately behind him was a young lady who effusively praised the talk and said it had changed her life. Hearing these two responses, in such close proximity, has since then represented for me the arbitrariness of praise and blame. Best not to take either one too much to heart.
As the Lokavipatti Sutta (AN 8:6) points out, all of the worldly conditions are fleeting, contain the seeds of pain, and are ownerless (unless we take them on as our own). Because praise and blame are so temporary (unless we grasp at them), the wisest course of action is to notice them and let them pass.