Monday, December 17, 2012

The Party Pooper

Rippl SorrowThe holiday bully is a particularly evil form of female predator.  Do you know any? She seems to get a perverse delight from hurting others.  Her tools are psychological - a well placed comment or an arch look. She can instantly size up an unsuspecting cousin or sister-in-law.  Ten extra pounds, an ugly Christmas sweater, a kid who isn't college material, a scorched casserole - it is all fodder!  She pounces!  

Do you have one of these "Ladies" in your circle?  We avoid them most of the year. But holidays roll around bringing family dinners or office parties, and there they are ready to bring humiliation, shame and embarrassment to everyone around them.

The Bible has one too.  1 Samuel 1 tells the story of Hannah's personal persecutor.   Peninnah lurked in the background of Hannah's life day after day, but the holidays were the day of reckoning.  She resented Hannah deeply because Hannah was their husband's beloved.  So when the whole family sat around the table, eating from the meat of the annual sacrifice, she would provoke her.  She sadistically tortured her victim holiday after holiday for years. Classic party-pooper!

Ancestress of our modern holiday bullies, she was good at finding the chink in Hannah's armor.  Peninnah was happy to use the fact that Hannah was childless to pick at her.  She wanted nothing more than to make her teary-eyed and unable to eat.  She wanted Hannah to feel as bad about her lack of children as Peninnah felt inside.  It's one of the keys to this kind of bully; their goal is to make you as miserable as they are.

Another feature of the Holiday Bully is that she is good at hiding her true colors.  Elkanah, the husband of these two unhappy women, is oblivious.  He knows Hannah is sad about her lack of children, but he does not seem to see the connection to his other wife, the party-pooper.  A modern parallel is the mother or husband who can't understand why you might not want to come to the party just because Cousin So-and-So is coming.

I almost wish that Hannah's story had a more dramatic bully solution. Like Hannah jumps up from dinner and whips out the perfect sweet potato pie, silencing the criticism forever.  Or after one too many glasses of celebratory wine Hannah and Peninnah drop to the ground in a hair-pulling free-for-all after which Hannah is awarded the Holiday Belt and named the new champion.

Even without the drama, we can take a lesson or two away from the story. First, we can remember that these obnoxious party-poopers are deeply miserable - every insult they throw and every cruel joke they make are increasing evidence of their own discontent.  Second, we can avoid them.  Proverbs 17:1 says, "Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife." This strategy is not an excuse to skip Christmas at the in-laws if Aunt Susie hurt your feelings three years ago, but if you are really being singled out by one of the women, you do not have to put yourself in the crosshairs. Finally, remember they can only hurt us when we have some part of our life lacking contentment.  If we are secure in the love of God and at peace where He has placed us, their arrows have no sting!

Here's wishing you a holiday full of fun and free of Peninnahs. 

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 


  1. Smiling, Helene, over this unique portrayal of Hannah's nemesis! Also a good little warning against becoming the holiday bully ourselves!

  2. So glad you enjoyed it. Really anytime you can work in the Holiday belt there is a fun post in the works!

  3. Having gone through a short time of secondary infertility, Hannah is one of my favorite Bible characters, also because I strive to be a woman of prayer. Thanks for this way of looking at her. I think Hannah DID pull out the "perfect sweet potato pie" by giving birth to a son who became a leader of Israel. It just wasn't right away. Visiting from Sisters Spurring Sisters.