In the book of Samuel, we discover the story of Chana, who lived in the Land of Israel during the times of the Tabernacle. Chana was married to Elkana, who was also married to Penina. Penina had many children while Chana remained childless. Ultimately, through her heartfelt prayers, Chana was blessed with a child, Samuel (Shmuel), who became one of the greatest prophets of all time.

The dynamic between Chana and Penina is confusing at best. As a woman named Chana myself, I always liked how Chana was the heroic character of the story. In contrast, Penina seemed like a wicked stepsister figure. And yet, I was always intrigued by her—there was something more to her that I was missing.

You see, Penina had a G‑d-centered spiritual mission: to help Chana have what she had watched her yearn for, year after year: a child.1

Penina couldn’t bear to watch her soul sister endure this a minute longer. She knew that the only way Chana would receive a miracle was through heartfelt prayers. But how could she get those precious tears to flow that would unlock the heavenly gates? She devised a plan—and an effective one at that. She taunted Chana continuously, asking: “Where are your children?”

And lo and behold, her plan worked! Due to her taunts, Chana reached into the deepest part of herself and achieved her goal. So in some ways, Penina is the unsung hero of the story. Think about it … she made herself a villain to help Chana. What is more heroic than that?

And yet, that is not how she goes down in the books. Penina is punished harshly.

But if she was a holy person with good intentions and self-sacrifice, why was she punished?

As a rule of thumb, the Torah doesn’t say negative things about people unless it is to teach us something. The sins of our matriarchs and patriarchs are not sins as we know it, but sins in a more refined sense. Their sins are so subtle that for us, doing the same thing may have been considered positive. And yet, their sins are on display so we can integrate these lessons. Part of their sacrifice was making what seems like mistakes so we can learn from them.

Penina offers us an invaluable lesson on approaching our inner Penina.

You see, I, too, have a Penina inside of me. I move myself to motivation and success from a place of harshness and inner cruelty.

I push myself with relentless taunts of “You aren’t good enough,” “You need to produce more,” “You need to be more,” “Stop taking up unearned oxygen.” And I listen. And I produce something new and exciting and useful. And so, you could say the ends justify the means.

But G‑d loves the process, the journey. It is as essential to Him as the destination. After all, He was, is and will be. He knows how the story goes and yet chooses to be involved in the details as it unfolds. The priests in the Temple had to ensure that their thoughts were pure while preparing for the sacrifice; their preparations were considered part of the act itself.

G‑d does not just want the product; He wants you, in your entirety. G‑d does not want me to be a Penina to myself—to motivate myself from a place of pain and lack.

Through Penina, G‑d instills in us the vital teaching of not motivating yourself from fear and lack and pain. Take the time to motivate yourself from a place of love and vision—no matter how high the stakes are, no matter how vital the mission, no matter how torturous the desire to get there is. Remember that G‑d doesn’t just want you to just get there, He wants us to feel His love in the process. We can all tap into a deep level of caring and presence in our sometimes messy process.

We are ready to step into a way of redemptive motivation where the motivation comes from a better place. As the Fourth Rebbe says: “If good is good, is better not better?”2

So buy the healthy snack at the checkout counter not because of the fear of what if, but out of respect for the bodies that so valiantly house us. Dare bravely not because you are afraid that things will never get better if you don’t, but because that is who we are—the unbreakable soul whose worth is infinitely potent.

Now if you are like me and you are thinking, “Well, that is nice, but if I motivate myself from love, I will never get anywhere!”

And to that place I say to myself: Is that why G‑d created me? To get things done? He is a perfect G‑d who could have created a perfect world. And yet, He left room for me to be part of the process. Why? Because He wants me to be a part of the process of creating this home for us to live in together. He wants it to be our home. One that we have memories of building together.

Through the mitzvahs I do, I help make a home for us to live in together. G‑d can’t have a home if He doesn’t have you. As explained in Tanya, the home G‑d desires is our mind and heart. I do not want the bricks of that home built with hate, fear and disgust, but rather, out of love, joy and happiness.

So, when I motivate myself from a place of knowing that G‑d is with me in every detail, then the mission is accomplished. I have become a home for G‑d in this world.

The vision is fulfilled within the journey.