Weekend Rerun: How to Handle a Mean Girl

Originally posted on September 26, 2011

Mean girls strike fear into the hearts of moms everywhere.  They certainly make this momma drop to her knees.

So when my daughter announced that she was choosing not to play with a girl at her school table, I pounced with mom questions.

“Well,” my daughter said, “when other people don’t do things the way she wants, she always says, ‘You can’t be my friend anymore.’  So, I told her that’s okay if she doesn’t want to be friends with me.”

Wow!  I was afraid of permanent devastation wrought at the hands of other children, and yet my daughter handled herself with quiet confidence.  It was the kind of answer I’ve been praying my daughter is able to give.

Praise God that He answers our prayers for our children.

But, it’s not just our kids who need to make decisions about friends, nay-sayers, judgers, and mockers.

In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper writes:

“I want to recognize the dangerous, potentially biting characters in my story; the people who create constant emotional debris with their destructive personalities or who refuse to shed the skin of deception, the ones who threaten the God-with-me peace in my life.  I’m learning to keep my distance and to  pray for snakes, but not make a habit of getting down in the dirt to play with them” (p. 47).

In our lives, we’ll face some biting personalities and snakes in the grass ourselves–even when we are simply pursuing righteousness, just like Hannah in 1 Samuel.

Hannah was a Godly woman.  Religious law dictated that men must travel to the tabernacle three times a year to worship and sacrifice, but we see in 1 Samuel 1:7 that “year by year, she went up to the house of the Lord.”  She committed to going above and beyond the minimum requirements in order to worship God with her whole heart.

But his Godly woman had a personal pain that cut deep: She was childless while her husband’s second wife, Peninnah, was a bunny rabbit of a breeder.  Scripture doesn’t even count all her kids; it just says, “Peninnah . . and  . . . all her sons and daughters” (1 Samuel 1:4).  Sounds like quite a brood.

The worst part of it is that Peninnah gloated.  She boasted and preened.  She set herself up as Hannah’s rival and “provoked her severely, to make her miserable”  (1 Samuel 1:6).

Peninnah was a mean girl.

Sure, Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, loved her and was sad about her distress.  Still, there’s something kind of clueless about his compassion.

He said, “Hannah, why do you weep?  Why do you not eat?  And why is your heart grieved?  Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8).

Seriously?  He didn’t tell Peninnah to knock off the nastiness.  Instead, he told Hannah just to get over it. Be happy with the fact that she shared a home and husband with a woman who had annual baby showers.  Just shrug off Peninnah’s provoking ways and be content with her husband’s love.

Elkanah was an unhelpful friend.  He didn’t stand up for Hannah, didn’t have her back, and didn’t understand her pain.

Then there was Eli, the priest who watched Hannah’s impassioned prayer at the altar.  He pounced on her in a second, saying, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” (1 Samuel 1:14).

Eli was the judgmental onlooker.  The one with all the opinions who doesn’t even take time to fully understand the situation, just makes accusations and spews forth a diatribe of assumptions and personal attacks.

Beset on every side by those close to her and those in spiritual authority over her, Hannah nevertheless responded with grace.

She spoke “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). She didn’t rebel against Eli, speak badly about him behind his back, or cause a ruckus in the spiritual community, despite the fact that he hurt her.  Instead, she answered calmly, “No, my lord.  I am a woman of sorrowful spirit.  I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15).

She trusted God to take care of her.  Hannah “was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish” (1 Samuel 1:10).  She took all of her pain to the altar and poured her soul out before God and left it in His hands.

After she held the baby boy God gave her, after she nursed him and weaned him and presented him to the tabernacle, she declared, “For the Lord is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 1:3).

By Him actions are weighed.  God saw the mocking cruelty of Peninnah, the cluelessness of Elkanah, and the pompousness of Eli.  And he saw Hannah’s brokenness and blessed her.

We likewise can trust God to help us when we face mean girls, unhelpful friends, and those who judge us.  He will show us how to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us and He will tell us how to avoid the venomous bites of the snakes in the grass.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

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