The Peninnah effect – comparing

By Dave Henning / September 21, 2023

“If I compare, I become discouraged.  The discouragement dial gets turned up when our way isn’t working, but even more so when everyone else seems to be doing just fine.  We can call this the ‘Peninnah effect.’ “- Kyle Idleman

” ‘Why are you crying, Hannah?’  Elkanah would ask.  ‘Why aren’t you eating?  Why be downhearted, just because you have no children?  You have me — isn’t that better than having ten sons?’ “- 1 Samuel 1:8 (NLT)

Kyle Idleman moves on in Chapter 3 of When Your Way Isn’t Working as he observes that Elkanah could have turned down Hannah’s discouragement if he could’ve only listened.  Instead, he turns up the dial through doing two things.  Two things you never want to do when someone you love feels discouraged.

1.  Minimize the person’s feelings.  In Hannah’s case, Elkanah tries to fix the situation by pretending her problem is no big deal.  Certainly, Hannah already feels like something is wrong with her.  However, in essence Elkanah tries to tell her, “There’s something wrong with you for feeling there’s something wrong with you.”

Therefore, Pastor Idleman counsels, don’t say something to your discouraged friends that will really make them feel bad!

2.  Make the situation worse as you assume you’re enough to make the person feel better.  First, Elkanah attempts to comfort his wife, Hannah.  But then, instead of listening to Hannah, he tries to fix her.  As a result, all this ridicule and fake comfort makes Hannah feel especially alone.  And feeling lonely really turns up the discouragement dial.

Surrounded by a husband who minimized her and Peninnah who belittled her, Hannah felt alone.  Even though she wasn’t physically alone.  Above all, her husband’s insensitive comments add to her discouragement as well as invalidate it.  And that makes Hannah feel even more alone.

Today’s question: What Bible verses, hymns, Christian songs, or books help you counter the Peninnah effect?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Stand up or keep sitting?”

About the author

Dave Henning

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